Although your commercial films are very different from each other there’s an amusing quirky thread that runs through them – as if you’ve had a considerable hand in writing the narratives. Is this true or is it because your treatments bring a lot more detail to the scripts?
Thank you for saying that. Our involvement in the writing varies from project to project. Some scripts arrive fully fleshed out and just resonate well with us, but we do tend to contribute quite a bit on the writing side of things as well. As a general rule, what’s important for us is identifying what aspect of an idea or detail we find the most intriguing and then we try to protect that and make the piece revolve around it somehow.
Your latest series for Hedvig insurance is simple, witty and straight to the point. Did your films differ much from the original briefs?
Sending in a treatment for this was slightly embarrassing because we didn’t really have very much to say except that we really loved it and yes, we agree, let’s have each piece just be a single set-up and so on. The scripts (and references) from the creatives Petter and Evelina were just really thoughtful and precise.
Were these created during lockdown? Any specific challenges to the production?
They were written before lockdown and by chance were pretty do-able, although we did end up pushing the shoot by a month or so. It was strange wearing masks, not knowing who was smiling and who wasn’t and not being allowed to hug your team when you wrap. That and the bars in Copenhagen being closed was probably the most challenging. We’re very privileged here.
And yet Sleepwalker is a serious film about the pollution in India, beautifully filmed. How did this project come about?
We have been writing a feature that takes place in New Delhi where Mathias spent part of his teens and reading articles about the worsening air quality there we were struck by the press photos of the smog. They looked like something out a Tarkovsky film and we thought it could be interesting to make something short where we could treat it in a stylized way, presenting something real and urgent as one man’s dystopian nightmare. And then by the end revealing that this is in fact an on-going and dangerous issue for the city and its inhabitants.
Our producer at Bacon, Magne, was very supportive and after writing a very skeletal script (a man walks around in the smog) in early December, we were shooting in Delhi with Andreas Bjørseth, our DP by mid-January. The biggest challenge was clearing the streets of people, to make what we then thought of as “impossible” images of the city. Little did we know there would soon be a full lockdown in Delhi, but from a virus, and the sky would turn blue again as a result. The dream aspect of our piece was quite in the abstract, but after we got back a really insightful piece came out in the New Yorker about how people who can’t afford expensive air-purifiers (read: most people) had actually stopped dreaming due to the lack of clean oxygen in their homes.
Your sense of humour and directing style travels across both sides of the Atlantic – you’re signed with Bacon for Scandinavia, Epoch in the States and Object & Animal in the UK. To what extent do you consciously adapt to each territory?
We wouldn’t say that anything changes too radically on the creative side, but there are less filters when working in Scandinavia and less people to convince if there are any departures or tweaks just because less people have signed off on it. The machine room is a little more intimate so to say, but on the flip side that also means you have a little less manpower and muscle in most instances.
Where do you call home now?
Matias lives in Oslo and Mathias in Copenhagen.
How do you two work together – do you both work simultaneously on each stage of the production or do you separate then compare notes?
It’s very organic and we do more or less everything together. Our favorite part is the conversations, when we’re trying to figure things out, talking between takes and in the edit and so forth. We’ve never tried anything else. It just seems a lot less fun to not do it together. When it comes to writing we just divide it by whichever one of us is inspired enough to actually start and then we just ship drafts back and forth and edit each other.
And do you have turns at playing captain on set?
Not by design. Actors can get a little confused sometimes, but a lot of them look best when they’re a little distracted so it usually works out okay.
It’s been 16 years since you met at school and decided to direct as a duo. How do resolve any conflicts?
Growing up, we were obsessed with My Last Sigh by Bunuel (a book we can’t recommend enough) and he writes about how he and Dali only had one rule when collaborating — if one of them didn’t like an idea, all they had to say was ‘no’ without having to explain why and then they would move on. We’ve followed that very closely.
What’s in the pipeline? And what’s on the dream list?
We’re hoping to shoot a short that takes place at an alternative rehab facility after the summer. It’s inspired by two people close to us that have had similar experiences with new-age-y approaches to treating addiction. It’s a world that we’ve become very invested in.
At the top of our dream list is to continue having as much fun doing what we’re doing and hopefully getting better at it. Part of that dream is getting to work in a longer format with everything that entails. Just having more time, both for the stories themselves and in terms of the development process. Getting to dig a little deeper and turning over all the rocks instead of just the ones at your feet.
Also we’ve actually never made a real music video. It would be fun to try at some stage.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
We are a little late to the game as it came out in 1941, but we just watched Sullivan’s Travels by Preston Sturges for the first time and were blown away. Anyone interested in filmmaking should seek it out. It’s about a successful comedy director who wants to change course and make a meaningful, realist drama about human suffering. When his producers point out that he has never experienced any suffering he decides to dress up like a “hobo” and hit the road with only ten cents in his pocket.
|Hedvig, It’s Just Stuff|
|Marketing director||:||Rebecca Lundin|
|Production Manager||:||Margarita Kradjian|
|Creative Director||:||Evelina Rönnung & Petter Swanberg|
|Agency Producer||:||Pia Dueholm|
|Production Company||Bacon CPH|
|Director||:||Matias & Mathias|
|Executive Producer||:||Samuel Cantor|
|Production coordinator||:||Nicholas Perry|
|Director of Photography||:||Andreas Bjørseth|
|Production Designer||:||Mads Jørgensen / Wonderland|
|Post Production||Bacon XO|
|Producers||:||Eli Mari Sandal & Øystein Dyb|
|Sound Design||:||Andreas Waag|
|Editor||:||Matias & Mathias|