EDN Member of the Month – Christian Falch
In this monthly interview series EDN focuses on one of its many members to show both members in the spotlight and the diversity of the EDN membership group. Our EDN member of the month for November 2017 is Christian Falch, Producer for UpNorth Film and previously for Gammaglimt, Bivrost Film and Faction Film, Norway.
EDN has among other things talked to Christian Falch about his latest documentary Golden Dawn Girls, which is in the competition for feature length documentaries at IDFA this month and the new company UpNorth Film. Christian Falch is educated in TV Production from Idefagskolen in Tønsberg, Norway. In 2003 he launched the documentary production company Gammaglimt, based in Orkanger, Norway. Besides his work for Gammaglimt, Christian also produced in cooperation with Faction Film and Bivrost Film.
Furthermore Christian just ventured into an exciting new constellation together with Håvard Bustnes, Jonathan Borge Lie, Tonje Hessen Schei, and Torstein Parelius.
At IDFA they will be launching the new production company UpNorth Film, which has big international ambitions.
Among the documentary titles produced or co-produced by Christian are Blackhearts (Fredrik Horn Akselsen, 2016), The Exorcist in the 21st Century (Fredrik Horn Akselsen, 2012), Braving the Waves (Mina Keshavarz, 2016), and Two Raging Grannies (Håvard Bustnes, 2013).
EDN: Can you start by telling more about your background and your road into the world of documentaries? What was your motivation for setting up Gammaglimt in 2003?
CF: I ended up in this industry by accident. At the age of 19 I still had no idea about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, so I decided to study film. It seemed quite comfortable at the time. I soon realized that I was more interested in filmmaking than what I initially thought and I ended up as an educated camera operator and editor for TV actually. So if you have a look at my official papers that is my formal education.
I soon came to understand that the TV industry was not for me, so I decided to start up my own production company in late 2003. In the beginning we made informational films, commercials, multi camera productions, music videos and things like that. I made my first 30 minute documentary in 2005, but I had no idea what to do with it when it was completed so that brought me nowhere basically.
In 2006 I started working on a documentary about the mining industry in Norway during the Second World War and those who tried to sabotage it in favor of the Allies. I had no real ambitions of devoting my life to documentaries at this point, but Tore Tomter from NRK bought the film and there were a lot of controversies around the screening. The mining company I was exposing in the film is today the largest private enterprise in Norway and they did not like the film at all. After 1 year of negotiations, the film was finally screened on NRK. This whole process triggered something in me that made me want to continue making documentaries. Shortly after this I got access to one of the top exorcists in the Vatican and from that point on I was thrown into the world of international feature documentaries and I have been here ever since.
CF: The short answer is no. As a person I find myself to be very eclectic with preferences going in all possible directions when it comes to my taste in films, music, literature and so on. This eclectic range of interests is also represented in our catalogue of documentary films I think. I have produced historical documentaries for TV, political feature films for an international audience, observational documentaries on social topics from far away corners of the world and a couple of films that have become something like cult classics for the international target audience.
It is quite easy to excite me with a topic or interesting characters, but as a producer I also have to take more factors into consideration before starting up yet another project. I need to see the vision, ambition and ability to never give up in the directors I want to work with - this is truly of great importance. On top of this I also need to have a strong gut feeling about the actual possibility of getting the project financed. This complex mix of factors has resulted in a track record that shows little sings of a specific company profile. In my mind things are fairly simple. You have great films, mediocre films and bad films. I strive to produce the great ones – easy as that.
EDN: You also produce for two other companies (Faction Film and Bivrost Film) – why is one company not enough and how do you manage your time and your projects between the three?
CF: As most documentary producers out there, I am what most people would call a workaholic. This is one of the main reasons why I`m constantly involved with a lot of project in different production constellations. For Faction Film and Bivrost Film I have been hired as a producer on specific projects together with one or more producers from the main production company. I help out with strategies, production planning, application writing, creative input and I try to involve my network whenever needed. The reason why I have been privileged to do this is because I have three fantastic colleagues working full time with me at the Gammaglimt office, so it`s not like I have to do absolutely everything by myself. Without my colleagues, nothing would be possible actually. In my opinion, finding the right partners that share your ambitions and work ethics is truly the key to any success in this business. This is why we decided to join forces and establish the new company UpNorth Film recently.
EDN: Can you tell more about the motivation for launching UpNorth Film and the company’s ambitions?
CF: UpNorth Film is owned and run by me, Håvard Bustnes, Torstein Parelius, Jonathan Borge Lie and Tonje Hessen Schei. As you know, I have worked with Håvard for many years and Torstein is my producer colleague from Gammaglimt. We have known and worked with Tonje and Jonathan for quite some time as well. It was clear that we shared the same ambitions when it comes to making and distributing documentary movies and we also share the same passion for what we do. Needless to say, we are also good friends.
About a year ago we started talking about merging our three existing companies into one and now it has become reality. The reason for doing so is to be able to make better films and compete on an international level with our films. As the process of financing documentary films is getting more and more difficult, we figured that joining forces would be the right thing to do. With all this experience, knowledge, network and overall great people gathered in the same company and at the same time sharing the same ambitions, I truly do look forward to see where this new path will lead us.
Jonathan and me will focus on producing while Håvard and Tonje will continue doing what they do best – directing. Torstein will also continue as a producer, but with outreach and marketing as his field of expertise. On top of this we have three other employees from our previous companies that will keep the wheels turning in their roles as production managers and so on. I really do think that if you want to survive and be able to compete in this business, you need to have sky high ambitions and just go for it -every day. And that`s exactly what we are doing with UpNorth Film.
EDN: How do you find the projects you venture into?
CF: Most of the films I have produced so far started out as my own ideas before I started looking for the right director to actually pull it off. As most people reading this already knows – making documentaries takes a lot of time, money, efforts and so on. Because of this, I have always been very careful when starting up a new project. When the basic idea for a film comes from my own head, the thought of working 4-5 years on this specific project sometimes seems a bit more comfortable. But besides this, I have also enjoyed producing films that directors have presented to me based on their original ideas and even joined projects that was already in development. In the very end I try to listen to my own gut feeling and ask myself: «Are you ready to let this topic engulf you for the next 5 years of your life?»
EDN: The regional film funds in Norway are an important part of the national documentary funding system. You are located in Orkanger, close to Trondheim, and can thereby access funds from Midtnorsk Filmcenter. Can you tell more about the regional funds and which possibilities there are for accessing these as a producer from outside Norway?
CF: We are very fortunate to have a pretty solid funding system for producers based outside Oslo. In the region in which I live we have as you mentioned Midtnorsk Filmsenter, but in addition to this we also have Filminvest. Both support development and production of feature documentaries. One of the best things about these regional funds is that they are often the first financiers we are able to get onboard on a new project. This is vital for the development. As most financiers and other partners often prefer to join in on a project as late as possible, this is not necessarily the case with our regional funds. I am eternal thankful for all the support I have received from Midtnorsk Filmsenter and Filminvest for the last 11 years. Without this support I would most likely not have had the pleasure of producing documentary films as my profession and at the same time have the privilege of living in a slightly remote, but absolutely beautiful and peaceful part of the country.
In order for Norwegian producers based outside the region or international producers to access these funds, you would need a regional co-producer to apply and most of the spending needs to be done in the Trondheim area as well. This is usually no problem at all as we have a wide range of film professionals to choose from when it comes to spending the regional funding on creative services. This week Midtnorsk Filmsenter gave additional funding to two of my international co-productions where we will work with Trondheim based sound designers, composers and so on. We do have a good variety of producers that specializes in everything from artistic short films, to gigantic documentary series and everything in between. So if anyone out there is curious to know more, I`m quite sure the people at Midtnorsk Filmsenter and Filminvest would be more than happy to answer any questions.
EDN: Your latest completed production is Golden Dawn Girls directed by Håvard Bustnes. The film portrays the Greek political party Golden Dawn and the women behind it. How did you get involved in this project and how did you get access to the women taking part in the film?
CF: Back in 2012 we had started shooting the first material for the documentary called Blackhearts. This is a film about passionate and eccentric fans of Norwegian black metal. During our research we came across a black metal musician that was also a member of the Greek parliament for the extreme right wing party Golden Dawn. You don`t see black metal musicians in parliaments too often, so I decided to include him in Blackhearts. During this process the access I got grew better and better. Håvard took immediate notice of this and told me that we should look into the possibilities of making another documentary based on this access. And that is what we did. The process was long and difficult, but we have just completed the film and we are very excited to present it to the audience.
EDN: What were the risks involved in filming with Golden Dawn and how do you as a producer tackle such a sensitive topic and dealing with these risks and the security issues for the crew?
CF: Several people have expressed their anxiety on our behalf when it comes to us being on the inside of what is considered to be one of the most infamous and dangerous political parties in Europe. I must admit that we were also a bit, let`s say skeptical, in the beginning as we often encountered situations with a fairly dense atmosphere with a high level of testosterone, fear and frustration. This feeling vanished pretty fast and we were all fascinated about how quickly one adapts to new situations and how fast things become «normal» so to say.
From a security point of view while shooting, I personally felt more anxious about the anarchists and anti-facists that do what they can to make the lives of any Golden Dawn-member as difficult as possible. And why is this? Well, as we were granted access from the very top of Golden Dawn, we could join several events, hanging out with the party members and come and go from their headquarters as we pleased after a while. From the outside it would most likely look as if we were a part of Golden Dawn ourselves, and this is why I feared someone misunderstanding the situation and actually attack us for wrongly thinking we were a part of their movement. I would like to add that no member of Golden Dawn ever threatened us or put us in any specific uncomfortable situations. The topic we are dealing with is without a doubt very sensitive and we have done our very best to handle it as professionally as possible.
EDN: Have you received reactions from Golden Dawn and the members participating in the film after its completion?
CF: We are about to send them a screener in the near future as they have not seen the film yet. I do honestly not know for sure how they will react, but I do think we have treated them as fair as possible in this film.
EDN: The film is in competition this month in the feature length category at IDFA. Are there any plans to also screen it in Greece?
CF: Yes, I`m quite sure we will screen the film in Greece at some point. We have received some initial interest already and we will be working on this in the time to come. It would be great to have a screening at the festival in Thessaloniki for example, but we will see what happens next. For sure we are prepared for an exciting future for Golden Dawn Girls in Greece and elsewhere next year.
EDN: Last but not least - what lies next for you?
CF: As we have just launched our new company UpNorth Film, I expect the future to hold several positive surprises. We are more than excited to see the effects of this merging between our companies.
For the immediate future we are very much looking forward to this year`s IDFA for several reasons. Not only does Golden Dawn Girls premiere at the legendary Tuschinski 1 on a Sunday night, but we are also planning a party to celebrate UpNorth Films, so please watch out for more information about this.
At the moment I have in addition to this, one film in editing, four films in development, one in pre-production as well as three international co-productions to finish off the next 18 months so I don`t expect the future to hold anything but long office hours, many airports and cheap hotels, countless applications and more encounters with the ever growing bureaucracy, but also a lot of fun, inspiration, working with great people I also consider being my best friends and last but not least – a handful of fantastic documentary films!
Thank you so much for having me as your Member of the month – it is truly a great honour!
More information: http://www.upnorthfilm.no/
For an overview of all previous EDN Members of the Month, please visit: