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Just pitch the damn thing

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The question I get asked the most… I mean, it happens a lot… enough for me to mention it here. People come up to me and they ask:
- Mikkel… (or Mike, foreigners often call me Mike), is it possible for a guy – or a gal - to be in the documentary film business without getting screwed?
And my answer is always the same. I say, listen, we’ll have to go all the way back to the birth of television. Apparently a young film director had a meeting with an equally young TV executive and the director was really excited because nobody really financed documentaries anymore and here was a mass media with direct access to millions of viewers. Well, the director was showed into a rather large conference room where there was a big mahogany desk behind which seven men in suits looked at him. The TV executive - whom he knew a bit beforehand - got up and shook his hand vigorously and asked him to sit down on a lonely and uncomfortably looking chair in the middle of the room. The film director sat down a bit…

CPH:DOX 2013 Closing Award Ceremony

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(Possible extract from an impossible book)

I tried putting down my glass, but the table was obscured by some pretty, young things who doesn’t really have anything to do with the documentary business but who always show up at parties like this. I wanted to go and talk to the Swedish director Anna Odell, whom I’d just seen in the crowd, but I never found the courage – partly since the free drinks were over after just one hour.

She didn’t win anything at the award ceremony which took place in this old theatre but I already knew that before I left my house. Somehow I must have been included on a mailing list for press releases or something because while putting on my make-up I received a mail with a list of all the winners.

Well, award shows are always something you want to get over with quickly if you are not up for anything (remind me to turn the prize down, should I ever get one – films are not a sporting event), and this year the arrangers had wisely decided to show us a short film inste…

CPH:DOX 2013 Opening

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I admit it: after last year’s opening I was really pissed, which you can see here.
The venue this year was the same but this time we got better seats. Still dozens of people had a really, really bad view of the screen but who cares? Fuck ‘em, if they don’t have better connections. Let’s face it: writing a blog is primarily to promote one self and if you got a bad seat; write your own damn blog.
Anywho, at the opening last night the timing of everything was improved and the program went somewhat smoother. Also, after the show, I was recognized by daily newspaper Politiken’s reviewer, Kim Skotte (well, we made eye contact and he nodded - a big moment) and several good-looking women.
I had a few drinks and - possibly due to my current high fat/low carb diet - I quickly got in an even better mood, talking to old friends. Minutes later my speech impediments grew a bit more severe than usual, so I decided to go home to get ready for 10 days of documentary film festival while trying to get the …

"Noah"

The short student film, "Noah", won the YouTube Award for Best Canadian Short Film at the recent Toronto International Film Festival. As a Facebook-almost-addict and as a proprietor of at least one cyberspace avatar, I felt obligated to write a short review of the film. It can be seen here at filmkommentaren.

On that site you can also read about the latest edition of Nordisk Panorama in Malmö, Sweden, among other good stuff.

Story With a Capital S

At the annual seminar for the Danish documentary community at European Film College in Ebeltoft this weekend, there were – as usual – a lot of good films, guests and discussions. The seminar was closed with an “oral essay” by renowned editor Niels Pagh Andersen ("Betrayal" (1994),  "The Act of Killing” (2012) and many, many other great films): “Have We Become Too Good at Telling Stories?” He was addressing the notion that maybe the urge to tell a story is overshadowing other aspects of documentary film making. This "song" was inspired by the seminar and I cannot really explain why I had to do it as lyrics to a song. But maybe it’s a blues…(så passer versefødderne også lidt bedre)... and surely I should have been working instead.


Story With a Capital S
(Semi-fast blues in F minor)
A drama is quite entertaining Documentaries much lesser so So we brought on the techniques of Story But is Story reality’s foe?
We dramatize life in our movies In movies that once just were d…

Things I promise not to put in a documentary

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Drifting clouds – either as a metaphor or anything else (maybe unless it’s actually a film about clouds).
Footage out the window of a moving vehicle (there must be other ways of illustrating movement).
A voice-over saying things we just learned or will learn in a second.
Waves (same as with clouds).
Someone looking out of a window in a concrete apartment building on other concrete apartment buildings.
Music that sounds like a John Williams-score.

Music by anyone with a hipster beard if they need to be in the frame.
Time-lapse footage of anything.
A dog looking cute and forlorn.



Things I will really try to get into a documentary:
Someone making a fool of himself (myself included).
Naked people (nothing to do with the above - or maybe everything to do with the above).
Pigs - preferably with wings.
Illegal surveillance footage of the hoodlums outside my windows.

My one remaining testicle.
Sense (if applicable)

Poetry (if the film is about prose)

Surrealism (or dadaism, if the first is sold out)
Humor (d&#…

Humor and Docs 3

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I'm not saying that my thoughts here are particularly insightful, I'm just saying that this site at Interntional Centre for Documentary and Experimental Film, DocWest, at University of Westminster is linking to my blog. And of course to Filmkommentaren and a lot of other interesting stuff. Check them out!

So, what else have I been up too lately - besides googling myself?

I just came home from beautiful Scotland where I found time to ponder over my recurring theme about humor and documentaries - and how "real" humor that comes out of and exists in reality differs from scripted and performed humor (like stand-up, comedy feature films and so on). Just before I left, I read an article by Thomas Raab in "Tidsskrift for Sprogforskning" (a linguistic magazine from Univesity of Aarhus, Denmark) where he conveys the information that German philosopher Schopenhauer in The World as Will and Representation wrote about the relation between language and humor (I must take …

Et par ord om hitlister og Fanta.

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Filmbladet Ekko har indført en hitliste over danske kortfilm. Eller en ”shorlist”, som de kalder det, og der er en sponsor, der betaler gildet. Jeg ved ikke præcist, hvad sponsoren i dette tilfælde betaler, men der går ifølge aftalen ingen penge videre til rettigheds- eller ophavsretshavere. Altså til dem, der har lavet filmene.
Men er det så i det mindste en sponsor, der ellers ernærer sig ved salg af læskedrikke eller hårplejemidler og på den måde bare køber sig til reklame? Næh, det er en udbyder af indhold til streaming til nettet, f.eks. film.  Jeg har ikke vildt meget forstand på økonomi (spørg bare min kone, DFI eller min kompagnon), men er det strengt økonomi-teknisk set en sponsor, når de på den måde får indhold til deres eget produkt? Det svarer lidt til, at du kunne tilmelde dine hjemmedyrkede appelsiner til en konkurrence i Samvirke om, hvis appelsiner, der var bedst, og derfor fortjente at komme i Fanta. Og så kom det. Uden at du fik betaling for dine appelsiner.

Nå, man sk…

Humor and Docs 2

Billede
I’ve noticed that even though I very often try to be funny in person, on Facebook, at parties, on the train or at the nudist swimming club (where the joke is on me, obviously) – and even at funerals; when it comes to my professional endeavors I unwillingly and unconsciously get more serious.
When I for instance write a synopsis for a new documentary idea or have a meeting with a producer or a commissioning editor, I almost automatically switch to that serious and unfunny mode. (And when I write blogs, you might add.)
In other words, I often feel that I somehow betray myself in order to not come across as a fool. Deep down, I seem to rely on that “seriousness is the default mode for us and other animals”[1].


But first of all, it pisses me off to betray myself and who I am. Even worse, I do it to indulge someone’s inclinations - and often someone with money to hand out. But the more I look into it, the more it seems that my behavior is silly.
Some research[2] suggests that people who had ex…

Humor and Docs 1

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You may remember Umberto Eco’s ”The Name of The Rose”, and you may remember that the key plot was based on the notion that a monk, Jorge of Burgos, was trying to keep the contents of Aristotle's second Poetic on comedy a secret. Of course, in real life that second book is considered lost (while the first one has survived and is about tragedy), but nevertheless does the story suggest that humor and laughter was regarded an enemy of the men in power and just plain un-wanted.

In his book, “Comic Relief – A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor”, John Morreall gives an extensive insight on the different aspects of humor. And he does mention Aristotle as one of the few thinkers in Western civilization who actually considers humor a virtue (Thomas Aquinas was another whilst Sartre was not).


But maybe I am wrong (and maybe Aristotle and Eco was wrong - sans comparison) and maybe humor is bad!  As Morreall writes: “Seriousness is the default mode for us and other animals. The non-serious play m…