Our Film of the Month for April comes from Denmark, and bears the name ‘It’s So Charming‘. Set at a wedding anniversary, it explores a myriad of troubled social relationships with a mixture of comedy, drama and everything in-between. It was certainly an excellent watch, and we were very happy to speak to its director, Svend Colding.
JL: Svend, congratulations for your success! Has your film so far performed according to your expectations at festivals and other competitions?
Svend: Thank you so much, TMFF! So far, our film is performing much better than we’ve ever expected. It’s been truly amazing, and I’m really excited and touched by all the attention it’s getting. But I think it’s well-deserved. Everybody from the crew was doing such an amazing job and the cast were so dedicated and easy to work with.
JL: How did you come up with the idea? Did you find any inspiration in other projects? The family event context reminded me somewhat of August Osage County.
Svend: Pernille Hyllegaard, Christian Edvard Halberg and I was brainstorming about our thesis film. We wanted it to be set in a dysfunctional family, but it took us a long time to define the plot and story. After getting stuck in the writing process, our producer, Miki Schack, suggested making it a comedy instead of drama. The change of genre helped us a lot and gave Pernille new ideas to complete the story. My inspirations came from different places. I have to mention “Festen” by Thomas Vinterberg, where the family tension is so hard to handle. But also “Succesion” where I just love the characters and their weird relations. I’m generally a big fan of Adam McKay because of his tempo and humor.
JL: What came first in this project – was it the wedding anniversary setting, the central characters, the family dynamics, or something different altogether?
Svend: It’s hard to say – the chicken or the egg? It might have been the main character, Silvia. We wanted to make a story where the main character wasn’t directly involved in the conflict. Someone who sees injustice and have to choose to interfere. We also loved to work with the family because there’s so many unsaid rules of how to act and about what you can say. So I really felt the magic happened when the characters wasn’t following the rules!
JL: Given the context, the title feels like an ironic narrative vehicle that goes beyond the rosy exterior of big family events. Can you tell us more about the title, and how it interacts with the content?
Svend: I’m so glad that you recognized the irony in the title! It’s exactly what it’s supposed to do. It’s actually the words from the song that the guests are singing at the beginning of the film. We wanted it to mirror the feeling of a picture-perfect family with a lot of hidden issues.
JL: How long did the shooting take, and what was the most challenging aspect of the whole process?
Svend: We were shooting for five days. We had some difficulties with a lot of rain that we had to work around. Covid was also a big concern when you want to gather 50 people and put them into a small tent… but we made it work, thanks to the great professionalism of the crew!
JL: All the actors did an outstanding job, and we singled out Fanny Bernth, who won our Actress of the Month award. Have you worked with her before?
Svend: Fanny was one of the main characters in the Danish tv-series, “Ride Upon The Storm” from 2017. I was working as an Assistant Director, so that’s how I got to know Fanny. To me, she’s one of the best actors in Denmark, so I’ve been wanting to work with her for a long time and finally got the chance on “It’s So Charming”. All of the actors were putting a lot of energy and heart into their characters, and they really made each other better, one scene at a time. All of them were my first pick for the roles because of their earlier work and because of all of them being such amazing team players.
JL: You studied in New York, and made films back in Denmark. What is the key difference between Danish and American filmmaking – more looking at themes, approach and style?
Svend: I loved being in New York and get inspiration from so many different nationalities and cultures – but man, it’s a tough business over there! The biggest difference might be the whole system of funding short films. There’s a great system in Denmark, where you can apply for mentoring and professional equipment to make your film. All the professional actors, crew and rental houses have a lot of goodwill for newcomers and are we really great at helping you out with good deals or advice. It’s difficult to make it happen in New York unless you have money… Speaking of style and approach, I find humor as one of the biggest differences between Danish and American storytelling. Our humor is quite weird and pretty low key, so I’m happy to see that it still translates quite alright.
JL: Any projects since Covid started?
Svend: We were actually doing post-production during the second wave of Covid in Denmark, which made it pretty difficult and gave us a few delays. Other than that, I’m working as an Assistant Director on a tv-series that’s gonna air on Danish television in the fall.
JL: We’d love to see more stuff from you, Svend, when you have a new project. Best of luck in the meantime, you’re always welcome at TMFF.
Svend: Thank you so much! It’s been a great pleasure to be featured at your cool festival – thank you so much for having me. We’ll be in touch!