Today we are chatting with our November 2021 Film of the Month winner, Rune L. Abildgaard. Besides the main award, the film ‘Heart of Rose Hip was also awarded Cinematographer of the Month and Original Score of the Month.
DD: Rune, first and foremost, congratulations for the outstanding achievements and praise in multiple categories, including Film of the Month award! We all loved the film here at TMFF and are happy to be able to chat with you. Heart of Rose Hip has already started travelling around the world and reaching the audience. What were your initial expectations for the film?
RA: Thank you so much. I hoped we would get it to some festivals in Denmark so we could show it to people that also love short films, but I never expected it to do this well internationally and to win – that’s just amazing! It really means a lot.
DD: I stumbled upon an interesting statement of yours which says that Heart of Rose Hip started as an exercise given by a fellow screenwriter. Do you often spark creativity through collaborative work? I would love to hear more about your creative process in general.
RA: Yes, while studying screenwriting another student (Anna Jasmin Storm Olsen) asked me if I wanted to write a short script. At the time we were taught how restrictions can trigger creativity, so she gave me some restrictions which were more like pieces of material I had to make into a story. She gave me the title ‘Hybenhjerte’ which is the Danish title, the lead character should be a young woman in her 20’s, it should take place on an island called Langeland where Anna grew up and marmalade should play a part in the story. She would like to produce it if I wrote it. From the beginning we saw the short film as an exercise more than a heartfelt story that just had to be told. It was a great way to start. It sparked a lot of ideas, and I didn’t have any fear of failing because I had her as a creative partner. If what I wrote was terrible, I could just blame it on the restrictions. By doing it this way I learned a lot about the craft and my own creative process, and I learned how important it is to know exactly why your film must be made and why you are the one to make it. I didn’t know that for a long time, and I didn’t know what the story was about in a deeper sense until fairly late, so it took a lot of drafts to get something worth shooting which is the backside of this method. But I really enjoy creative collaborations where someone else is waiting on you to write so they can read it and give feedback.
DD: Did you find inspiration in other films or perhaps other art forms while developing the film?
RA: Yes, I found inspiration anywhere. Some research about the rose hip plant, fishing and old songs inspired me early on. I also found inspiration in the works of the danish Skagen Painters and in literature for the mood and characters. I also found a lot of inspiration in all kinds of films like Before Sunset and Coraline while in pre- and post-productions, but while filming I just tried to be there in the moment and get the best out of what we had.
DD: The protagonist returns to her childhood home, which is the catalyst that sends her on the journey. What is your earliest memory of home, and how much a home is tied to a sense of identity?
RA: My earliest memory of home… I remember eating lunch in a big apple tree my parents used to have in their garden. I loved climbing trees as a kid to dangerous heights, but I always felt safe in a tree. The tree died a year ago. I always feel a bit sad when things change in my childhood home. I would like things to stay the same there. At the same time I can easily feel stuck and restless when I visit my parents after having moved out. So I’m a bit ambivalent about it. In the short film I told the actors playing the parents to talk to Tea (The lead character) as if she was still a little girl. It’s sweet and nostalgic to go back but she quickly gets stuck in a physical and psychological place she thought she outgrew. I think we change a little bit all the time and going back to places and people can make that change obvious to us.
DD: Tolstoy’s famous quote says that happy families are all alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Your film is undoubtedly relatable and genuine. How many versions and rewrites did it take until you felt that this was the story you wanted to tell? Did the casting bring some changes?
RA: It took a lot of rewrites. I have a folder in my computer with 36 rewrites and that doesn’t count the first year of writing. It also took several years to get made, so I completely rewrote the story a couple of times because my interests and opinions had changed, and the story no longer spoke to me. But the most difficult and exciting part was mixing grief with falling in love. I had to find a way to make the dramatic story about the mom and the love story about Anton into one story which took a lot of rewrites before I got an acceptable balance. While shooting I gave the cast full permission to change their line with only a few exceptions. They only changed a little.
DD: Heart of Rose Hip is complex and grounded in reality. What was the most challenging aspect of the production? If you had the chance to go back, would you change anything? I am also curious to learn how many rehearsals you had with the actors prior to the shooting, as their performances are fascinating.
RA: It was a challenge to film due to Covid-19 in September of 2020. I always lost my coffee cup, and I couldn’t just take the nearest. Between the two weekends where we shot the film the lead actress was in close contact with someone that thought they might have corona, so there was some panic the day before shooting started again. We also lost most of the first shooting day inside the house because of some trouble with the mother’s make-up. If I could go back, I think I would put the mother’s secret right in the beginning of the film, so the audience knows about it all along. I would also have liked to work more on the final scene between Anton and Tea in the kitchen. It was a scene I already did with other actors to get support for the project, so I wasn’t as engaged while filming. In the script the last scene is also divided into two, but we ran out of time and had to combine them into one quick confrontation with the parents. I think it would have been better with two scenes to process what just happened. I have a lot of things I want to do better next time, but it was also my first short film so it would be weird if I didn’t.
DD: Tea and Anton play stone skipping, and then they chase one another in an innocent game. In their next shot, we see them wearing lighter clothes. The transitions are quite impressive, as you talk to the audience primarily through visual language, complemented with a perfected sound design. The film won Cinematographer of the Month and Original Score of the Month. How was working with Theis Christensen and Mathias Binggeli? Is this your first collaboration with them?
RA: This was my first collaborations with Theis Christensen and Mathias Binggeli. I had a really good time working with them. I gave a storyboard to Theis before shooting and told him about my overall vision for the film. He then returned with his own storyboard, and we then made one together, that we were both satisfied with. We wanted to make it seem beautiful and warm inside, but at the same time make Tea look powerless and trapped, and more open outside with Anton. Theis had a professional approach to his craft but was also immediately engaged in the story and ready to do his best. The same with Mathias who also plays Anton in the movie. I talked to him early on in pre-production when he was only supposed to make the music. He heard we still needed a guy to play Anton and asked for the part, and he was surprisingly good. He put a lot of hard work into the music. He wrote it all in his own apartment and I came to visit a couple of times to follow his progress and give my feedback. I was lucky to find those guys. They are both super talented, and I think they deserve the awards.
DD: As the film lives a fruitful festival life, are your heart and mind already in the next project? What can we anticipate from you in the future?
RA: Definitely. I’m ready to shoot my next short film in March if everything goes according to plan. This time I will draw more on my own experiences, when I tell the story of an imaginative boy with an impossible dream.
DD: Thanks a lot for chatting with us, Rune! It was a delightful experience, and we hope to be able to share thoughts with you again!
RA: Thank you on behalf of all the talented people who made this film. I hope you’ll enjoy the next one as well!