Recently I had the opportunity to conduct an interview with director Stig Svendsen (pictured on the right of the attached photograph talking with actor Joey Slotnick on the left). Stig is a Norwegian director that is making his American debut directing the indie thriller Elevator. Elevator is the story of 9 strangers trapped in an elevator where one of them possesses a bomb. The film is set to be a nerve-racking and thought-provoking film that will leave audiences on the edge of their seats. I talked with Stig about his experience making his first American film and the challenges of such a claustrophobic film like Elevator.
JL: How was it filming your first American film? Did the experience differ
in any way for you?
SS: For me, shooting a film in the U.S. has always been a lifelong dream, so
it was a dream come true. As an experience it’s been great, a tough shoot,
but an extremely good introduction for me to making movies in Hollywood. It
was also inspiring to work with this class of actors.
JL: How do you feel an American audience will differ from your usual
Norwegian audience in terms of delivering a film that caters to said
SS: I don’t think the Norwegian audience differs that much from the American
audience. Most of the films we see in movie theaters in Norway are from the
U.S. and there is no dubbing, so both taste and audience reaction, I think,
are very similar. And also, in the end, it’s all about making a great
JL: What was it that attracted you to this script?
SS: First of all, the script was great. And then I guess it was the challenge
of making a film that more or less takes place in one location. It had that
Hitchcock feel to it.
JL: Indeed there is a sort of Hitchcock feel to the concept of this film, I believe. Appears to be a screenplay that really focuses on the art of delivering a great thriller.
How has it been working with Marc Rosenberg?
SS: Working with Marc has been great. He is a very supportive and
understanding producer, and demanding at the same the time. He is one of these
producers who is all about the film. If you request something that will make the
film better he fights for it.
JL: What kind of process do you go through in preparing for a film?
SS: I always start with reading the script over and over again, till it starts
speaking to me. Then I storyboard the entire script, every scene and every
cut, visualizing the film on paper. Also, researching and digging into the
script, getting to understand the characters, their motivation, their
backstory and where they are going. Also, to know the script by heart is key. One
has to get intimate with the script and the story.
JL: Filming in such a tight space seems to be such a daring task. What
challenges were you faced with in doing so? And how did you approach and
address those challenges?
SS: The biggest challenge is to make it interesting without feeling
repetitive. I mean, on a film like this one of the traps is to go crazy with angles
and put the camera all over the place. It was important to restrict myself,
but at the same time be able to tell the story.
JL: Here you have a film that doesn’t necessarily have a lot going on on
the screen, but underneath it all there are so many layers to the script
that you were working with. How did you go about trying to properly convey
all that and get that across on screen with an almost minimalistic setting
SS: Characters. All the backstory and all the stuff going on under the surface
has to come out through the characters.
JL: Short and decisive answer. Appears you definitely have a mind for this and how to go about filming such a challenging movie. Being as how the characters are so important to your success in a venture such as this, how was it working with the cast for this movie?
SS: The cast in this film is great. We worked hard putting the right cast
together. The actors had to work as an ensemble. Having this level of actors
made my job a lot easier. They make the characters come alive and they get
the story. It was an amazing experience to work with this cast.
JL: What do you do to go about getting what you want from your cast? Do you
take a real hands-on approach? Or are you more the type that likes sit
back and allow the actors to bring the story to life in their own way,
allowing the chemistry between the actors to dictate the flow between
SS: I would say it’s a combination. A lot of times it helps to let them work
it out, to see where it leads. And then I will guide them if I feel it’s the
wrong direction, or if I want something specific from them. But in the end
it has to be a relationship based on trust and based on the need to make it
JL: Any plans to eventually go back to writing your own material for a
feature-length film like you did with your short films?
SS: I am currently working on a film in Norway that I have written, which is a
political thriller and that we hopefully will be able to shoot next year. I
also have a couple of other scripts that I’m working on. So the answer is
yes, I do have plans on going back to writing my own material.
I thank you for this opportunity, Stig Svendsen. You definitely seem to have a passion for the art and a definite focus and decisiveness that such a challenging film demands in order to succeed and be great. I look forward to hearing and seeing more in the future.
Filed Under: Couch Sessions