Truls Krane Meby: «Only through working with the camera and with actors you really understand how to make films»

Our constant contributor Cincinnat Vatanzade midway upon the journey of our life found himself within a dark forest of the World Wide Web, where he occasionally came across a short film by an aspiring Norwegian director Truls Krane Meby. He was so struck by the film that wrote a small article about Good Machine Gun Sound. Now it's time to meet the director himself in an exclusive interview for Cinebus.

Could you please introduce yourself?


I am originally from the north of Norway, from an archipelago called Lofoten, and now I am based in Berlin.


Where in Norway can someone learn film directing?


There are several really good schools. One of which is very close to where I grew up, in Kabelvåg. A small town with fantastic nature around, where the students are a bit isolated and don’t have so much to do besides be with each other and make films. A lot of the most exciting voices in Norwegian film have gone there, and then gone on to bigger schools later.


Could you name a couple of "independent" Norway filmmakers?


The independent scene in Norway is extremely small, as we’re too small a country to really foster a big scene alternative to the “main” one, which also has to be state sponsored to survive. People make really interesting things both without and without the system, and I think Norway has a throve of fantastic cinematic voices, but sadly it seems many of them get lost or watered out in the transition from shorts to features.

Three very exciting people in the Norwegian independent scene who have made this transition both within and without are Ole Giæver, Mariken Halle, Izer Aliu – all uncompromising filmmakers who don’t necessarily sit and wait for state grants to go make their films. Of the more established ones, Joachim Trier is a personal favorite.


What's currently going on in Norway cinema, in particular, its independent segment? We know that in the USA there's Hollywood, a lot of "B"-movies, but there're also such names as Linklater, Hal Hartley, Jon Jost, Jeff Nichols, Benh Zeitlin, Julia Loktev and the like. Does Denmark have directors who are bound to get in the spotlight on the international level in the nearest future?


Ole Giæver is already well on his way, remember his name.


Do you know any Ukrainian filmmakers?


Does Parajanov count? In which case, yes, and I love him. I also saw Sheptiko’s The Ascent many years ago but my memory is hazy.


You launched a crowd-funding campaign. How successful was it? What did you do right and what mistakes did you make? Your experience could be valuable for our readers.


We actually did not crowd-fund this film, we got two arts grants in Norway. One from the Northern-Norwegian Film Center and one from the Arts Council of Norway. I have never done crowdfunding so sadly I can’t come with any good tips there. I’m extremely lucky and grateful to come from a country where the financing systems for film are as good as they are.

Good Machine Gun Sound (Dir. Truls Krane Meby). 2014

Could you provide some more details as for governmental funding of film projects in Norway? By which criteria does the commission usually select projects? For instance, in Ukraine the films that are most likely to get funding are the ones that touch some acute modern problems of the country.


Norway’s government funds go through both regional and state grants. The state grants have a few stipulations about how “Norwegian” the project has to be, both thematically, languagewise and how much of the grant is used in the country, the same is true for the regions, but then about how connected the project is to that particular region. Other than this, there are no set criteria for which stories get funded and which don’t, but one could perhaps see personal preferences in the commissioners who give the grants. They usually sit for 4 years at a time, and people have said to see clear differences between what kind of projects each commissioner supports, which I guess would be the point, but also tricky to actually define.


Do you agree with the words of the Duplass brothers, who said that contemporary level of filming technologies allows to create movies with very limited resources, and thus, if you are a filmmaker, it is your duty to spend every weekend shooting a new film?


I agree wholeheartedly, with the caveat that these weekend shootings should be experimental, free, and not necessarily need to end up in a finished film. As a self-taught filmmaker it was always extremely important to me to learn by doing, and to always have a camera at hand to shoot something, and some of my projects have started out as little experimental sketches. In addition I always make room for experimenting even on the bigger budget projects I’ve done.


If yes, don't you think that such approach would lead to a general decrease of quality of these "weekend movies"? It is widely known that lack of budget always reflects on the shots. Is it true to you?


I don’t think the point is that these “weekend movies” need to be shown anywhere, but that only through working with the camera and with actors you really understand how to make films. The writing aspect of filmmaking is very important to me, but it is extremely different from shooting, and both aspects need equal attention.

Yes, the budget can often be seen in the types of imagery one gets, but that is to me not a negative at all. Look at Cassavetes’ “Faces”, where the emotion is hard-wired to the grain of the 16mm, or Korine’s “Julien Donkey-Boy”, where the same is true of the mini DV.

Director Truls Crane Meby and his young stars

What are your preferences in cinema? Which directors do you admire? Which films have influenced you as a director?


My preferences are very broad, and run the gamut from Weerasethakul to Pixar. When it comes to direct influences it’s a little more narrow, but these are still very different filmmakers, who will always trigger my imagination and creativity when I watch them:

Cassavetes for his closeness to his characters, and the way the camera and the grain dances around with them. Fassbinder and Antonioni for their use of space, where meaning and emotion arises from strict choreography of people who can often seem dwarfed in importance by the rooms they’re in, almost emotionally subservient to space. Claire Denis I love because she seems to do the opposite: her emotional spaces are also precise and dance-like, but the rooms seem subservient to the bodies the camera eventually, inevitably, stops on. I adore Pasolini for similar reasons. PT Anderson seems to me to be someone who has absorbed many of these different approaches and who manages to always create meaningful and beautiful cinematic spaces despite his potpourri of styles, which is something that I admire greatly and think directly influences what I do: I like to employ a wide variety of styles, to suit each scene or sequence, all in the service of trying to portray human emotion and abstract ideas in all their weird glory.


You have written a short essay on Bela Tarr. Is it just a tribute to maestro or you relate to his work in some particular way?


Tarr is another one of those filmmakers that could have been mentioned above. His sense of time and observance of the movements of people is very inspiring to me.


to be continued...


Cincinat Vatanzade

translation Marianna Chernykh