2 items from 2017
Exclusive: West to star opposite Knightley in biopic of iconic French writer.
In the film, the novelist and influential society figure overcomes an abusive marriage to emerge as a leading figure in her country and a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Fourteen years older than his wife and one of the most notorious libertines in Paris, he introduced Colette into avant-garde intellectual and artistic circles while engaging in sexual affairs and encouraging her own lesbian dalliances.
Shoot is due to get underway in coming weeks in UK and »
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Andreas Wiseman)
Most audiences were introduced to Lone Scherfig’s work with the 2009 Oscar-nominated Carey Mulligan-starrer “An Education,” but the Danish writer and director has been working since the ’80s. Her newest feature, “Their Finest,” stars Gemma Arterton as Catrin, a young woman who unexpectedly finds herself working in the film industry. She’s hired to write lines for women in British war propaganda movies. The dramedy doesn’t shy away from portraying the sexism that Catrin has to deal with as a woman working behind the scenes. We talked to Scherfig, whose credits include “The Riot Club” and “One Day,” about working with so many women on “Their Finest,” the underreprresentation of women directors and initiatives that address the problem, and why she wants to make meaningful films.
“Their Finest” hits theaters April 7.
This interview has been edited. It was transcribed by Joseph Allen.
W&H: So, tell me a little bit about this movie. You had a lot of great women working on it. The book was written by a woman, the screenplay was written by a woman, and I know that you work on scripts so talk about what you brought to the script once you got involved with it.
Ls: Construction, I think, because Gaby Chiappe, who wrote the script, is a television writer and this is her first film. A lot of my work with her was also to remind her what worked really well, to tell her not to cut jokes because the writer gets tired of the jokes before anyone and then they start deleting them.
And I drew attention to the limitations we were dealing with, unfortunately, because the script was bigger than the budget, so she had to make some sacrifices in order to make ends meet. I hope I also offered some inspiration and jokes.
W&H: What did you have to lose from the script?
Ls: It was just too big — pages, characters. I think I cut maybe 14 characters and there’s still a lot of characters.
W&H: Wow, so it was a big, big movie.
Ls: I really like Gaby and her tone and her sensibility. She’s a very gentle person and you can sense that in there. The film is milder than the novel. It’s been through Gaby and then through Gemma.
W&H: Did Gemma work on the script too?
Ls: No, but it’s her interpretation and the way she colors things naturally.
W&H: She’s so good.
Ls: And she’s such a lovely person and that shines through. This combination she does of being quite shy and innocent but at the same time she does have some strength and self-esteem that I think is typical for the time, but also interesting to watch. More interesting than if she’d walked into the first scene saying “I want to do this with my life.”
W&H: True, totally true.
Ls: It’s nice to see her development.
W&H: So you did comedies earlier in your career and now you’re doing films that are a little bit more serious, but this has a lot of comedy in it. What kind of movies are you drawn to? Has it shifted?
Ls: No, I mean the Danish films I did earlier on, either they have a dark subject matter and some humorous overtone or the other way around. I’ve never done like a full-blown tragedy but I feel an obligation to not be too superficial.
W&H: What does that mean?
Ls: I think with the media access comes the responsibility to at least try to do something meaningful, even if it’s comedy. I mean meaningful in terms of content but also in terms of film language. To maintain a varied film language, trust the image and the sound.
“Their Finest” is quite complex when it comes to all the different layers of documentary, fake documentary, real documentary, stock footage, film within the film. I’ve done what I could to make it feel light and effortless.
W&H: It’s wonderful — it felt very contemporary. Gemma said I should tell you that. It felt current. You know, as a person who spends her whole day thinking about sexism in Hollywood, it was like “Yup, that still happens. Yup, that still happens.” Even if it’s like 1940s and the language is different, it’s still the same sensibility. So you made a period movie about really contemporary issues that we still deal with it. I loved it. I noticed that most of your collaborators were all women except for the director of photography, is that correct?
Ls: And Stephen Woolley, who is the best producer I’ve ever worked with.
W&H: I mean, he’s made tons of feminist movies.
Ls: He has, yeah, and really likes women. You can see how his wife and his daughters thrive around him and he and I can really fight and make up.
W&H: Talk about the collaborations you had with the women on your team.
Ls: I’ve worked with some of them before, not the editor, Lucia Zucchetti. This was the first time. The assistant editor, Fiona DeSouza, has actually been fantastic technically because she is so skilled and she’s been on top of everything you see, well you shouldn’t see it, but there are a lot of digital effects in the film.
W&H: Right, but when you get a list of people you’re going to interview to work with you, they know it’s not only going to be men on a list for you. Is that normal?
W&H: Okay, but that’s normal for you, and for some people it’s not.
Ls: To see female names on the list of people you’re going to work with?
W&H: Well sometimes that doesn’t happen in Hollywood.
Ls: Well, maybe there isn’t anybody.
W&H: That’s not true, though. They just don’t get on the list. You know there are tons of women directors, but they’ll be a list for a movie and there won’t be a women on it. That’s Hollywood for you.
Ls: But England is different, and also a lot of people who are the decision-makers in England are women. Not now, but when we shot this, the head of both BBC Films and Channel 4 Films were women, and had been for a decade. Most films [in England are] made with them.
W&H: Earlier you said this wasn’t a feminist film. Have you changed your mind?
Ls: Well it’s up to people who see it whether they see it as something that boosts their hope for a professional life, or for a man who loves them and respects them, or winning over someone like Ambrose who thinks that just because she is young and very beautiful she can’t work.
He ends up being dependent on her to a degree where it causes a huge accident that he wants to talk to her. Hopefully you walk out being more reassured that Catrin has every reason to be confident at the end of the film. But for me it was never a story driven by an agenda, which actually is weird, but it may have to do with the fact that I’m Scandinavian that it’s not top of my agenda.
W&H: It’s just embedded in your whole agenda.
Ls: I don’t know. I was talking to a Danish journalist the other day who’s much younger than I am and I could sense that it was a disappointment to her that I wasn’t more of a feminist, because I have worked professionally with a good career for a long time and all I can say is I think my daughter has a lot more self-respect and confidence than I had at that age. Hopefully that makes up for it.
W&H: When you watch the movie it’s very much a movie where they dealt with really important moments, life and death, they were really trying to deal with the war and everything like that. What do you think films do for people today? Why have they continued to endure?
Ls: I think you share your worries and I think you are part of a flock. You feel that other people have the same joys and worries as yourself, which is one of the reasons why it feels good to cry at the cinema. Maybe that is the main function.
Ls: Yeah, maybe, [and the feeling of being understood]. Sometimes someone else formulates something for you or with you. What I love the most about going to the cinema is knowing that other people love the same things as I do, or am afraid of the same things as I am.
Also, that you can travel in place and time — that you can be in a kitchen in 1942. I still think that is extraordinary. The older I get the more attached I get to realism for that reason, and I’m proud when I look back at all the films I’ve done, all the scenes in kitchens and beds, that all of the sudden over the years it becomes a mapping out of people who have moral conversations or emotional conversations or crack jokes at, for instance, kitchen tables.
I never saw that happening because my background is so classical and European, a very stylized cinematic background, but I can see that I’ve fallen more and more for the fact that film will take you into somebody else’s bedroom.
W&H: I saw you did some U.S. TV. You directed a couple episodes of “The Astronaut Wives Club.” What was that experience like? Would you want to do more?
Ls: Yeah, I learned a lot.
W&H: How different is it?
Ls: Well TV, is just different than film, but I’ve worked on television in Denmark. You have to work faster, this was ABC, it was not cable, so you also have to be quite clear, and it has to work for a smaller screen. But I would like to do it again because I learned so much and I want to go back and do it better next time, but I’m going to do a film now.
“Their Finest” Director Lone Scherfig on Making Meaningful Films was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. »
- Melissa Silverstein
2 items from 2017
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