9 Questions for ‘Eternal Summer’ Director Andreas Öhman
Eternal Summer (Odödliga) screens over the Memorial Day weekend at the 2016 Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) and we had the opportunity to sit down with the writer and director of the engrossing film (and I’m not just saying that because I interviewed him) to learn more about how the film was made, what inspired him to make it, and the movies and directors that have impacted him over time.
Here are nine questions with Andreas Öhman:
What made you want to make Eternal Summer?
What happened is I had a friend who tragically passed away. That was really hard on me, I felt I needed to do something because I couldn’t get over the fact that he was gone, so I wanted to make a film in his spirit. Eternal Summer isn’t about him, but I got a feeling and wrote it, not overnight but very fast. And of course, I’ve always loved road movies like Badlands and Bonnie and Clyde and have always had a wish to do one because they’re so focused on two people.
So you wrote it fast?
I don’t know how much an international audience will pick up on it, but we used a lot of improvisation. The story came pretty quickly but the actors and I experimented a lot with the dialogue; I studied in New York at an improvisation theater, so I incorporate that into my filmmaking, into the tone of the film. We had dialogue for the whole film, but we were very free in the way we used it. And small scenes were very improvised—Eternal Summer is a good mix of guerilla shooting and a planned out screenplay.
Knowing that you were going to improvise, do you not spend as much time trying to get the dialogue perfect the first time?
You always work it as good as you can, but in the end, the next day you read it and you say, “Fuck, this sucks.” You’re always changing your perception of how good the dialogue is and depending on who is reading it. Some actors are great at reading it, while others need to use their own words. So it’s always a balance and I’ve never been a director that believes dialogue needs to be set in stone. It’s about what’s being said and done… it doesn’t have to be in specific words.
How did Filip Berg and Madeline Martin get involved in the movie?
Filip and I have talked about doing something together for a long time. He’s very up-and-coming and a really good actor, so I asked him who he’d like to act against and he said Madeline. We started having workshops on how to work together, so it really wasn’t a traditional casting process. I met them early and wrote with them in mind.
With exception to some television episodes, you’ve always written the projects you’ve directed. Are you always going to want to write your own movies?
Yeah, I realize I’ve done one or two shows that I didn’t write, which was a bit of a chaos project—you learn a lot when it’s a bad experience [laughs]—but I feel I have to be involved one way or another to the story. I don’t know why but I tend to make it better when I’m involved in that way.
What’s your favorite movie growing up?
I have two different movies. One movie that made me want to make and direct movies myself, and that was Magnolia by Paul Thomas Anderson, and I watched it like twice in a row and I started to think that I could do this, or this is actually something I could do, and at that point I started to get more into filmmaking. I grew up in the Swedish countryside—my father has a lumber mill and my mother is a teacher—so I have no film background whatsoever.
My second go-to film is one that I wish I’d made, and that’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is the one I’d say is closest to my storytelling approach. I love high concept together with a love story drama.
Good choices. Are there certain directs you look up to or follow?
There are some, growing up. The older you get, the less people you look up to, because you start to feel, “Fuck, I need to make as good of movies as them,” but I am still intrigued by Paul Thomas Anderson, even though I kind of miss his old work. Quentin Tarantino, though he’s up and down. Christopher Nolan. There are a bunch of interesting directors. I’m a movie lover, but it’s getting harder and harder.
Favorite Tarantino movie?
My problem as a director is that I tend to—I’m more of a Linklater or Kubrick in terms of I’m always changing style and genre a lot, which maybe is stupid from a strategic standpoint… but I have to tell the stories the way I want.
Do you have aspirations to direct films in the U.S.?
I’m going to LA after this to collaborate with Mark Johnson who produced Breaking Bad and a lot of great movies, and I hope to do something with him next year. We’ll see.
That’s my dream, for two reasons: 1) there are a lot of great actors and actresses I’d like to work with, and 2) doing a movie in English makes it so much easier to get an audience. I want to reach out to an audience even though it doesn’t need to be a box office hit, but it’s nice to have people watch what you’re doing.
Done with the interview? Read our Eternal Summer movie review.