“Love your film, because it will always have your name on it”
Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...
Marie Kjellson • Producer, Kjellson & Wik
by Marta Bałaga
We talked to Swedish producer Marie Kjellson, selected for the EFP’s 2020 Producers on the Move about her career
Selected as one of the 2020 Producers on the Move by European Film Promotion, Marie Kjellson is the co-founder of production company Kjellson & Wik. Having worked for Ruben Östlund’s Plattform Produktion on such titles as Force Majeure [+see also:
interview: Ruben Östlund
film profile] and Play [+see also:
interview: Ruben Östlund
interview: Ruben Ostlund
film profile], she is currently developing Katja Wik’s second feature, following her 2017 debut The Ex-Wife [+see also:
Cineuropa: Due to the pandemic, this year will mark the first digital edition of Producers on the Move. What do you think about it?
Marie Kjellson: My initial reaction was disappointment – I was looking forward to going to Cannes. But then my second thought was that this could be even more exclusive. We won’t have to deal with the festival schedule or put our “costumes” on. It will be more personal – just as good, or even better in a way. Of course I am also hoping to meet everyone in real life, but when we do, we will already share something unique. I am sure that for many, the first reaction was similar: “Let’s just skip it and do it next year.” But that’s not how we work as producers! Our job description is to solve problems. That’s what we do – we find ways forward.
Does this “problem-solving” get easier once you establish close relationships with filmmakers? You worked with Ruben Östlund, now you collaborate with Katja Wik.
With Ruben, we worked together for over eight years. I learnt that producing is a wonderful combination of creative and business skills: you need to use both halves of your brain. But as I got more experienced, I felt like I hit the glass ceiling. There was no more room for me to grow – I needed to have my own voice. When I was working on his second feature, Involuntary [+see also:
interview: Erik Hemmendorff
interview: Ruben Östlund
film profile], Katja Wik joined as the casting director. But it was after joining the EAVE in 2012 when I was asked: “What do YOU want to do?” Not “you” as a company, but “you” as a person. It was important to make this leap and start my own company.
How do you marry creative and business sides when working with auteurs who already have a recognisable voice?
The work gets easier – people already know what to expect. The hardest part, but also the most fun, comes at the beginning. That’s when you need to prove yourself. I work closely with my directors. I am involved in the development, sometimes I even co-write. One of the important skills is to know how much to say and when to say it. With The Ex-Wife, we involved financiers early on. Now, I would wait longer, because you need to outline director’s vision before you start selling the film. Our partners always know how things are developing – also if you make a huge change to the story, like in Force Majeure, where the bus was originally supposed to fall off the cliff. If you have good arguments, if you can argue why it will make the film better, people rarely object.
So much of your job comes down to dealing with people. How did it change, now that everything has moved online?
If you are already established, if you have work you can refer to, it’s easier. But if you are just starting out, it might be difficult to communicate the energy of the project. It’s hard to imagine a world where we wouldn’t meet at all, but I learnt so much about technical tools this past month. People get more comfortable using them, so maybe it won’t feel that different in the future? Maybe virtual reality meetings are not far away? We also need to think twice about how we travel. This year, I was already planning to take a train to Cannes anyway.
You started out as an editor. What was it about producing that made you think: “I want to try that!”
When I moved back to Gothenburg and met Ruben, I was working full-time as an editor and that was my intended career. I thought that producer was someone who crunches numbers and deals with the paperwork – it sounded boring. At Plattform Produktion I realised it’s a very creative job.
I had a background in economics and I was able to fix things. On Involuntary, I was a line producer and a production manager, and still kept calling myself an editor. Editing and producing have a lot in common – you need to have a clear vision of where the project is going and know how to get there – but at one point I had to sit down and think about what I want. I remember when we were at the Guldbagge Awards with Involuntary. We had five nominations, our biggest opponent was Let the Right One In [+see also:
interview: John Nordling
interview: Tomas Alfredson
film profile], and we lost every single one. That was the moment that sparked something in me. I thought: “I am going to be a producer and I am going to show them.” Right after that our [short] Incident by a Bank won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale. But the only thing I can say is this: Love your film, because it will always have your name on it.
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