Industry Report: Documentary
Christian Falch • Producer
by EDN (European Documentary Network)
EDN has talked to Norway's Christian Falch, producer for UpNorth Film and previously for Gammaglimt, Bivrost Film and Faction Film
EDN has among other things talked to Christian Falch. Falch is educated in TV Production from Idefagskolen in Tønsberg, Norway. In 2003 he launched the documentary production company Gammaglimt, based in Orkanger, Norway. Besides his work for Gammaglimt, Christian also produced in cooperation with Faction Film and Bivrost Film. Furthermore Christian just ventured into an exciting new constellation together with Håvard Bustnes, Jonathan Borge Lie, Tonje Hessen Schei, and Torstein Parelius. At IDFA they launched the new production company UpNorth Film, which has big international ambitions.
Among the documentary titles produced or co-produced by Christian are Blackhearts [+see also:
film profile] and The Exorcist in the 21st Century (Fredrik Horn Akselsen, 2012 and 2016), Braving the Waves (Mina Keshavarz, 2016), and Two Raging Grannies [+see also:
film profile] and Golden Dawn Girls [+see also:
film profile] (Håvard Bustnes, 2013 and 2017).
Can you start by telling more about your background and your road into the world of documentaries? What was your motivation for setting up Gammaglimt in 2003?
Christian Falch: I ended up in this industry by accident. At the age of 19 I still had no idea about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, so I decided to study film. It seemed quite comfortable at the time. I soon realized that I was more interested in filmmaking than what I initially thought and I ended up as an educated camera operator and editor for TV actually. So if you have a look at my official papers that is my formal education.
I soon came to understand that the TV industry was not for me, so I decided to start up my own production company in late 2003. In the beginning we made informational films, commercials, multi camera productions, music videos and things like that. I made my first 30 minute documentary in 2005, but I had no idea what to do with it when it was completed so that brought me nowhere basically.
In 2006 I started working on a documentary about the mining industry in Norway during the Second World War and those who tried to sabotage it in favor of the Allies. I had no real ambitions of devoting my life to documentaries at this point, but Tore Tomter from NRK bought the film and there were a lot of controversies around the screening. The mining company I was exposing in the film is today the largest private enterprise in Norway and they did not like the film at all. After 1 year of negotiations, the film was finally screened on NRK. This whole process triggered something in me that made me want to continue making documentaries. Shortly after this I got access to one of the top exorcists in the Vatican and from that point on I was thrown into the world of international feature documentaries and I have been here ever since.
Do you have a preference for certain, themes, topics or styles of documentaries that you work with?
The short answer is no. As a person I find myself to be very eclectic with preferences going in all possible directions when it comes to my taste in films, music, literature and so on. This eclectic range of interests is also represented in our catalogue of documentary films I think. I have produced historical documentaries for TV, political feature films for an international audience, observational documentaries on social topics from far away corners of the world and a couple of films that have become something like cult classics for the international target audience.
It is quite easy to excite me with a topic or interesting characters, but as a producer I also have to take more factors into consideration before starting up yet another project. I need to see the vision, ambition and ability to never give up in the directors I want to work with - this is truly of great importance. On top of this I also need to have a strong gut feeling about the actual possibility of getting the project financed. This complex mix of factors has resulted in a track record that shows little sings of a specific company profile. In my mind things are fairly simple. You have great films, mediocre films and bad films. I strive to produce the great ones – easy as that.
You also produce for two other companies (Faction Film and Bivrost Film) – why is one company not enough and how do you manage your time and your projects between the three?
As most documentary producers out there, I am what most people would call a workaholic. This is one of the main reasons why I`m constantly involved with a lot of project in different production constellations. For Faction Film and Bivrost Film I have been hired as a producer on specific projects together with one or more producers from the main production company. I help out with strategies, production planning, application writing, creative input and I try to involve my network whenever needed. The reason why I have been privileged to do this is because I have three fantastic colleagues working full time with me at the Gammaglimt office, so it`s not like I have to do absolutely everything by myself. Without my colleagues, nothing would be possible actually. In my opinion, finding the right partners that share your ambitions and work ethics is truly the key to any success in this business. This is why we decided to join forces and establish the new company UpNorth Film recently.
Can you tell more about the motivation for launching UpNorth Film and the company’s ambitions?
UpNorth Film is owned and run by me, Håvard Bustnes, Torstein Parelius, Jonathan Borge Lie and Tonje Hessen Schei. As you know, I have worked with Håvard for many years and Torstein is my producer colleague from Gammaglimt. We have known and worked with Tonje and Jonathan for quite some time as well. It was clear that we shared the same ambitions when it comes to making and distributing documentary movies and we also share the same passion for what we do. Needless to say, we are also good friends.
About a year ago we started talking about merging our three existing companies into one and now it has become reality. The reason for doing so is to be able to make better films and compete on an international level with our films. As the process of financing documentary films is getting more and more difficult, we figured that joining forces would be the right thing to do. With all this experience, knowledge, network and overall great people gathered in the same company and at the same time sharing the same ambitions, I truly do look forward to see where this new path will lead us.
Jonathan and me will focus on producing while Håvard and Tonje will continue doing what they do best – directing. Torstein will also continue as a producer, but with outreach and marketing as his field of expertise. On top of this we have three other employees from our previous companies that will keep the wheels turning in their roles as production managers and so on. I really do think that if you want to survive and be able to compete in this business, you need to have sky high ambitions and just go for it -every day. And that`s exactly what we are doing with UpNorth Film.
How do you find the projects you venture into?
Most of the films I have produced so far started out as my own ideas before I started looking for the right director to actually pull it off. As most people reading this already knows – making documentaries takes a lot of time, money, efforts and so on. Because of this, I have always been very careful when starting up a new project. When the basic idea for a film comes from my own head, the thought of working 4-5 years on this specific project sometimes seems a bit more comfortable. But besides this, I have also enjoyed producing films that directors have presented to me based on their original ideas and even joined projects that was already in development. In the very end I try to listen to my own gut feeling and ask myself: "Are you ready to let this topic engulf you for the next 5 years of your life?".
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