Jonatan Etzler • Director of Get Ready With Me
"Film is a powerful tool, and now suddenly we’re in a time of social media when everybody’s a filmmaker"
by Laurence Boyce
- As his short film Get Ready With Me prepared to screen at EFP’s Future Frames at Karlovy Vary, we caught up with Swedish filmmaker Jonatan Etzler to talk about it
Short film Get Ready With Me – currently preparing to screen as part of Future Frames at the 2019 edition of Karlovy Vary (28 June-6 July) – is a tense and clever affair about a teacher who, after telling his class to bring in a film they have made, faces a student who has made a guide to suicide. Forced to confront his own demons as well as attempting to save his student, he soon discovers things are not always what they seem.
Director Jonatan Etzler proves himself a director who can play with genre and form as he consistently wrong foots the audience whilst also creating something that is thought provoking. Cineuropa spoke to the director to find ut ore about the film.
Cineuropa: Get Ready With Me takes in issues of teenage suicide and twists into something akin to a thriller. How did you come across the script by Amanda Högberg and Axel Nygren, and what made you want to make this film?
Jonatan Etzler: Get Ready With Me was made as a graduation film at the Stockholm University of the Arts. Amanda and Axel and producer Johan Lundström developed the story together, based on an idea I had for a scene. A couple of years ago I was teaching filmmaking for 13 year old children and there was a group of kids who made a disturbing film about suicide, and I didn’t know how to handle the situation. So that situation inspired us to develop this story and Amanda and Axel turned this into a great storyline and script.
I could definitely relate to the main character. I was also drawn to the idea of making a dark meta film, where a character uses the power of the moving image as a weapon. Film is a powerful tool, and now suddenly we’re in a time of social media when everybody’s a filmmaker - what happens then?
For me you seem to enjoy taking us from one end to the other – at one moment it’s a ‘typical teen suicide drama’ and then everything is flipped. Did that aspect appeal to you?
I enjoy films where I’m not sure which path the filmmaker is taking. Some films are like a paintbrush dipped in a single colour and drawing a straight line. I’m not very interested in those sorts of films. I also think it’s interesting to experiment with genres, and in this case I was intrigued by the idea of using the thriller film and its capacity to keep the ’audience on their toes’, as a form to explore important issues in our modern society.
There’s a certain amount of cynicism when it comes to the teenage generation here
I wanted the teens to be humans of flesh and blood, and I wanted them to be both good and evil, and not shy away from the dark sides of human nature in my portrayal. It’s important that films reflect how social media has changed everything in our daily life, and the psychological impact it has on us and our children. I’m not saying social media is inherently bad, but we have to understand how it changes us.
Tell us about casting the lead roles of Lukas and Vendela.
Lukas is played by Shanti Roney, who’s one of the best actors in Sweden. We approached him early on since he was perfect for the part. Vendela is played by Miriam Benthe. We tried 40 different teenage girls for the part, and it was so difficult to find the perfect Vendela. Miriam lives in Brussels, so we finally had to get her on a flight to Stockholm to try her out and she turned out to be perfect for the part, and she brought a lot of her own sensibility into it.
The film won gold in the International Film Schools section of the Student Academy Awards. Can you tell us what that experience was like
It was great and surreal. I’m so happy that the film won. It opened many doors for me and the other students. I’ve been doing short films for a long time so for me personally the Student Academy Award felt like I finally made a huge step forward.
Now the film heads towards Karlovy Vary and Future Frames. What are you looking forward to during that experience?
I’m looking forward to meeting people and see their films. It’s a great honour to be a part of the programme and a great opportunity to meet fellow filmmakers and also people from the industry. And I always wanted to visit the spa city of Karlovy Vary!
What will your next film be?
My next film is a short film called Swimmer, which I’ll be shooting the week after the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. It’s based on a true story about a man getting arrested in a public swimming pool by two policemen by the poolside, and he refuses to get out of the pool, and this turns into a never-ending situation. It’s gonna be interesting to do a comedy again. I’m also developing my first feature film and a series.
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