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SxSW 2015 Interview: GOOD THINGS AWAIT director Phie Ambo

by Jason Whyte

"The film is about rediscovering how we used to farm according to mother natures' rhythms and not so much according to high efficiency and low costs. You will meet one of the founding fathers of the New Nordic kitchen who is insisting on farming in his own bio-dynamic style even though the authorities are trying to shut him down. It's really a story about this specific time that we live in when the old industrial values are being challenges by holistic and sustainable systems." Director Phie Ambo on GOOD THINGS AWAIT which screens at the 2015 South By Southwest Film Festival.

Is this your first SxSW/Austin experience and are you going to attend your screenings?

My producer Malene Flindt Pedersen will be at the screening. I am in Germany for the theatrical release.

Tell me a bit about your background and how you became a filmmaker. Also what have you worked on in the past?

I am educated at the National Danish Film School in 2003 but I directed my first feature length documentary in 2001 called FAMILY. That was my first film and ever since then I have primarily worked with feature length for the cinema. I absolutely love the cinematic language so I always have the big screen and the whole surround system in my mind when I shoot a film. I photograph and record the sound myself and to me it is pure luxury to be able to go and record something whenever I want and to even change the structure and style of the film without having to explain myself to a team with words; I can just show what I am doing with images and sound.

How did your movie come together as a director?

I went to visit the farm with my youngest daughter and I just fell in love with the farm and the whole atmosphere there. To me it was important to spend time to reconnect with the same kind of feeling most people have as children when you feel completely one with the bugs and butterflies. I spend a year recording before I got my producer Malene Flindt on board and we began to talk about what kind of film I was making. All in all I shot for 2 and a half years and the we started the editing process.

What was your process in getting the film together? Talk about the key people you worked with.

Shooting this film was a rare occasion for me to disappear a bit from the whole financing circus that can be very exhausting to participate in. The farm was only one hour away from my home and as I am shooting mostly myself and I have my own equipment I could just go ahead and start working without financing. After a year, I started to show the material to Malene and my editor Theis Schmidt. We edited a little pilot and slowly started to present to investors. Both Theis and Malene play an important role as the first audience so to me it's important to have a close collaboration with people who can identify with the project; I don't show material to other than my key partners because I wan to protect the process from too many opinions that are not necessarily constructive for the film. One other person who I also talk to early in the process is Freddy Neuman who works with the press. This is because I often make films that are about topics that are not main stream. Freddy's job is to prepare the audience well in advance so they know about artificial intelligence, meditation and brain function or even bio-dynamics before the film hits the cinemas!

What was your #1 challenge with this movie, and how did you over-come it?

It was pretty difficult to convince Niels that the conflict with the authorities was an important part of the film. He would prefer if it were not in the film but this forces me to find other more subtle way of telling this story and I am actually very pleased with the unorthodox drama of the film; the conflict is introduced after thirty minutes which normally is a complete no go. We did this to stress that the film is about something bigger than the conflict with the authorities. It's really about trying to understand the bigger picture where mankind is part of nature and not working against it.

If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be? The moment where you thought "I had something"?

In this film those moments were when I started to realize that farming the way that Niels does is the complete opposite to what the surrounding society think farming should be, but it works! That's when I started to realize why this story was important to tell and that it was not just a story about a Danish farmer but a story about the possibility to shift paradigms.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee?

Coffee is good, but it does not get you all the way through a two-and-a-half year recording process! For me personally the trick is to not think of film-making as work but more as some kind of fun hobby. I have the privilege that I can actually live from making movies but I always chose topics that are interesting to me on a very deep level which means the films become a necessity for me to make because I want to understand certain things.

For the aspiring filmmakers who read our site, I would love to know about the technical side of the film, your relationship to the director of photography, what the movie was shot on and why it was decided to be filmed this way.

This is the first film that I have made with a co-photographer. Maggie Olkuska can to me as a intern but I could see that she was very talented so we hired her on the film and she made all the macro and slow motion recordings in the film. To me it was very new to give this responsibility to another photographer and I think it was possible because we both had each our camera package and we never shot at the same location

And finally, what is the single, greatest movie that you have ever seen?

Tough question! There's one film that I have only seen once twenty years ago but it stays with me in a very strong way and that is Swedish director Jan Troell's film LAND OF DREAMS. It's a poetic and incredibly strong description of how we in Scandinavia make rules and regulations to protect us against everything unknown and maybe even inside ourselves.

We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview in our 35+ filmmaker interview series. We will have interviews posted all throughout the festival so be sure to visit us often for more coverage!

This is one of the many films screening at the 2015 SXSW in Austin, Texas between March 13-21. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte

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originally posted: 03/13/15 04:05:05
last updated: 09/22/15 17:57:37
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