1. jul. 2015

Something to ponder over the summer

Following my latest blog – where I wondered why all the graduation doc films from The Danish Film School had to be exactly 30 min., and thus (in my opinion) were not as good as they could have been – I was tempted to go a step further:

Why do us documentary film makers still submit to the fact that our films need to be exactly 28:30, 58 or whatever minutes long when working with TV?

Oh, you say, it’s so they can fit into the schedule where there are regular programs like news or… well, mostly news… at fixed times, say at 9 o’clock.

Oh, I say, so you’re telling me that the programmers of TV can only manage fixed program lengths because… because what? Because their software can only handle specific numbers?


I know it’s a lot easier to fill a program slot if you more or less know what is coming in, but last time I looked we don’t have a new slot starting every full hour like the TV networks in the US do. We can start a program at 7:55 PM if we like… and even if you have a full hour, you can have a 34 minute film and a 21 min. film and still have time for commercials and PR-spots and whatever you need on your TV channel.

I know that there is a lot on TV besides documentaries (really, there is, check it out sometime), i.e. formats which have a fixed number of minutes, but as we more and more see our films being placed on new – and slightly more obscure – channels and at late hours; why do we still put up with it?

The reason we maybe shouldn’t is the “fact” that our works of filmmaking rarely gets better bye spending the last week in the editing room by changing the entire thing from just the right amount of minutes to the fixed amount that you are obligated to deliver.

Agreed, sometimes an obstruction – like a precise number of minutes – can be creatively stimulating, but surely a ballpark figure gives better results. Is that just me?

And are there other reasons I don’t know about? People with TV programming insights are urged to come forward and enlighten me.

12. jun. 2015

Afgangs-dokuer fra Den Danske Filmskole 2015

(In Danish - about this year's graduation docs from Danish Film School)

Filmskolens seks dokumentar-afgangsfilm i år (TV-tilrettelæggerlinjen) har nogle fællestræk, som springer i øjnene. Så forskellige de end er, så er det sparsomt, hvad man som seer får af faktuelle oplysninger. Det er helt fint – det er sundt at lede lidt i sit hoved, mens man ser film. Og ligeledes er deres narrative struktur stort set ikke bundet op på en tidslig eller dramaturgisk model med fortællebuer og overtydelige handlingstråde, som man er vant til fra tv-dokumentarer. Det er jo aldeles forfriskende i sig selv.

Men hvorfor de så alle skal vare præcis 30 minutter virker derimod noget kontraproduktivt. Det skyldes givetvis aftalen med DR (som også står som co-afsender på forteksterne), men desværre bliver det tydeligt for mig, at flere af filmene ville have haft meget mere glæde af at vare 18, 24 eller 38 minutter. Og ikke mindst: JEG ville have haft meget mere glæde af dem. Der er givetvis også nogle bagvedliggende pædagogiske årsager til dette tidskrav på en halv time, men for en nysgerrig og delvist uformående seer som mig giver det bare anledning til undren.

Men se dem selv på søndag eftermiddag på DR-K, for det er de værd.

(Men måske skulle jeg tilbyde Arne Bro at komme ud og fortælle det næste hold lidt om principperne bag DOKomedie, for det er der stadig ikke noget af. Er der da ingen, der læser denne blog? Chok! Bevares, der må godt grines lidt og smiles undervejs i disse film, men det kommer ikke fra filmenes grundlæggende DNA, som alle er meget lidt satiriske, måske endda lidt selvhøjtidelige (måske med en enkelt undtagelse?) Will my work ever be done?)

30. jan. 2015

BACON I BAGAGEN – hvorfor i alverden? (Updated version maj 2015)

(In Danish - about a book I've written (also in Danish))

Seneste: Lektørudtalelsen fra DBC kom for nylig, og jeg troede ærligt talt ikke mine egne øjne, så positiv er den. Her er et par citater: "Mikkel Stolt fascinerer med en både underholdende, skæv og tankeprovokerende roman...", "forfriskende anderledes" og "...et absolut must på mange biblioteker".

Men hvorfor overhovedet skrive den bog? Først og fremmest fordi jeg er blevet gladere og gladere for at skrive. Det er nemt og koster ikke noget, og jeg behøver ikke spørge nogen om lov. Faktisk kan man gøre det nøgen på sin terrasse.

Men jeg havde altså fået trykt en rejseartikel i Berlingeren, så jeg skrev nogle flere, som jeg dog ikke fik afsat. Så tænkte jeg, at man kunne samle dem i en bog, hvorfor jeg sendte dem til et forlag. Redaktøren kunne dog ikke lige se det for sig, men han havde netop set ”Min Avatar og Mig”, og var ret begejstret for vores blanding af dokumentar og fiktion, så han foreslog mig, at jeg gjorde det samme i en bog.

”Øh, det samme?”, sagde jeg, og skulle lige bruge en sommer på at finde ud af, hvordan dén kunne skæres. Nuvel, jeg fandt på noget og gav mig selv nogle rammer for handlingen med udgangspunkt i de der rejseskildringer, og begyndte at skrive.

De første prøvekapitler faldt i ret god jord hos forlaget, men så gik der lige to-tre år med processen, og så havde redaktøren fået nyt job, og de kunne derfor ikke udgive den, da ingen andre derinde kunne se meningen med det – eller bare se på hvilken hylde den eventuelt skulle stå; rejsebeskrivelser, romaner, selvbiografier, essaysamlinger? Jeg indrømmer, at det ikke er helt let. Jo vent, på hylden med ”Idiosynkratisk autofaktion”.


Omslag og layout: Claus Lynggaard

Nå, men jeg ville også teste, om jeg overhovedet havde stamina til at skrive en hel, nogenlunde sammenhængende bog færdig. Og så ville jeg skrive noget, som jeg aldrig selv havde læst magen til men (måske) godt kunne tænke mig at læse. Der ligger også noget formeksperimenterende i det. Noget med at blande genrer og stilarter, fakta og fiktion, flette det personlige med det mere distancerede og det lettilgængeligt underholdende med det mere kryptiske. Lidt jazzet, kort sagt.

Men stilen var ikke noget, jeg planlagde; den kom af sig selv, for sådan er jeg åbenbart. Og bogen er sgu både ret god og temmelig håbløs, synes jeg. Lige som sådan noget skal være – og som det meste af det, jeg laver, egentlig er.

Så udgives skulle den, med eller uden forlag. Ja, det blev så uden… med titlen "Bacon i bagagen."

Hvad den handler om? Tjah, alt og ingenting… men I vil høre nærmere… eller zoom ind på omslaget ovenfor. Og den har faktisk også noget at gøre med dokumentarfilm, som denne blog jo primært er beregnet til. På flere måder er bogen en slags ”companion piece” til dokumentarfilms-fantasien ”Min Avatar og Mig”, ikke bare stilistisk, men også fordi den i høj grad handler om identitet og om hvordan ens tilværelse bliver styret og påvirket af mange faktorer.

Læsere, der dog må indrømmes at stå forfatteren mistænkeligt nær, beskriver bogen som ”velskrevet”, ”underholdende” og ”ærlig”, og så den fra en læser: "Hvilken fornøjelse. En gang imellem – sjældent faktisk – når jeg er i gang med en bog, så læser jeg mere og mere langsomt jo færre sider, der er tilbage i min højre hånd. Jeg har ikke lyst til at skulle forlade den verden, bogen og jeg er i. Det skete med Bacon i Bagagen. Sidste gang, det skete, var, da jeg nærmede mig slutningen af 1Q84."

Bogen blev tilgængelig som trykt bog og som e-bog via www.gopubli.sh d. 18. marts. Primo maj kan den bestilles via boghandlere og biblioteker i hele landet.

232 sider, format: 15,5x23 softcover m. flapper og e-bog (pdf).

2. dec. 2014

Every(?) writer's self-portrait

You know the feeling... if you've ever written anything you thought was good... and then read it!

17. nov. 2014

CPH:DOX 2014 Closing Award Ceremony will not be reviewed…

… because this year I wasn’t invited. I really should stop bashing their opening venue, and if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all… and all that... you know… (I hear the ceremony was tasteful, though).

I did go to the after-party upon receiving a mail in the afternoon from the organizers about some wrongly announced times, so at that point I knew when NOT to go for drinks at the French embassy and the awards show at Hotel d’Angleterre.

But why do I care? I care because I want CPH:DOX to also be my festival. I care about the genre which I work with practically everyday year round and I want the festival to be something that I look forward to, even though I don’t have a film shown or a project being pitched.

Yes, I do already look forward to it and I do watch a great deal of films (and review a couple at www.filmkommentaren.dk), but I kind of miss that the festival embraces the local professional community a bit more. Not because we are professionals, but because we love docs. Of course we all have a free will, but it’s a bit too easy not getting involved if you are a Copenhagen-based filmmaker with no invitations or direct involvement of the festival.

And for god’s sake, let’s not make it too posh. Don’t get me wrong, I love being on the right side of a red, velvet rope with a glass of champagne, but has the whole thing – and probably myself too - become a bit too self-absorbed and elitist? I mean, d’Angleterre? The most bourgeois place in town?

And now you can get selected to become a Kickstarter-project. Am I the only one who finds that a bit ironic that crowd funding projects now has another keyhole to pass? (I haven’t looked into this a lot, so please excuse me if I have misunderstood something re. this initiative)

Anywho, the festival does an enormous job, I enjoy most of it (and subsequently am a bit under the weather now) and the audience seems to like it. Well, that’s another matter: From what I hear, the audience-numbers at regular showings of films also shown at the festival are a bit discouraging. Everything has to be an event nowadays. Clearly, the good folks at CPH:DOX know that already and I don’t (among other things).

So keep up the good work.

PS. Personally, I prefer festivals with no awards at all, but why isn’t there a Danish competition anymore?


8. nov. 2014

CPH:DOX 2014 Opening will not be reviewed...


... because it was once again held at DR Koncerthuset which is quite unsuited for film screenings for a large part of the audience. The sound was horrendous and cut into the small fragile bones of my ears and other body parts; at least heard from my section of the concert hall.


Main characer of "1989", Németh Miklós. A good guy (much better than the host).

And even though the discussion afterwards was on an interesting topic (that of the film), there was not one word (maybe one) about the film itself. The curse of documentary filmmaking: The subject matter often overshadows the film as art form (hence point 2 here).

But maybe a documentary film festival should not be doing that on their opening night? Well, what the hell, they have a lot to think about and a lot of ideas to consider, so schwam darüber.

And since I am still trying to get a ticket for the international guest's dinner party in Tivoli on Wednesday, I better shut up.

See you at the festival venues.

Previous years:
CPH:DOX 2012 Opening Complaints
CPH:DOX 2013 Opening

17. sep. 2014

Moore and Berlinger

Michael Moore's 5th rule of documentary film making says: "The Left is boring [... ],  we've lost our sense of humor and we need to be less boring. We used to be funny. The Left was funny in the 60s, and then we got really too damn serious. I don't think it did us any good."

As you can see it's hardly a rule - more a statement - but that's ok.

Another renowned documentary film maker, Joe Berlinger, replies (in one phrasing): "Not every filmmaker can or wants to be funny, and not every subject lends itself to humor".

Who is right? If you've been here before you know my stand; that it is probably better to fight adversary to humor than making a non-humorus film - even on a very important topic.


But how can you treat a serious problem with un-seriousness? Well, it's up to every film maker, of course, but I think it's really the other way around: Taking a humorous, satrical look at ANYTHING only shows the utmost respect for the people (even victims) involved. And if you feel otherwise, if you get offended, if you feel that the humourus approach is despicable - who is the one having the real problems? You or the funny guy?

I mean, I don't get offended when someone makes a serious documentary (hey, I even produce them), but I do raise my eyebrow in disbelief if someone get's offended by a humorous (or even entertaining) approach in another documentary.


PS. "Rape in the military ("Invisible War"), for example, is not fertile ground for humor", says Berlinger. Hmm, I feel that treating this extremely serious matter with a satirical view on the macho culture in the military could be a fertile way to go... it will take some work and thinking, but nevertheless...

PPS. By the way, I'm not opposed to Berlinger in any (other) way. Wrote a rather favorable review of one of his films at www.filmkommentaren.dk