Ella Lemhagen: Film should respect its audience and actors alike
Interview with Swedish director Ella Lemhagen who walked the Zlin Film Festival Red Carpet yesterday. She has come to Zlín to present two children's Swedish films – Tsatsiki,Mum and Policeman and Immediate Boarding.
What do these two titles mean in your career? How do you remember them?
Tsatsiki reached a very big audience, both in Sweden and abroad, and the film received awards at film festivals worldwide. Related to that I was invited to visit countries that I had never been to before, like Japan and Cuba for example, and it was very inspiring to meet the audience all around the world. I got a lot of requests to make more children's films, but at that time I was more interested in working with professional adult actors, so it took me a few years before I made another children's film again. The next children's film I made was Immediate Boarding and it was very well received, even though it never reached the same popularity as Tsatsiki. The difference was also that Tsatsiki was based on a popular children's book, and Immediate Boarding was based on an original idea.
How did you find Tsatsiki/Samuel Haus?
I was working with Sweden's most recommended agent for child actors, Maggie Widstrand, and she was searching all kind of places to find the boy, like schools, children's theatre groups, and even parks and playgrounds all around, before she found Samuel Haus at a summer camp. I believe we tried around 2000 boys before we were sure that this was the right boy for the part.
What is your favourite Swedish children's book and children's film?
That is a tricky question, because I think there are plenty of good books and films for children in Sweden. I love all of Astrid Lindgren's books and most of the films based on her books, and I can't give you just one or two titles.
Do you remember your first cinematic experience?
Yes, I remember the first time I went to the movies. I was only 3-4 years old and I saw Disney's The Junglebook. But unfortunately I fell asleep after ten minutes, so I don't remember that much of the experience itself.
The child actress Amanda David plays a double role of a boy and a girl. It was her first film experience, right? How did she manage to act in two roles?
I think Amanda already had some experience from a small role in short film before, but this was – of course – something completely different. We rehearsed a lot before the shooting and experimented with small differences in Julia's and Martin's body languages for example. Like how they behaved when they entered a room or how they used their hands – small „keys“ that we could use during the shooting.
You wrote and directed Kronjuvelerna with Alicia Vikander. I can see it was her first feature film experience. Is that correct? Can we say you were the one who discovered her?
No, Alicia had actually appeared on a TV show before, and she played the lead in a feature film called Pure (Till det som är vackert) about a year before I met her, so I wouldn't say I discovered her, even though she wasn't famous back then. Alicia was a very sweet and lovely person to have around you at the set, but she was also very ambitious and professional, even though she was young and not that experienced at the time.
What do you think should not be missed in any children's film?
A respectful way of treating children, both the child actors and the audience.
Is it your first visit to the Czech Republic?
No, I've been to Prague, and at the film festival in Karlovy Vary in the early 90s.
About Ella Lemhagen:
A scriptwriter and director, she studied film history and then at the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts. She had her feature debut with the romance The Prince of Dreams (Drömprinsen – Filmen om Em, 1996). She won recognition for Adventures of Tsatsiki (Tsatsiki, morsan och polisen, 1999), Patrik 1.5 (2008) and The Crown Jewels (Kronjuvelerna, 2011).