So instead of attempting to harness the love that was going around at Ängsbacka festival, Rob Cannan and Corinna Villari-McFarlane decided to simply follow these tree bothers around for a week.
Three Miles North Of Molkom, the highly-acclaimed documentary which records the events in the fields of Northern Sweden, is their directorial debut and opens nationwide this Friday with special preview screenings on 16th September.
When they spoke to OTB they revealed that even film crews need to do a bit of tree-hugging from time to time…
First of all, congratulations on a great movie – what inspired you to make it?
CF – We’ve both been involved in the low-budget British film industry for a while knew that it would be very difficult to make our mark on the independent film scene with a drama. When a colleague told us about Ängsbacka, the penny just dropped.
RC – It wasn’t necessarily a case of subject matter, but that we had a number of boxes to tick, we needed interesting characters going on some sort of journey and we were pretty confident that we would find a wide range of weird and wonderful people at Ängsbacka.
In many ways we see the film from Nick’s perspective, he must have been a character that you were particularly pleased to encounter?
RC – Obviously we didn’t know who we were going to meet but both our mothers are psychotherapists so we already had a real interest in the human mind and we wanted to explore that with our storytelling. He was key part of that though as when you have characters who are very settled in this type of environment, having one who is new to the whole thing can help bring the audience on board.
CF – This Aussie called Nick ran up to us and said, “are you guys making a film? So you’re not in this cult then? Can I hang out with you?” The way we met him was so comical because he was genuinely petrified at that point – in a way he fell from the heavens. And being an Aussie he had the mentality that; “this is far out – but I’m going to do my best.” That quality made him the perfect vehicle.
With reference to what Nick said to you when you first met him, at what point do you think that a self-help group becomes a cult – is it when they start asking for money?
CF – (laughs) Ängsbacka is definitely not a cult!
RC – That’s an interesting question because after shooting the film we needed to raise more money and ended up doing this job where we were actually making propaganda videos for an Indian cult. After several months they kept sending money for us to essentially just press buttons, so we got a very real sense of what a cult is. What sets Ängsbacka aside is that the very ethos is eclecticism, there are all kind of traditions form Indian to Native American, some bonkers stuff some deeply psychological stuff.
CF – The two guys who are in charge of Ängsbacka were high up in the UN and they had spent many years in war zones all across the world. When they returned to Sweden they decided to create a space where people who wanted to improve themselves would be welcomed. Some workshops are wacky and some are more relevant, it’s that choice which sets it apart form a cult.
RC – Having said that, anyone arriving at Ängsbacka for the first time and seeing everyone dressed in white, could be forgiven for thinking that it was a cult!
What are your plans for the future? Is there any fiction on the horizon or will you be going down a similar road with your next project?
CF – From making this film we’ve had a huge amount of Hollywood studio interest in a remake which is a bizarre idea because we felt that the documentary style was what made it so effective.
RC – Overall I would say that the documentary background is where our passion is. We’ve got several ideas that we are toying with, one in particular is not too dissimilar to this in terms of tone but it will be a fiction piece.
Going back to Ängsbacka, what was the weirdest or funniest thing you saw in the process of making the film?
CF – There were so many things going on all day long, all over the place! A lot of stuff couldn’t be included because it required too much explanation. For instance, the groups of people singing with their hands over their genitals were incredibly visually comic if taken out of context, but we felt it would have been doing a disservice to the place. Many people find the scene of accidental violence one of the most shocking in the film and it was a very bizarre experience to be part of as film-makers – a mix of hilarity and tragedy.
RC – So many bonkers things are happening all the time at that place that you really do have to expect the unexpected. It almost becomes strange if something weird isn’t happening.
Which part of the movie was you’re favourite to film?
CF – We would often split up to get ground covered, one of the most important things to remember is that we were only four people – this was maybe the smallest crew of people ever to get a movie on to the big screen. It was just Rob and me, Joe and Mike. In terms of the filming we were incredibly chuffed to pull it off because it was such a tall order, technically and physically. At the tantra workshop we actually had to be naked to shoot it, which was a very surreal experience as film-makers.
RC – You get so close to the material that you realise each piece of film serves a purpose to the whole. There’s one madcap scene with non-contact martial arts which we felt was one of the most important, but to weigh that against something that we had put more stylistic craft into is difficult. I think you’ve actually managed to ask us the hardest question we’ve ever been asked!
CF – (laughs) We’ve never been asked that question before.
Thankyou. Have either of you ever hugged a tree?
RC – It’s funny that you should ask that because I read in the Metro that they’ve managed to produce an electric current from trees. The hippies were right! I can’t remember but I’m sure we joined in with the shamen in the woods at one point…
CF – I’m pretty sure that I hugged a tree in celebration at the end of a day of filming.
RC – I definitely wouldn’t call either of us tree huggers though.
I hear there are some big plans for the launch next week…
CF – In true indie style we’ve come up with a novel and eco-friendly way of releasing the film to as many people as possible. At 8pm on Wednesday 16th September at Cineworld Haymarket the film is going to be introduced by Russell Howard from Mock the Week, he will be doing a stand-up routine and then the premiere will be beamed live via satellite to 50 screens nationwide. This event is hopefully going to be our launch-pad – it’s us versus Hollywood!
RC – It’s going to be a great night and it’s all only the price of a cinema ticket, we need everyone to turn out because this is our one chance to get the word out before the launch next weekend. It’s make or break.