Gudrun Edda Thórhannesdóttir
2009 Producer on the Move – Iceland
by Annika Pham
A graduate of Cambridge University, Gudrun Edda Thórhannesdóttir has held various positions within the Icelandic film industry over the last 12 years, from festival director, TV buyer and head of international relations for the Icelandic Film Centre to film producer.
Her first feature film, Valdís Óskarsdóttir's Country Wedding [+see also:
film profile], was a festival hit last year. She has now partnered renowned filmmaker Fridrik Thor Fridriksson in Spellbound Productions, and comes to Cannes with the filmmaker’s first feature film in five years, the European co-production Mamma Gógó, now in post-production.
Cineuropa: How does it feel to be Iceland’s Producer on the Move?
Gudrun Edda Thórhannesdóttir: I’m thrilled to be part of Producers on the Move and to be able to hook up with fellow producers, exchange ideas and experiences as well as find partners for future co-productions.
You’ve worked over the last twelve years in various areas of filmmaking in Iceland. What attracted you to production?
I would say that my previous work prepared me well for becoming a producer. Working for film festivals develops your taste for films, their variety and backgrounds, and when you’re buying you learn the importance of networking. It is great to now be on the other end as a producer and part of the creative team even though there are often many pitfalls and difficulties that arise during production. Creating interesting and good work is very fulfilling.
Your first feature production was Country Wedding, the directorial debut of world-renowned editor Valdís Óskarsdóttir. What did you learn from that first experience?
You learn a lot from your first project as a producer. I was fortunate that Valdis gave me a chance to produce her work in collaboration with other partners, such as my US co-producer and close friend Jim Stark, a great mentor to me. Jim brought in Fortissimo Film Sales, among my favourite companies when I was a buyer.
Now you’ve set up a new company, Spellbound, with the doyen of Icelandic cinema, Fridrik Thor Fridriksson. How did this new venture come about?
Fridrik and I first worked together in 1996 when he was artistic director of the Reykjavík International Film Festival. I really enjoyed working with Fridrik and we have been good friends ever since. I have always admired his work and it is an honour for me to be working with him. He is a pioneer and has done invaluable work for the Icelandic film industry.
Shortly after I finished Country Wedding and moved back from the UK, our paths crossed again and we decided that I would join him to produce Mamma Gógó. Our lawyer and mutual friend, Tomas Thorvalddson, played a role in this and we founded our company Spellbound Productions (Hughrif ehf.).
What type of projects do you want to make at Spellbound and what’s the status on Mamma Gógó?
Spellbound Productions will produce Fridrik‘s films, which all are strong human stories with a wry sense of humour and genuine solidarity with the characters. Spellbound will also work with other directors, with an emphasis on drama and comedy.
Mamma Gógó is now in post-production and looks very promising. I have to say that I feel we have something special on our hands. The film is about a film director’s personal journey experiencing his mother’s disappearance into Alzheimer’s. It is a film with Fridriksson’s essential ingredients: humour, compassion and a strong visual style. We have a fantastic team and Fridrik is working with his old collaborator, cinematographer Ari Kristinsson (Children of Nature), although they had not worked together since Devil’s Island (1996).
How do you still manage to raise financing for your projects with the current financial crisis that has hit Iceland more dramatically than other countries?
I financed Country Wedding mostly with private funds and then the Icelandic Film Centre came into the project with a post-production grant. Our investors were fantastic and I‘m still working with one of them, White River. Iceland has been hit by the economic crisis and therefore at the moment we have to rely on the Icelandic Film Centre, European funds and co-producers.
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