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Maria Ekerhovd • Producer

"Burning Man really has something to say about living in contemporary Scandinavia"

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- We spoke to producer Maria Ekerhovd, of Mer Film, about the Burning Man project, which won the Eurimages Lab Project Award in Haugesund last week

Maria Ekerhovd • Producer

The 2018 Eurimages Lab Project Award, worth €50,000, was awarded to the Norwegian film project Burning Man at the 46th Norwegian International Film Festival in Haugesund last week (see the news). Directed by Itonje Søimer Guttormsen and produced by Maria Ekerhovd, of Mer Film, and the director herself, the film follows Gritt, a penniless truth-seeker and self-taught movement artist on a quest for a life-changing project and a sense of context in the midst of Oslo’s art scene. The prize is awarded to the most promising and innovative film project to be presented as a work in progress.

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Cineuropa: Congratulations on winning this year’s Eurimages Lab Project Award. Hopefully it will be put to good use. Do you already know what to do with it?
Maria Ekerhovd: Thanks a lot! This award, with its monetary part, could not have been better timed, and will quite simply be used to finish the film. Filming is still under way, and final financing has yet to be secured. Burning Man is being made on a tight budget, and every little cent counts. Again, this prize could not have been more welcome.

How did you meet the director, Itonje Søimer Guttormsen, and what made you envision a future collaboration? 
I went to Göteborg this February and saw Itonje pitch it, and I was totally knocked out by how good it seemed to be. I immediately felt it would be perfect for me and Mer Film. Luckily, Itonje agreed. This is a relevant and potent project, and I feel that Burning Man really and truly has something to say about living in contemporary Scandinavia. The film will be funny but will still give audiences some food for thought.

How do you choose your projects? On instinct?
At Mer Film, we’re constantly on the lookout for people with a distinctive voice and something to say. We aim for artistic ambition as well as stories that will engage the audience; both parts are equally important. We also have our own distribution office, and I feel this combination of production and distribution is very fruitful for our ability to reach out to the audience. We’ve found a very good working model. 

Your CV as a producer boasts some impressive titles, like the Cannes winner Sniffer (2006) and this year’s big Amanda winner, What Will People Say [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Iram Haq
film profile
]
(see the news). What state is Norwegian cinema in today, and how do you feel, being in the middle of it all?
In many ways, Norwegian cinema is well off; there are many good films being made. I do, however, feel that films with artistic ambitions have something of a hard time. The consultants at the Norwegian Film Institute only have the money for, say, two to four films per year, with many stipulations to consider and abide by within this framework. But I have a good time within the industry, and I hope to be able to make more good movies that will reach viewers, both here, at home in Norway, and out there internationally. I’m very fortunate to be able to work with all of these great, really skilled people, and I learn a lot on each new film. This is the real reward in my job and also what spurs us on. There are high ambitions for the future, rest assured.

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