Dk Fiction is an art house film company based in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was founded in 2012 by director Dariusz Steiness and producer Katrine Hartmann. DK Fiction’s goal is to take the audience seriously by telling original and relevant stories, with a strong visual grip and to seek for new ways in the cinematic language.
We spoke to Dariusz and Katrine about DK Fiction and their new film, The Lost Ones.
Can you please tell us about your filmmaking background?
Dariusz Steiness: I am very passionate about making films and have been since I started as a 20-year-old. I started at the brand new groundbreaking Copenhagen local television station Kanal 2. The year was 1986, and in Denmark at that time, video production was quite new. We were the pioneers and very hungry to learn, create and experimenting in the new video landscape. After 4 years of training as TV photographer and producer, I began directing commercials and music videos. I worked mostly for Locomotion Kofod Schiller and Nordisk Film Commercial. Later on, I was a producer for the Danish national TV DR, where I made a number of documentaries and short fiction films. My passion for storytelling grew so big that I left the advertising and TV world in favour for fiction. I locked myself up in my apartment and began writing fiction manuscripts.
In 2002 I succeeded to debut with the feature Charlie Butterfly produced by Zentropa whit DFI. The film won the Audience Award in Mannheim-Heidelberg as well Cinematography Price in Madrid-Imagen. I stayed at Zentropa the following 7 years. In 2004 I worked with Lars Von Trier as assisting director on Mandalay and in 2008 as a script consultant on Antichrist. In 2012 I met Katrine Hartman who is an actress and producer. We decided to start a production company only for features films, DK Fiction.
Katrine Hartmann: Through my work as an actress, my curiosity on the process of filmmaking emerged. In 2006, I was given a chance to experience the very centre of the Scandinavian film industry at Zentropa. I was hired as a production assistant at Zentropa Interaction and during this three-year journey, I got a taste for producing and it sparked my dream about one day, in fellowship with other like-minded filmmakers, to produce stories that give more than they take. I decided to acquire more skills within film production and became a frequent user of the supplementary training program at the National Film School of Denmark and the Short & Documentary Film School in Lyngby. I further developed my skills as a producer at Freeport Media where we produced a number of TV & documentary productions. Fiction, however, holds my heart, and in 2012 Dariusz and I were lucky enough to meet. Together we established DK Fiction, a company where we both can develop our visions for creating movies. The same year we started producing The Lost Ones.
If you want to make a movie you basically only need a tripod, a camera, a microphone and actors. We threw ourselves into a production without a parachute and we made it
Why did you decide to start DK Fiction?
DS: When I worked at Zentropa, I developed three feature films and a TV series for the Danish national TV DR. Zentropa and the Danish Film Institute DFI supported the development of all projects, but they did not receive production support. It was incredibly frustrating to have been granted so much money for development, and then not be able to produce. It made me defiant and rebellious. Therefore, I decided along with Katrine, to start an independent production company, seek alternative financing opportunities and preserve the artistic integrity. Nobody can stop me from making films, not even money.
KH: In the summer of 2011 Dariusz sent me the manuscript of a short story titled Swan Song. After turning the last page I was spellbound. It touched me deeply. At that moment I knew Dariusz was to become a companion and I was ready to go the long beaten path to transform Swan Song into a feature along with Dariusz.
Judging from the title and The Lost Ones, it feels like you want to create works that are very Danish. Do you agree? Why/why not?
DS: I don’t quite agree. Besides the small detail that the main character shifts between the Danish and Swedish language, the rest of the film could take place in many parts of the world. All characters problems are very universal and we can all get lost in our lives.
What has been the biggest challenge starting a production company?
KH & DS: Our biggest challenge has been to start a company and produce a feature film without an existing budget. We thought we could get an advance payment from distribution, but a week before start shooting we have only received 5.400,- euro from the Danish Actors´Association. That was the most difficult moment to deal with in the whole production. We decided to continue, convinced that – If you want to make a movie you basically only need a tripod, a camera, a microphone and actors. We threw ourselves into a production without a parachute and we made it. But our new films like to have a minimum budget; otherwise, we risk getting an ulcer and sleepless nights.
Since Danish film (and Scandinavian film in general) is very popular at the moment, what do you believe are the biggest challenges and the positives of the industry?
KH & DS: At this moment The Danish film industry grows at lightning speed. And even if we in Denmark have one of the best economic supporting systems for film production in the world, with the Danish Film Institute and consulting system, there are still many challenges.
From our perspective, the most urgent challenge is the lack of cooperation between DFI and distributors. To think through an exclusive and distinctive distribution platform that cherishes and consider each films unique potential. Many of the independent films, as well as DFI-supported films, are stranded in a deadly desert because this challenge is not taking care of.
The good news is all the focus on Danish/Scandinavian films from aboard gives our small film a little advantage.
Where did you find the idea for The Lost Ones?
DS: The economic crisis back in 2007-8 made me think of all those who were forced to leave there home and end up on the bench. I myself have had a difficult time and also ended up on the bench in a park in Copenhagen centre. After a while, it occurred to me that I was sitting next to a homeless man. And then we began to talk. He looked ill, worn down and burned out, but he spoke like a “life-wise professor”. I remember when I walked away form him my thoughts were positive and hopeful, although my problems had not disappeared.
What did you wish to achieve with this film, especially considering how it follows individuals and their personal struggles?
DS: If we look at the personal struggles most of us have, it is interesting that we do not go directly to problems core, but instead we go around the problem and often take a long detour to come forward to a concrete solution or confrontation. That is what we wish to address with “The Lost Ones”, to focus on how we deal with our personal problems.
How has it been received locally in Denmark?
KH:“The Lost Ones” had its world premiere at the film festival CPH PIX in Copenhagen in the new Danish talent series. It sold out and got an extra show. It was great. Some Danish film magazines wrote positive reviews. EKKO and Soundvenue have been positive and have put particular emphasis on the film’s humour and credibility in the characters and that it is a celebration of life. However, they mention also a few scenes they disliked. In December we had a show in Skagen Cinema and should also give a talk about the process and highlight the importance of selective film viewing habits. We received a review from the locale newspaper. An honest, touching and personal review that has made all our struggles worthwhile. It matters most to us, that we don’t waste the audience’s time but it resonates and awakens something in them.
Where will you take The Lost Ones next?
KH: DK Fiction will distribute The Lost Ones in Denmark. The film is about what can happen of positive change and reconciliation when people meet, so we would like to meet the audience and start a dialogue. But it is also a universal story that is not bound by borders, therefore we are looking for distribution partners abroad.
What is DK fiction currently working on?
KH & DS: Currently we are working on a new film with the working title “theft”. It’s going to be a very strong drama/crime in English. At this moment we are looking for financing possibilities.
To learn more about DK Fiction and their work, head to their website: http://www.dkfiction.com/