BAKERMAN with director David Noel Bourke and lead actor Mikkel Vadsholt
David Noel Bourke
Cinema Scandinavia: You were born in Ireland but now live in Denmark. Can you tell us about why you made the move?
DNB: I moved here many years ago after meeting my now wife who’s Danish. I guess it happens a lot. It was a mutual decision; we visit Ireland often.
CS: What is your filmmaking background and how did you get into it?
DNB: My father was an avid film buff and had the first VHS player in town, so I grew up watching movies. As I got older, I wrote stuff myself. I then drifted into some local theatre, filmmaking, acting and then more serious screenwriting. When the new wave of the digital filmmaking arrived, I was ready.
CS: You’ve made two other films, Last Exit and No Right Turn. How do you feel you’ve grown from those two films when it came to creating Bakerman?
DNB: Those early films are their own thing, they were made for little and in many ways are my film school. Live and learn. Saying that; those indie movies have been around the world and are very much cult items. But every new film is a giant leap. I always set my goals to be more and more ambitious every new project or else what is the point? I definitely feel I have matured as a writer and director over the years and developed somewhat my own voice and style. Bakerman is a positive step forward.
CS: Since you’ve worked in multiple countries (including Australia!) do you feel as though your work is representative of a country?
DNB: Yes for sure, local flavour comes out as a natural background to where you shoot I feel and also the actors you work with etc. A script shot in Copenhagen would end up be very different than one shot in Broome, Australia for example. But you hope to keep your own style always.
CS: Leading on from that, Bakerman does feel very ‘Danish’. Was that your intention? Why/why not?
DNB: The character of Bakerman (Jens) is Denmark and Denmark is Bakerman. It’s obvious. But generally, I feel it’s a very working class story that can be related to by many different people. Many traits of the Bakerman character were based on my late father.
CS: How did the story of Bakerman come to be? I saw on Wikipedia you mention it used to be a project called ‘White Pig’…
DNB: Yes, White Pig was another earlier version of the script, same but different. It had more of a police angle and lots more characters. I narrowed the focus to only Jens and the story developed from there. The script had gathered a lot of interest around Danish film circles, everyone wanted to read it, be part of it and some name actors wanted to play the lead. I worked with a big production company for some years but it was hard to get it moving, maybe it was controversial subjective matter and it many ways the story was a little off the mainstream. So I resorted to shooting it independently. It nearly killed me mentally and physically but I had no choice and my hand was forced. It worked out well at the end but it was very hard work.
CS: The film very much feels like a story of heroism and a character profile. Is that what you set out to achieve?
DNB: I would say, anti-hero if anything. He is stuck in rut in his life, avoiding conflict, in a way caught up in the ‘system’ and when he is forced, he ends up doing very bad things. Although he discovers a sympathetic hand with the female character of Mozan (played by Siir Tilif), so yes he is a hero of sorts but he is also rescued by her.
CS: What elements are important to you when writing a story for the screen?
DNB: Am I passionate about the project? Would I die for the project? After that, characters, story and motivation come into play.
CS: How did you find the production process in Denmark?
DNB: Film production can break your heart, it’s a huge struggle especially when you have minimum resources. But not impossible. When the big official institutions are not very supportive, you need to go independent. A lot of filmmakers in Denmark are going indie now and it’s really great to see that spirit, they know it’s hard but they do it anyway. Doing this way is not for everyone. Scheduling is the biggest nightmare. Locations are a challenge too, therefore I tend to use many local areas. We used local bike shops, bakeries, bars and most external locations in Valby where I live. It helps a lot and the local community actually love supporting filmmakers like us, it’s really cool.
CS: The film premiered at CPH: PIX last year. How was the film received?
DNB: Couldn’t ask for a better premiere. It was a big success, I feel. We wish it got more Danish press coverage but that’s the way it is currently. It’s funny what the audience sees surprises you. In the Q&A one question was asked whether the “cross-shaped” tyre-iron represented Christianity Vs Islam in the film…as the first two murders by the character Jens were immigrants. Those observations are great and I love all that creativity.
CS: Where will we be able to see the film in 2017?
DNB: Hopefully a few more screenings and then we probably will launch it exclusively via VOD on the Last Exit Productions website (lastexitproductions.dk).
CS: Are you working on any new projects at the moment?
DNB: I have written a sci-fi feature film. It’s called The Boy Who Stole the World” and it’s a very personal film in many ways and very ambitious. It’s in development/pre-production. It’s unlike anything I have done before. I’m looking forward to the project immensely, should be very cool.
CS: Can you tell us about your acting background?
MV: My acting background began when I was about 12 years old, I think. I always liked to sing and perform and so on. And I was getting some roles in plays at school. Later on, it got more serious. I played small parts at semi-professional theatres, and later on again, at professional theatres. When I was 23 years old, in 1993, I started at the acting school, and four years later, in 1997 I was an actor. Since then, I have been playing a lot of roles and characters at many different theatres all over Denmark, with the latest 15 years in Copenhagen.
Very early in my career, I started to get cast for roles in movies and tv-series, and my very first role in a movie was actually the Oscar-winning short movie Election Night by Anders Thomas Jensen. Since then, I have been in eighteen feature films, twelve TV series, ten commercial movies and many short movies.
I also do some dubbing. For example, I am the Danish voice for BOMB in Angry Birds and I am also in the Danish version of Frozen.
CS: Can you please explain to us the process behind you getting the role of Jens?
MV: I was contacted by David Noel Bourke, who said that he would like a meeting with me. He told me about the movie (Bakerman), and about the role Jens. I was very interested, and that was it!
CS: When approaching this character, what did you feel was most important with regards to Jens?
MV: It was important to find Jens´feelings and his view of life in general. Also, his deepest feelings about the world and the people in his life.
CS: The story feels very much about heroism. Would you regard Jens as a hero?
MV: The movie is about heroism in some way, but also about many other themes. But I think, after all, that Jens is a kind of a hero. Because when it really counts, when things get serious, he takes responsibility. For example, he does the right thing about Mozan, the female lead-character. I will not spoil anything right here, but I do believe that Jens is a hero. Even though he has a lot of problems in his life, and even though he is having his very own special way of seeing things.
CS: Do you put much of yourself into each character, or do you prefer to play someone totally different from yourself? Why/why not?
MV: I do put some of myself into the characters I play. Not that it’s method acting, but I use a combination of experience and imagination.
CS: What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing Danish actors today?
MV: The biggest challenge is definitely that there are so many actors, or maybe so few jobs! I feel very privileged because I am working almost al the time, nd have done for nearly 20 years now. Many interesting roles, many different roles.
CS: What has been a highlight in your acting career?
MV: I have to say a big role as a homeless man in a tv-series called The Secret of Absalon, as Ebeneezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at the theatre in three seasons in 2005, 2006, 2007. Also my role in the tv-series Unit One, and of cause Jens in Bakerman.
CS: Are there any films/TV series we can see you in this year?
MV: This year Im in the films Undercover and Iqbal og den hemmelige chip. I am also dubbing for the new Disney-film Moana.