Viking Filmmaker From Norway Is Taking Over The Independent Film World
Cover Photo by Armstrong Lian Pandora Film
By Steffon Olsen
With a unique and masterful touch unusual for his age and a subtle, mischievous charm, Anders Teig embodies the spirit of the Norwegian God, Loki. His recent work at least parallels the early work of Steven Spielberg. The Viking Filmmaker from Norway is making undeniable waves on the international film scene.
Recall one of the most memorable experiences form your childhood.
Once, two of my friends and I went into the woods carrying an air rifle. Of course, in Norway, weapons are not available everywhere, but air rifles were used for hobby shooting. So my friend had got hold of one and some bullets, and we were walking into woods in the mountain nearby where we lived. We walked for quite a while following a track under the power lines, as you might call it. When we got to one of the large steel masts. My friend decided he wanted to climb it. So my other friend and I are standing on the ground looking at the daredevil climbing to the top and sitting next to the power cables, inches from certain death. On the ground my other friend gave me the air rifle, and as I was checking it out. Suddenly, our friend at the top came screaming down. “It’s the cops, it’s the cops!” Apparently somebody had seen a group of boys carrying a rifle walking into the woods, and had alerted the police, and they sent a police helicopter. The helicopter was circling right above the massive steel mast my friend had just climbed, and as he was descending to the ground. I said to my friend standing next to me. “What if I shot them?” I put the rifle to my shoulder and pulled the trigger. The rifle went off. My friend had loaded the rifle without telling me. My heart stopped, I felt like I had my life sucked out of me. I was standing frozen on the ground until our climber hit the ground. “Run!” He shouted in my ear. We roamed downhill into the woods and hid in the mountain for hours before we hid the rifle and went home for a very late dinner. Luckily nothing ever came of it but I don’t think an air rifle bullet can do any harm to å police helicopter. However, every time I think of this I get the chills. It was not a pleasant experience, it was just being a 14 year old doing an extremely stupid thing.
You mentioned a place called “Blood Town” regarding your childhood in Bergen.
I grew up just outside a place called “Blood Town” which is on the shadowy part of the city due to the sun being hidden behind one of the seven mountains surrounding the city.
Blood Town got its name from a lot of red houses that were built in the early 30s to help people who were homeless or just socially unequal. It was the red color of the houses that gave name to the town. However, after the houses burned down and they were rebuilt and painted yellow, the area still bore the name Blood Town. There were a lot of people who were suffering from drug addiction and psychiatric patients living in the houses when I grew up. Every time we had to go to the larger
city beyond, we had to pass through Blood Town. Being young and in my teens it didn’t feel very safe. However, it shows Norway’s social democratic status; that the local council makes sure everybody gets housing, so even if it’s a bad name and the place had a shady reputation, it really is a great example of how Norway takes cares of their own.
What was college like before you dove into film?
I studied psychology at the University of Bergen in Norway. This is because I have always been interested in personalities, and the human psyche. If I want to make films, and write about human beings, then studying psychology should be second nature. I believe everyone who writes are interested in the human condition and that is what psychology studies. However it was also a lot about biological processes in the brain and the nervous system which was a bit more mathematical but having a year of Psychology at University level has helped me a lot in my writing.
You had the opportunity to work with Sir Ian McKellen. What was that experience like?
I went to film school at Surrey Institute of Art and Design in Farnham, just south of London in the UK. I majored in screenwriting and Directing. This school is well known for the production based approach, and we made films on both digital and 16 mm film. One of the films we were making was a film about gay rights in Great Britain. A very talented filmmaker called Elliott Kerrigan had written a touching script. There were big parts in the shortfall. Voice over was part of the story, and we had not yet found out who could do this. So one day in the edit bay, Elliott said: “wouldn’t it be great if we had Sir Ian McKellen do the narration?”. Being young and blue eyed we all just went ahead with the idea, thinking it might happen. We found his email address and contacted him. Two days passed, and nothing. So we understood we were just foolish youngsters, we thought,”who were we to contact such a big star?” On the third day we got a reply. He was happy to read the voice over, and he recorded it on a soundstage somewhere in the world where he was filming. We were all just in awe. It really opened my eyes to not be too shy to ask even the biggest stars because they might happen to say yes. A good lesson for a young filmmaker.
“The Passenger” is such a remarkable film to be produced as your first offering. How did it come together?
My first professional short film was a script I had written a couple of years prior. It had been buried, untouched, in my “digital drawer”. It was written based on an of idea of Carl B. Elmore’s. Though I really liked it, I didn’t really push it before I got in contact with an editor named Audun Fylling. We got the production company DUO Film to take the film on and they got us funding from the local film council. We were casting for the main role and I really wanted Kristofer Hivju. He had just landed the role of Thormund Giantsbane in Game of Thrones. We all thought the ship had sailed on him, but the experience with Sir Ian McKellen led us to ask and see if we could be so lucky to have him star in our film. As with Sir Ian McKellen, we got a positive response. It was a joy to work with such a classy actor. I learned a lot by working with him. Just the details in discussing of the character and the story was a joy. The film is about a lonely guy who picks up a blind hitchhiker just to have some company. Instead of driving him to his destination, he just drives around the city in circles. The film stars only two characters, Fredrik Hermansen and Kristofer Hivju gave some really great performances.
You won three awards at Scorpiusfest 2021 for Rubbish Robbers. You won Best Director, Sigurd Sele, Best Actor, and the film, Best Short Comedy Film. Where did your inspiration for the film originate?
While I was waiting to start the editing process for “The Passenger” I was feeling quite nervous. Did we get all the shots? Did we have a movie at all? I sat down and thought I would try to write a one-location action/comedy short. In my nervousness and eagerness to get the editing finished, I wrote the craziest shit I ever have written. It was so much blood and gore and it would cost at least $250,000 dollars to make for a 10 minutes short. So I did what any sane person would do. I put it away and thought, “This will never get made”. A couple of years later I was reading through some of my old stuff, and this script made me laugh. So I thought, I sent it to Linda Bolstad Strønen and Marie Fuglestein at DUO Film and they loved it. We were asking for funding, but it was insanely expensive. So I rewrote out the most gory and blood-filled stuff and we ended up with a much more doable script. We were ready to shoot but we had one more thing to get through; the casting of
the main character. I have always been a fan of one of Calle Hellevang-Larsen, one of Norway’s top comedians and I wrote the script specifically for him based on his persona. We contacted him, but he just was super busy and we had to postpone. I really could not make the film without him, since the film was written for him. Over a year later he found a hole in his schedule for us, and we got all the shots we needed in two days. Many times during the waiting process I doubted myself and if it was worth waiting. I always came to the conclusion that it was better to wait then to regret not waiting to get the best cast possible. It turned out not only Calle, but Sigurd Sele, Torgbny Anderaa, and Fredrik Hermansen came on board. It was the perfect cast in this dark comedy.
Mordir Actum – RØST?
This has been such a fun project. I was hired by Vigdis Nielsen to be one of two directors of the 2020s version of RØST, a workshop for young and up and coming filmmakers. The concept is to have youngsters,15-25 years old, who either have been to film school or just want to learn filmmaking to be part of a semi-professional shoot. There is a professional director, DOP, sound recordist on set and a professional editor and sound designer in post production. All the professionals have the roles of mentors for the youngsters, and we are running the set as if it is a professional set so the kids really learn what is expected on a film set.
You’re a published author and you own a publishing company?
In between my films I wrote a novel. It is a horror/crime story with supernatural elements set in Bergen and Paris in the 60s. I wanted to shorten the process from writing to publishing and learn everything about publishing, so I started up a publishing company called Bergen Bokbryggeri, which means “Bergen Book Brewery”. I learned how to design a book professionally and got it published and sold well enough to make a nice profit. It also got me into publishing and I have had the pleasure of helping several other writers publish their books. I run the publishing company in such a way that I help the authors get the best deals for printing their book and get good deals in design. Every penny the book sells for goes directly back to the author. This is an important project for me, because I believe that everyone who has a story to tell should be able to get it out into the world.
What is it like to work in the Norwegian television industry?
I have been working at TV 2, Norway’s largest commercial TV station for 15 years. I’m currently working in the Master Control Room. I enjoy this very much. Although filmmaking and publishing take a lot of my time, I am very happy being part of such a great working atmosphere.
What can you tell us about your latest film, Jacob and the Quisling?
In August my latest shortfall will be finished in post and ready to send to festivals around the world. It is a film I am very proud of. Again I have had the luck of having every actor we wanted coming onboard. The team behind the camera was stellar, and I am excited to show everyone what we have made. Its called “Jacob and The Quisling”. It’s a story about a young boy who befriends a quisling on death row. I’m so very happy that my producer has been so patient and stayed with the project through all the years it has taken to get it fully funded. The budget is about $200,000 dollars.
Do you have any feature films in the works?
I have several feature films that are written and ready to go. I feel with the experience of my short films and other projects the timing to move to features is right now. I have a spec script right now. The concept is like Good Will Hunting meets WarGames. It’s a story about a young genius who discovers the mathematical formula to foresee every random event. I have a ‘one location’ feature about a bunch of young men trying to move across borders hidden in a container on a ship, and the ship goes down. I’m also just finishing a drama/thriller about a family being torn apart when their young boy is trapped at home while someone breaks into their house. No, it has nothing to do with Home Alone!
All these films are mid-budget projects and I’m hopeful to get these up and running.
Of course I would love to direct someone else’s script as well. Having done the Røst film, Mordir Actum, where I directed someone else’s story, was such a great experience and something I am definitely looking forward to doing.
I’m also developing some really exciting episodic projects with Sigurd Sele who is starring in two of my upcoming films. Though it’s too early to disclose any details. I also, especially want to mention how grateful I am to my wife for being by my side all of these years. She’s been so amazing. Filmmaking takes a lot of time and can put a lot of strain on any relationship.
You can expect to hear the name of Anders Teig in movie theaters around the world. This Viking ship has just set sail.