Award Winner and Academy Award® 2022 Nominee Martin Strange-Hansen talks about Directing ‘On My Mind’ Nominated in the Best Live Action Short Film Category

The pinnacle of the film industry calendar, the Academy Awards will return for their 94th edition on Sunday 27th March at the Dolby Theatre, LA. With a total of 24 categories being recognised, the evening offers a chance to celebrate the great work produced by creatives devoted to their craft. Having won his first Academy Award – a Student Academy Award as a recent graduate of The Danish Film School at the time with short film Feeding Desire in 2001, before winning his second for This Charming Man in 2003, member of AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) filmmaker Martin Strange-Hansen returns with his latest production On My Mind – a tale of loss drawing from his own personal experience of this. Announced as an Academy Award 2022 finalist on Tuesday 8th February in the ‘Best Live Action Short Film’, Martin tells us more about how he feels post announcement, working with double Academy Award® Winning producer Kim Magnusson and performers Rasmus Hammerich, Camilla Bendix and Ole Boisen and what he’s taken away from his varied career within film!

Hi Martin, your film On My Mind was announced as an Academy Award®  2022 on Tuesday 8th February. How are you feeling?

When you make a film, you dedicate yourself and your entire being into sharing a story with the world. You get a lot of people involved, dedicated talented and skilled people, and together you struggle to get this ship over the mountain. To make this particular film, this collaborative piece of art, come to life. This story, this film that you’re making is meant to be shared with the world, it is its purpose. Maybe you have something to say about the human condition, or you simply want to entertain people. Either way, it feels immensely important to get it out there. So when said film is being recognised by your peers, the members of The Academy, as something special to celebrate, well then that feeling is beyond words. I can only express it in the words of the great philosopher Fred Flintstone: Yabba-dabba-dooh!

Nominated in the ‘Best Live Action Short Film’ category, On My Mind is an authentic tale exploring love and loss – the film very bravely sharing your own personal experience of loss. How have you found exploring this further within your work?

I’ve decided to be very open about the origins of the story, because I wanted to commemorate my daughter, and what her being in this world taught me. That took some bravery I reckon and yet again, bravery is an essential part of telling stories. There’s always figments of yourself in there. Something that resonates with who you are as a person. I’ve realised that when an idea is ignited within me, there is that element of fascination, which makes the idea stick and grow. Facing my traumas, longings, shortcomings or sense of justice creates an urge of exploring that idea or theme.

The film has been written and directed by yourself, and has been created alongside double Academy Award® Winner Kim Magnusson who has produced it and stars Rasmus Hammerich, Camilla Bendix and Ole Boisen. How have you worked with the creative team to realise the final piece?

This has been a somewhat different collaborative experience, as we made this film during the covid-lockdown. So prior to shooting I had very few physical meetings with crew and cast. Kim and I were primarily communicating and having meetings via zoom through most of the process. Even during the editing process all our feedback meetings was online.

With Rasmus, Camilla and Ole we had online readings of the last 3-4 versions of the script. The advantage of doing them online was that they were easier to arrange on short notice when I had a new script. But the downside of online is that you lack physicality in the process. The opportunity to try a scene on the floor is not there, which makes it a somewhat dry and stiff experience. So when we finally had the chance to get into the location a day the week before shooting, we jumped at it, and worked with playing through the entire script on location, like a small theatre play.

I feel that being a director is like being like a creative sponge, ready to absorb good creative input from the crew and cast. In some ways I owe the inspiration of the wind coming through the bar to Camilla. In an early draft, the bar owner was all about trying to get more money out of the protagonist. At one point Camilla said “What if he was just more of a miser, all consumed with his receipts.” That sentence made something about the bar owner go “click” and gave birth to the idea about the gushes of wind – the presence of the protagonist’s wife throughout the film. A touch of magic coming through the very down-to-earth everyday life of the bar.

You’re a recipient of the Student Academy Award for short film Feeding Desire (2001) and an Academy Award for short film This Charming Man (2003).  A graduate of the Danish Film School, a member of AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) and The Danish Film Academy and currently supporting with scriptwriting on other projects – you’ve enjoyed a varied career within film. What have you learned overall from your time as a filmmaker?

I feel that with experience, your artistic intuition grows. I feel more at ease in the process now than when I was younger, letting more room for creative input from cast and crew. So you can say that what I have learned is trust! Trust in my gut-feeling, trust in the process and trust in handling the unforeseen. Along the way I also have learned to feel a script, rather than to think it. Feel when I write, and feel when I read. The latter I find to be an advantage as a script consultant, where the job is to try to decipher what the other creative (writer or director) is trying to express, and from there, try to help that become clearer.

What have you learned/taken away from creating the film?

It reminded me how inspiring and creatively rewarding it can be to work within a short timeframe. A lot of time as a filmmaker is spent on waiting for other people making decisions before the film can be put into production. Making film is often a long time process. The script-process especially can become really prolonged by those waiting periods. Waiting for replies, funding, casting and coordination of timeschedules and the like. A lot of which is more administrative work than creative. So I think that this process opened my eye into trying to get the actors on board early on, to use their creativity even more in the writing process.

What can viewers expect from the film?

Hopefully a chuckle and a tear.

What would you like for viewers to take away from the film?

If this film ignites your memory of loved ones you’ve lost, maybe even filling your heart up a little with that memory, then I would be so happy.

Interview by Lucy Basaba.

To find out more about On My Mind, visit here…

The 94th annual Academy Award® takes place on Sunday 27th March 2022, to find out more about the ceremony, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop