In 2019, director Ari Aster released one of the most popular contemporary American horror films, Midsommar. As with all films, the stories on the big screen are typically an accumulation of the best ideas from multiple brilliant creative minds. In this instance, one of those people happens to be producer Patrik Andersson. Patrik is the Head of Development for B-Reel Films. He joins us to tell us more about his journey as a young filmmaker through the censorships of Sweden to gaining some experience as a festival programmer, working in distribution then eventually stepping foot into the world of production.
What was your first introduction to horror?
My introduction to horror is due to the fabulous circumstance that my two older brothers managed to get two VHS-machines as early as the late 70's and basically started to build a library of action flicks, westerns, comedies and horror films BEFORE the horror of censorship hit Sweden in 1984. Basically you could get your hands on uncut masterpieces within the genre even within the incredibly small town I'm from - Finspång, Östergötland. I managed to dig into the wonders of John Carpenter and Lucio Fulci from the basement of our house, where I basically lived and it also was a great connection for friendships. Me and Martin Karlqvist (co-creator of the Hårga's) became super close friends already in 1982 in the era of uncut films, continuing into the post-censorship chase for the forbidden fruit of uncut horrors and C64 gaming.
What keeps you interested in the genre?
I've always been a fan of the genre and how it has been evolving, both to the extremes of shock horror, yet more interestingly the artistic development within the genre. My journey in film has been through film theory and the academic route before becoming a festival programmer and later working in arthouse distribution, before stepping into production, basically defining me as the complete film buff I am and to see how artistic visions are being brought back into horror in the new wave of US elevated horror yet also on a global and international scale has just further nurtured my deep and sincere interest in the genre. Our lack of dealing with genre from the Swedish perspective is also truly inspiring, so much stuff to unearth, so many ideas that never has been able to reach full production. The body of work of amazing Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist (Let the Right One In, Border) is sensational in balancing the personal, rich characters, true ambitions of serious storytelling, with genre and the fantastical. Yet there are even constraints and challenges in getting his stories made, I know, since I worked extensively on the adaptation on his drama of the undead, Handling the Undead back in the days. And ever since I started as a producer, this has been my ambition. To create and make ambitious and artistic Scandinavian elevated horror for an international audience.
Do you have any other horror projects planned for the future that you can tell us about?
Of course. Nothing I can talk about though, yet Midsommar was just the beginning.
What is your favorite classic horror movie?
Oh, I will bring Bergman's Wolf Hour into the classics within the genre, even though it essentially is more psychological than classic horror. I just love it. Chasing after the uncut horror masterpieces in the worst days of Swedish censorship in the 80's and 90's actually has made some films even eerier and weirder than they were intended. To watch a bootleg VHS-tape of the uncut first Hellraiser, brings evil and the wild Lovecraftian world of Clive Barker in a whole new level of boosting the fantasy of the viewer. The nightmares envisioned within me is just worse than anything they could or would create, I think. Yet my dad actually bought me a VHS of Carpenter's "The Thing" from the UK and I think that's most likely the one film I've seen the most. Rob Bottin's work is still mind-blowing.
What movies give you the most inspiration?
I watch a lot of films and have always done that and being a festival programmer in my roots I just love diving into contemporary cinema alongside revisiting cinema history. I loved Kantemir Balagov's "Beanpole" that is just able to throw ourselves into the constraints of these great characters in such a dystopic time of post-war Soviet Union. To name one of the more recent watches. I can also warmly recommend the Norwegian show "July 22nd" created by writer Sara Johnsen and director Pål Sletaune. It is extremely well-written and a cathartic experience on one of the most unbelievable hideous crimes of recent years. The shootings at Utøya.
What is your dream project?
"Midsommar" was a true dream project. I have been working on it since 2014.
What is something in everyday life that scares you?
Current political streams. We have former neo-nazis in the Swedish parliament.
How did you get started in the industry?
I moved to Stockholm in order to study film theory after a year of studying philosophy and aesthetics in Uppsala. After my studies I became the head programmer of the Stockholm Film Festival, traveled the world to screen films and meet filmmakers. That took me into the exhibitors and distributors industry here in Sweden, until I stepped into production eight years ago.
Can you tell us more about B-Reel Films?
It's a great company. Swedish, independent, and clearly a great home for filmmakers. I've been there for the past eight years yet the company has been around for over twenty years. It's pretty big within commercials and we have a sister company called B-Reel which is a creative agency and the one part of the company that is the reason why we have a lot of offices outside of Stockholm, including one big one in New York (Downtown Brooklyn) and one in LA. Since a couple of years back we also have an amazing producer at our LA office, Philip Westgren (who was an EP on "Midsommar") who is developing a US/international slate of projects, both feature films and TV-series.
There are many different roles and types of producers during the filmmaking process. Can you tell us more about your role?
Oh, being a film buff I love developing, envisioning what kind of film this will be, how it fits within cinema history and what makes it relevant as a film. I do write myself as well and to play with a huge palette is so much fun. Building a team of great creative artists is also a lovely process, to make sure everyone is moving towards the same vision of the film and both staying in line with that yet also hopefully challenging the ideas with new perspectives that just makes things even better.
What do you look for in a screenplay?
One of the biggest challenges as an indie filmmaker is finding the financing to get films made. As a producer, do you have any personal tips that may help an up and coming indie filmmaker who is trying to find the funds for production?
Oh, being in Sweden and being in the US is such different galaxies for this question. Here we have a government financed film institute that helps finance development for feature films and documentaries. There are other funds within Europe as well, making sure that we independently can develop these stories and bring the projects towards distributors and financiers when it is truly ready for it, and not before. Yet once you are past development I believe that you have way more financing possibilities stateside rather than here in Sweden, yet where you need to keep track of the creative control.
What is it like to work with a visionary of a director like Ari Aster?
Just amazing. Ari is a master. We got to know each other in 2015 when I had read the script of "Hereditary" and his take on "Midsommar" was just mind-blowing. Such ambitions, such a true filmmaker and someone who clearly also can make that vision come to life.
What is something that you learned from Ari that may be valuable for indie horror filmmakers?
Stick to your guns. Stay true to your vision.
Can you tell us more about how the idea of Midsommar came to be and the development, production, etc?
I had the ambition of making a very ambitious Swedish folk horror. Much on par with "The Wicker Man", yet from the Swedish perspective as we have such an iconic Swedish pagan remnant in our Midsummer traditions. Me and my childhood friend Martin Karlqvist started to develop the idea and set out some frames for it. We wanted it to be clearly psychedelic as the genre of folk horror in itself has an even bigger luster when you go towards the world of "Valerie and her week of Wonders" for instance, and we clearly needed a myth, a philosophy and a community that took this into something completely new, yet with a rich and true background into Swedish and Scandinavian history. So we started to construct the world of the Hårga's. Deep into it we knew we needed and wanted an American writer (given that the lead characters coming to Sweden where from the US) who clearly knew how to challenge the genre and make it into something richer and new. Through LA liaisons, we managed to get in touch with writers and I got my hands on the "Hereditary" script. Ari's talent was immensely obvious. Ari was eager to make something in Europe and specifically in Sweden, being a huge fan of Ingmar Bergman and Roy Andersson. So he came. A number of times. For research together with our production designer Henrik Svensson, celebrating Swedish midsummer and of course road-tripping to Hälsingland. Ari's take on the story and world was of course connected to the huge break-up-story that is the main arch and heart of the film and he brought Dani as the guiding light into the story. And we just loved it. This made it into something new, even though being in the world of a folk horror film we had a new way into the genre.
It took us years and years to make the film happen after the script was completed. Mainly due to the ambitions of the film and that we really wanted to this on an unprecedented scale from a Swedish perspective. Ari managed to step into production of "Hereditary" and the success of his first film gave us the possibility to make our film as A24 who had been tracking the project for a long time as they were the distributor of "Hereditary", gave us the means needed to greenlight. We shot the film in Hungary due to many reasons, yet mainly ability of building the complete village of the Hårga's within our time-frame and also having less unstable weather for continuity reasons. Since the film is taking place almost completely in daylight and outdoors, this was a big thing.
What was the most difficult thing about Midsommar?
The scale of it. No one involved in it has done anything like it ever before.
What has been your favorite thing to date about Midsommar?
A dream come true. The impact of this film. Did you see the opening act of the Oscars?
What is some valuable advice and suggestions that you have for filmmakers?
See films. Understand filmmaking through cinema history.
Are you open to any collaborations with indie horror filmmakers?
Absolutely. Our doors are open and we'd love to find new collaborators.
We asked Patrik to answer some questions from the fans social media:
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