What is FINALE?
FINALE is more than ‘just another horror film’ - It’s a great story based on an award-winning novel by Steen Langstrup - the Danish Stephen King. It deals with two girls working at a gas-station and their predicaments during a night shift – as they don’t know they are to become participants in an online horror show the very same night. We have aimed towards delivering an intelligent roller coaster ride, fast paced and honest and with the intentions of giving a good scare combined with something to think about when the credits roll... In a nutshell FINALE deals with the fact that The Dark Web has definitely pushed the boundaries for good entertainment and the morbid curiosity of the human mind...”
One of the leading actresses is German. Is therefore the petrol station on the border to Germany?
Yes, that’s right. Anne Bergfelt is actually haft German half Danish and was brought up in Flensburg quite close to the Danish border. She wasn’t primarily casted for that reason but when I found out I thought that it was a fantastic idea to integrate that fact into FINALE.
But the fact that the petrol station is on the border to Germany was not incidental. It was there right from the start of developing the script. Denmark is a small country and there are not that much of empty spaces where a petrol station can be isolated. But close to the German border in that part of Denmark there are such spaces. The other reason is that it’s quite believable that someone could kidnapped the two girls and then ‘vanish in a place in Europe via Germany’.
Actually, the end scene on the bridge was shot in Boren in Schleswig Holstein.
How was the casting?
It was a very good process as I knew that there was a good load of acting talent here in Denmark. So I started our early scouting for two new fresh faces. This also took me to the acting school ‘Ophelia’ here in Copenhagen. Though some friends I was introduced to Anne who was preparing her final exam on stage. I saw her performance and liked it – and she reminded me of Ingrid Bergman, beautiful and a bit reserved - and as she was half German too, she suited perfectly as Agnes (the film takes – as mentioned - place close to the border of Germany). We talked and agreed that we needed to do a casting. Because I had to be convinced that she really could be very frightened and be able to scream convincingly.
We then did the casting and boy; she prepared herself in make-up for about 10 minutes in a complete dark room. Then we tied her up in a chair. And when I said ‘Action’, she screamed and begged for her life in such a convincing way, that I gave her the part immediately. I think it took five minutes.
As the two actresses needed to be together over a long period during the production (we shot in 4 blocks over 3 months), we needed the ‘Belinda’ character to be someone who Anne could bond well with – also outside the shooting. Then Anne pointed towards Karin who was a friend and student from the same school. Karin looked very much like the ‘Belinda’ I had imagined, and she also had a ‘Belinda-background’ growing up in farmer environment in the country. We did a couple of scenes between Agnes and Belinda in the back-room of the petrol station and they suited each other – they just had good chemistry.
But when we soon after did a casting session between Karin and her boyfriend in the film (played by Mads Koudal), I was completely convinced Karin was ‘Belinda’.
How was the shoot for Finale? Were there any peculiarities or difficulties?
The biggest challenge was actually reaching my high ambitions of FINALE being a very cinematic film with a production feel that would surpass our low budget; every day all cast & crew worked with the mantra in the back of their head: ‘Get every penny up on the screen’.
After many years as a producer, I knew that we needed to break the production phase into several location-phases in order to be able to concentrate 100%. It was like: instead of preparing running a marathon where your cast & crew after half the distance naturally slow done - we prepared for 4 times 10 km with quite high tempo – so to speak.
In post-production we were also very ambitious. Instead of just putting the edit together over a few months, we ended up stretching that process over one year with a small crew going back a few times to reshoot parts of the film.
As said before; I wanted FINALE to have a cinematic fell to it. I wanted FINALE to look like the films I like and admire despite us only having a catering budget of a Hollywood film. So; handheld low budget style was forbidden – Every scene had to embrace ‘Cinematic Storytelling’, which in my book is where the images and sound tells the story and not just the camera picking up on people talking or running around.
All in all we tried to avoid the main prejudices that low budget filmmaking equals ‘Handheld camera with bad sound’.
Finale have some violent scenes which look very realistic. How difficult was it to do this?
It’s normally quite difficult to get violent scenes right – especially if you don’t have a good budget for it. But from the start we talked to The Danish Film Institute about it and they were very insisting on us putting ‘the pedal to the metal’ as they expressed it. Because with in recent years DFI had supported a couple of horror films that didn’t ‘deliver the goods’ so to speak.
But to start out with I was in doubt about how expressionistic, we should do it – and not only because of the budget but also personally - as I’m a bit of a wimp myself.
But we ended up preparing quite well; we got hold of Martin Hansen, a fantastic SFX make-up artist and young multitalented stuntman called Anders Nylander Thomsen. And together with my DOP Tobias Scavenius, the four of us talked it though many times and we planned extra schedule time for the most violent sequences in the film. Actually, I stepped back several times during the shooting of those scenes. Simply because I could see they were pushing the limits of their abilities and I could sense this was going to be good.
The film has won many awards. Would you have thought so?
Yes, we have been very lucky to participate in a load of festivals around the world and FINALE actually won 3 ‘Best Horror film’ awards at festivals in both USA and Russia together with some ‘Best Actress’ and ‘Best Special Horror Effects’.
So, it really seems like many horror fans like the ride FINALE is taking them for 100 minutes. What I’ve heard from festivals and viewers of the film are that they are especially impressed by the production value were the images and the sound which really resonates with the story and the acting. So, I think that FINALE is perceived as a higher quality horror film than most comparable films in our sub-genre and production budget range. And to answer your question honestly, I knew in the post-production that FINALE would – at least – on the production value site – likely impress some horror fans.
The concept of the film lends itself to further films. Would you consider doing a sequel in the future?
Actually, up until the end of the first cut of the film, I couldn’t see a ‘natural’ sequel or prequel for that matter - but during post-production we began to see a concept of a string of films dealing with the concept of extreme entertainment on the Internet – so the whole idea of having an online crime organization like the one we have with ‘Escapismus’ making a business out of the Dark Web began to take shape.
So Yes! – there are many possibilities turning FINALE into a franchise if someone wants that. I not sure if I’ll direct but it would be fun to see other filmmakers do this.
An obvious sequel would be to see how Agnes cope with her life after the Finale experience – and maybe a good vengeance film could come out of this😊
What kind of film would you like to make and why?
I have always been a big fan of horror films – even though I’m a bit of a wrimp when it comes to too much blood and gore. So, the films that I want to make in the future will be influenced by the horror genre even though it’s not ‘straight’ horror. But a drama coming of age film with horror elements about a young man and his predicaments would be great to make (I am working on it a script right now about that subject). But as I’m a film buff and a great lover of the old musicals, a Musial horror comedy would also be something nice to make (ha ha).
Which actor or actress would you like to shoot together and why?
I think there’re several fantastic actors that would be great to work with. But I’m a big fan of the Gyllenhall siblings, Jake Gyllenhaal and Maggie. I would love to do a film with both of them – and then I’m also quite a fan of the German TV serie ‘Babylon Berlin’. There are some very very good actors in that show that I would love to work with. So, if any of your readers are actors in that show or casting directors, you’re welcome to get in touch😊
What can we expect in the future with you?
I’m working on a couple of projects right now. The Horror Drama Coming-of-age story I mentioned and actually also a Sci-fi horror project taking place on the moon. But also a UK initiated film-project, a Kim Newman script with the working title THE DARKLINGS. It can be pitched as a modern update of The Rocky Horror Picture Show full of fun, horror, song & dance. A very cool film-project. The script is almost finished, and we are now looking for investors, financiers and distributors – so if you are interested, please throw me an e-mail😊
Thanks for the interview!!
You’re welcome – and if you should have more questions or if any of your readers have questions; I’ll be glad for answer some of them😊