The NordmannLand is Nordic take on the coveted film of the 2021 Awards season. Shot in the forests on Norway, the film will bring some relief to Brits suffering with serious cabin fever by the end of fifteen months long lockdown.
The NordmannLand is co-created with last year’s participant Ashley Jonassaint and features original score by Johan Østereng.
We spoke to the creators about their exprience.
Nordmannland Interview Transcript
This is your second time submitting a contribution to the DAFTAS, what made you want to enter the competition again? And what was different this time?
Ashley: Line asked me. Line and I have known each other for over ten years. We met in LA and we’ve kept in touch. I ended up going to drama school in London and got to hang out even more. I went to visit her in Oslo and then this pandemic happened. So, for a lot of us, we just graduated and how do you find opportunities when the world had pretty much shut down?
And Tamara had this idea; I think the first year [of The DAFTAS] was two months before the world shut down. It was great to do that. And then the world shut down and Line and I really wanted to keep working and exercising our craft while we were trying to figure out what was going on in the world. We started writing and we did other things… And then Line said ‘I’m going to do the DAFTAS! Could you help?’ and I was like ‘why not?’ So I came back.
How limited were you by COVID restrictions at the time of filming, how did this influence the creative choices you made for your spoof?
Line Nathalie: We definitely had to be mindful of how many people we were on set or on location. I don’t remember whether it was ten that was the maximum amount of people that could be there. We had to make sure that we were within that. Altogether, cast and crew, at max, we were seven people. Just in case of restrictions changing because we wanted to not break any rules.
Katie (DAFTAS): And what was it like? Because, Ashley, you were in New York at the time, what was it like communicating between you two?
Ashley: I think that we work so well together, being mindful of the time difference for each other. There would be times when I would stay up late and she would stay up late and kind of vibe and ebb and flow with the time. Checking in with people and making sure that everything was okay. Because we discovered that I was the one who painted to the finest of details. Especially because I come from apparel – I used to sell apparel clothes. Colour is a big thing for me: how the story comes together with the colour.
So I’m really into what the characters are wearing; how does their make-up look; the lighting… So it was difficult being that I was in New York and watching through a computer in Oslo but everything came together. I remember the morning of the shoot, at 1am, I was like ‘okay change that, change that, put that on’ and that was fun.
Can you talk to me a bit about the challenges of filming everything in only two days?
The first time you submitted your entry it was one day, but it got extended to two days in 2021. But that’s still not very long.
Ashley: So the first time I did the DAFTAS, well the inaugural year I should say, it was 2020. We only had 2 weeks to write the script, get your cast, get everything ready and then you shoot that one day. That was quite difficult. But everybody involved was all hands-on-deck; we had the best team to do that.
I called friends from school that are in New York and I’m like ‘come!’. And friends from my acting coach circle reached out to people they knew so we were all able to get people and reaching out to make-up artist schools and helping.
And we were able to work out how to help them going out into the world and help them create reels and stuff for their particular field. I was like ‘we can’t pay you because we’re on a limited budget.’
Then the following year, we had more time which means we got more time to spend watching the film and really figuring out how we wanted to tell a story as a spoof because Nomadland is not an easy film to do that with.”
We had a really long script that we had to shorten. I feel like that was an ongoing thing from the year before and we had a ten-page script that we then had to go in and shorten. That came into editing: which scenes are we keeping and which ones are we throwing out. I think that was trying. I think that’s the most difficult because as a writer you want all your words to be spoken but then you understand that with time and budgeting and what works and doesn’t work; you learn the editing process in that space as well.
Katie: Did you find it easier this time around then because obviously you’ve done it before? So did you find editing everything down a bit easier this time around or not really?
Ashley: It was definitely easy for me. I can’t say for Line.
Katie: And what about for you, Line? Because you were actually on set filming it.
Line: It was a bit of a challenge. It was the first time I had done anything like this. Like directorial or directing anything. I was there trying to make sure everything went on schedule, which it didn’t… And then I didn’t want anyone to be cold. It was around 0 degrees Celsius so and a lot of the clothing was mine so I gave away all my warm clothes to all the other actors.
But it was fun. I was a little be exhausted at the end of the day, both days. But it was a fun experience.
What made you choose Amazon as the large corporation to focus your spoof on? Was there any contemporary significance that influenced your choice?
Ashley: Line had mentioned the article about Amazon. How the Amazon employees were being treated at that time. And also that we’re in the middle of the pandemic I think everybody used Amazon in the middle of the pandemic. We were kind of forced to and so we wanted to respectfully say ‘we see you Amazon, we see what you’re doing’ and so that was what we chose for the opening scene and also it alluded to the fact that that’s what they used in the film.
What made you choose Santa as the practical (and spiritual) guide for Fern?
Santa explicitly mentions capitalist greed as the root cause for his misfortune, is there a message you were trying to convey specifically about Christmas?
Line: Ashley probably has some clever thing to say. Why did we choose Santa… We kind of liked the Bob character that was in Nomadland. I’ve said Nordmannland so many times that I kind of forget…
They mentioned that he looked like Santa and that was the original reason why we chose to add Santa as one of the main characters.
Ashley: I think also we tied in the fact of the holidays season being the time when we’re supposed to be with our family and friends and hope and peace and all these things and here’s Fern in the original film trying to find those things again after losing that. So having Santa, making him being the leader of this tour around Nordmannland and Norway was like that hope, that light that she needed to keep her going. You know life is not meant to be lived alone so that was kind of like why we did that.
As Nomadland is a film which is more than purely fiction, did you feel a certain pressure to stay true to the themes it explores in your own spoof? How much artistic license did you feel you had to change it?
Line: For me, we tried to stay true to the story but at times we did give ourselves quite a lot of space to put in things that weren’t real. I feel like we gave ourselves a lot of freedom.
Ashley: I think we gave ourselves the space to play as much as we could and we had some actors, actual actors, on set but for the majority it was their first time. Johan Østereng and Hedda E. Gray Lægreid were actors and Line played the elf. But everybody else it was their first time so we did stay true to that.
In your spoof, you explore themes of mythology. What was the reason behind having Santa transform into Odin towards the end of your spoof?
You’ve got him as Santa and then I think as Bob Nissen and then you’ve got him as fully transformed and he’s in this whole costume as Odin. So I’d like to know why you decided to do that?
Line: For me he was on this self-realisation journey, transforming from Santa to Bob Nissen and Nissen means Santa Clause in Norwegian.
You won the award for Best Poster Design: what made you want to play on the meme of Bernie Sanders sitting at Biden’s inauguration?
Ashley: Well, we knew how cold it was in Norway. And it was the meme that took over 2021. Especially coming off of a crazy four years. That was like a moment of relief throughout the world to see that moment and so we felt we had to take this and go with it.
You have an upcoming second collaboration: The Good Samaritan. Can you tell me anything about this new project?
Line: Well it’s a Nordic Noir, its not a… I almost said spoof because of the DAFTAS but its not a spoof, it’s a Nordic Noir. I work in a pub here at the family cabin, there are so many things there and we started talking about how people meet each other and what it would be like if someone came in and they were a mess and how the bartender or barkeep would meet that person.
Ashley: In this space of isolation that has come up because of the pandemic, what happens when someone who is a mess comes into the middle of the mountains… where there’s not really much going on and snowing and it’s cold outside. They come into this pub and they meet this barkeep, what happens?
Can we still have some form of humanity, are we still going to treat each other with love and compassion and generosity or have we let the hardness of what’s happened dictate how we treat each other so that’s what we’re exploring with The Good Samaritan.
Line Nathalie and Ashley Jonassaint also sat down to chat about their experience working on this breathtakingly beautiful film. You can check it out on their website.
Words by Katie Hyatt