Lone Scherfig, Rúnar Rúnarsson on the impact of Covid-19

21 APRIL 2020

Lone Scherfig Rúnar Rúnarsson / PHOTO: Lærke Posselt Torleif Hauge

The internationally acclaimed Nordic filmmakers discuss their experience of time, space and humanity under Covid-19.

LONE SCHERFIG, writer/director/producer, Denmark
Lone Scherfig is one of Denmark’s most celebrated writer/directors of her generation. Her filmography includes the Dogme 95 film Italian for Beginners that established her name on the international scene, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself and the Oscar-nominated An Education.

Her most recent work, the heartfelt drama The Kindness of Strangers opened the 2019 Berlin Film Festival and competed for a Golden Bear. (To see the trailer of The Kindness of Strangers: CLICK HERE). 

As a filmmaker, how do you experience social distancing and living in a confined space?
Lone Scherfig: I’ve been developing a script with three more writers and truly miss being in the same room, putting our legs up on the table, having a white board and seeing people’s reaction to thoughts which might be developed into something moving or witty. Humour doesn't thrive well on Skype. I also had time to watch more films. There are also excellent services, I usually focus too little on. Mubi, Nicholas Winding Refn’s initiative [], for instance.

How do you experience suspended time - not knowing when filmmaking, life in general will go back to ‘normal’?
LS: I love shooting and the prospect of not being able to do so for a while, is bleak. But all we can do is refine the scripts in the meantime and stay in mental shape by diving into the neglected pile of books by our bedside tables and watch classic films online. CPH:DOX has been amazing. 

What do you think will be the impact of Covid-19 on our shared humanity?
LS: It’s a big loss of innocence. I felt something similar when AIDS was detected, after 9/11 and when I worked in New Orleans, which still suffers from the aftermath of Katrina. This seems to bring out the worst in some people, the best in others. In The Kindness of Strangers, there's a nurse played by Andrea Riseborough, who lives to help others, but little by little loses her stamina and courage. These people, who keep the health care systems running, day in day out, year in year out, need the attention and gratitude they get at the moment. Maybe we’ll be a bit less consumerist and bring some of the elements of change into the somewhat parked battle for the environment. But mostly, I hope we’ll forget and be able to put this behind us and be able to party and dance and go to the cinema and hug again soon.

What do you think will be the impact of Covid-19 on the film & TV industry?
LS: I just hope we can somehow be inspired to keep aiming for high quality and depth in our films. That people will appreciate the big screens more. I also hope someone right now is writing new, genuinely funny and sophisticated comedies. That’s another answer to all this.  We are in many ways privileged as directors and writers, because we are, to a certain degree, self-sufficient work-wise, and people consume tons of films and television at the moment. It's not easy, but others face much harder times.

How do you feel about watching films only on television?
LS: I miss the cinemas more than I would have thought. The big screen and sound systems, the experience. The last film saw on a big screen was Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire. That film is so dependent and bespoke for cinema! The Kindness of Strangers too. The New York cityscapes and the tons of details belong in a cinema, and it’s been so gratifying to see it at the festivals with audiences.  But there is lots of new television, both fiction and documentaries, I devour at the moment and an impressive amount of writers, directors and actors you get to know when watching television series. Succession is my favourite at the moment, and I’m also looking a lot forward to the next season of Vår tid är nu (The Restaurant).

RÚNAR RÚNARSSON writer/director/producer, Iceland


Lone Scherfig, Rúnar Rúnarsson on the impact of Covid-19

Rúnar Rúnarsson / PHOTO: Torleif Hauge

Rúnar Rúnarsson was Oscar-nominated for his short film The Last Farm, Palme d’or nominated for his short film 2 Birds, and his debut film Volcano world premiered at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes. His sophomore film Sparrows won the Golden Shell at the San Sebastian Film Festival and was nominated for the Nordic Council Film Prize 2016. His latest feature Echo won the Youth Jury Award at Locarno and Best Director at Valladolid 2019. (To see the trailer of ECHO: CLICK HERE)

As a filmmaker, how do you experience social distancing and living in a confined space?
Rúnar Rúnarsson: Well in the beginning, I was taking full advantage of it. I went to my office every day and was being quite creative. Slowly the fear and uncertainty in society began knocking harder and harder on my door. The creativity stopped and I’ve been trying to use the time for some boring office/administrative work. This vacuum hasn’t been that inspiring.

How do you experience suspended time - not knowing when filmmaking, life, in general, will go back to ‘normal’?
This uncertainty is strange of course. It’s hard to make plans, you have nothing to build them on. And strangely enough, that affects my creativity when I’m writing for myself for I tend to take in a lot of practical elements within my writing.

What do you think will be the impact of Covid-19 on our shared humanity?
It’s hard to say. Of course, I hope that this experience that all countries in the world are going through, will unite us. But I guess I’m being naïve. Companies that have been paying the owners billions in profit in recent years are sticking their hands into the rescue packets of the government. There’s a lot of hands in that cookie jar that don’t belong there.

What do you think will be the impact of Covid-19 on the film & TV industry?
Like in other industries, the short term effect will lead to temporary unemployment for a lot of people. Hopefully, it’s not going to have a devastating long-term effect.

How do you feel about watching films only on television?
I can’t wait to go to the cinema again, seeing things in the environment that they were created for.

Can you cite two films watched recently?
RR: Social distancing has given my wife and I more quality time with our teenage daughter. Together we are going through classic films such as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? It was a nice reunion. And now we have started to watch Twin Peaks in between film classics.