The Day Will Come, the first feature film written by the creator/writer of the cult series The Killing opened yesterday in Danish cinemas. Sveistrup (pictured) spoke to us the day after the Danish premiere.
Is The Day will Come your first script that is brought to the screens since the iconic TV drama Forbrydelsen/The Killing? Is this also your first screenplay for a feature film?
Søren Sveistrup: I have written different scripts since Forbrydelsen. But this is the first one that premieres, and indeed, it is my first script for a feature film, although you could say I’ve been practicing for many years!
The thing is that when I finished film school in 1997, I just wanted to write movies, but at the time it was very difficult for me to enter the film business. Eventually I joined DR and wrote several TV shows for them, including Nikolaj & Julie and The Killing.
Then three years ago, Peter Aalbæk Jensen from Zentropa called me and asked: ‘Isn’t it time for you to do a feature film?’ I said: “actually I have a story I’d like to bring to the screen. I had read in the newspapers about young boys from a Danish state-run orphanage during the 1960s who had been beaten and even abused.
How did you build the fiction from the true story? Did you collect a lot of testimonies?
SS: I did my own research and asked a journalist to help me. I felt very sorry for the boys who had to go through hell and are still waiting for an official excuse from the State and acknowledgment of what happened then.
At the same time, I was impressed by those boys as some of them had dared to challenge the teachers and come forward to tell their story. So using fiction, I developed a universal theme and told a David vs Goliath story of two brothers sent to the orphanage, who challenge the system and the tyrannical headmaster and have to fight to survive.
How was it to be reunited with Lars Mikkelsen and Sophie Gråbøl, who worked on The Killing among others? Did you write the script with them in mind?
SS: Yes very early on Jesper [W. Nielsen, the director] and I thought about Lars and Sophie. It’s very joyful to work with them as I have known them for so many years. Sophie and I are on the same wavelength. She adds a lot of details to my scripts. She is my safety net.
How was your collaboration with the director and the cast? Did you just hand them your screenplay or stay on board through filming?
SS: Well normally a film screenwriter just writes different script versions and then sees the film, cast and crew at the premiere. My experience was totally different and actually not dissimilar from the way I work for television. I had an excellent relationship with Jesper who let me take part in the entire filmmaking process. It was a gift.
With the actors, I invited them to discuss the screenplay. For me what is written can always be improved. Actors have a specific ability to see and seek details in characters that I can’t always see.
You have set up the TV drama company SAM Productions with your peer Adam Price and producer Meta Louise Foldager and Studiocanal. How do you collaborate and what are you working on?
SS: Adam has his projects, I have mine, but we discuss everything. Right now I’m working on another crime drama and on a gangster story about Copenhagen in the 1960s. In 1969, Denmark was the first country in the world to legalise pornography. Right after everything went sky high. Gangsters swam in money, and it ended up really bad.
You must enjoy today’s golden age of TV drama where the writer has become king. Were you impressed by the international TV shows you watched as jury member at MIPTV Drama Screenings?
SS: First of all, as a writer you still have to fight for your ideas and bring original stories. The minute you start being lazy, quality suffers. We do have a fantastic storytelling tradition in the Nordic region. This spirit lives on and I’m just part of it.
That said we do live interesting times. At MIPTV, I was impressed by the risks producers take. A decade ago, everything was more formulaic. Today, the stories are more fragmented. You feel you could do a TV show about almost anything! I’m anxious to see if and how this will continue.