“There’s nothing else I’d rather do”

Jakob Beckman’s A Night to Remember is based on the idea of faux pas. In his short film with a powerful ambience, Beckman directs his actors with a sure hand for drama and tension in situations that make viewers sit on edge and flinch, a remarkable achievement for a debut filmmaker. I spoke to him after he’d found out that his film won at Daazo’s World of Shorts competition.

Please tell us about yourself. Where do you come from, where and what did you study, what other works have you made so far?

 I have lived most of my life in Stockholm, Sweden except for a year in Paris where I studied French while searching for myself and drinking cheap wine. After high school I avoided filmmaking and went to university to study Philosophy, Literature and stuff like that for a couple of years, but I never really liked it, so I went to scriptwriting school. I just finished my studies this winter. As a writer I’m quite well educated but as a director I’m self-taught. A Night to Remember is my only film so far, but I have a lot of projects in development that will, hopefully, go into production.

How did you come up with the idea for  A Night to Remember – is it based on anything you yourself experienced?

I actually started writing the script because of the European Short Pitch script contest I applied to. The theme was “Taboo” and I was thinking about a character who broke every kind of social taboo (without realizing it) at dinner parties. You know, a too expensive gift, getting too drunk, hitting on the wrong person – those kinds of social taboos. I started thinking about all the faux pas I myself had committed in my life, and I remembered a particularly embarrassing episode when I actually performed the “trick” that Lovisa does to Lars in the film. But I was never caught – I guess this film is a way of punishing myself fifteen years later!

Can you tell me more about your European Short Pitch experience? How did it change your film plan and what did you learn at the workshop?

 The ESP was an amazing experience. The script grew a lot during those sessions and my tutor Marie Dubas has a very big impact on the outcome of the story. I think the most important thing we talked about was character and point of view.  It’s such a luxury to be able to sit in a room eight hours a day and just discuss your story with your fellow writers; you learn so much from reading others’ work and letting others comment on yours. Every scriptwriter needs to get out of their dark and gloomy writing studio and meet and discuss with other people.

What are your plans for the future? Are you making any films now?

 At the moment I’m writing a lot. I’m working on two ideas for TV series with a colleague and I’m also writing a feature film for British/French director Gaëlle Denis. Plus I’m working on another feature film that I want to direct myself. I just need to find time really! (And money!)

Do you watch other filmmakers’ short films? What inspires you and how do you work?

 I don’t go to a lot of film festivals, and short films aren’t always easy to come by, so I don’t watch a lot of short films – but I do watch them! That’s why I love a site like Daazo.com because of the easy access. Keep up the good work!

I get my inspiration from a lot of different sources. The feature film I’m working on started with a song I heard. I read a lot, see a lot of films and TV – I’m very inspired by other filmmakers. Also, deadlines inspire me a lot.

I don’t work very well. At least, I’m not very fast. I  need to think for days, weeks before I can start to put words on paper. And I really need to force myself to write, there’s no joy in it. At least not in the start, then when you enter the flow – it’s amazing for a short period of time. And then you realise it’s all shit and you have to start all over again. Then I write something completely different only to realise that the first idea was much better. And so on – it’s really tiring! But there’s nothing else I’d rather do.

What does short film mean to you? Would you like to continue making shorts or do you use the genre as a step towards a feature film career?

Short film to me is like any other kind of narrative media: a way to tell a story. I don’t really make any difference between a short medium or a long one, the only thing that matters is the story. If the story fits the format, then it’s the right format. But short fiction is a very difficult format, it’s really hard to be interesting and short, you need to be very precise.

The ideas I get tend to be longer than the short film format and right now I’m interested in testing something different, but if I get an idea that would be perfect for a short film, I don’t see why I wouldn’t do it. But generally, I’m into filmmaking because I think it’s a wonderful medium to reach a lot of people and to tell your story to people you wouldn’t normally meet. Short films, and also theatre, is kind of an acquired taste today, in my opinion, and the audiences are quite small and homogenous. I prefer large and different!

How do you see yourself in 10 years’ time? What are your dreams and what do you think the reality will be?

When I turned 30 in 2011, I set a ten-year goal to celebrate my 40th birthday in the Hollywood Hills as a successful and groundbreaking writer/director. Now I’m about to turn 32 and I think I’m getting closer, one small step at a time.Seriously, if in ten years I would be able to earn my living as a filmmaker, then I’d be really happy. And I don’t think that’s impossible.

interview by Zsuzsanna Deák