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TIFF ’09 | Martin P. Zandvliet: “Why can’t work be your passionate lover?”

TIFF '09 | Martin P. Zandvliet: "Why can’t work be your passionate lover?"

In Martin P. Zandvliet’s “Applause,” Paprika Steen delivers a tour-de-force performance in this devastating drama about an alcoholic actress trying to put her life back together.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a series of interviews indieWIRE will be running with the filmmakers screening in the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival’s Discovery program.


I am a former surfer that chased waves around the world for 15 years not really knowing what else to do. I was first introduced to the world of film 13 years ago, when I dated cinematographer, Camilla Hjelm Knudsen. At the time, my only experience was filming surfing competitions. While in New York, I realized that film editing was a good place for
me to start. Camilla and I made a film, in New York “Angels of Brooklyn,” and I later had a breakthrough of sorts when I cut “Rocket Brothers,” a documentary about the Danish rock band Kashmir. Then I started writing – writing up a storm and inching towards the dream of directing.

Your Filmmaking Career and Process…

I was born January 7th 1971, in Fredericia, Denmark. I first started out as an editor working on documentaries for various
directors. My first film as a director, a documentary, “Angels of Brooklyn,” won a Danish Robert for Best Long Documentary and was chosen for various international festivals including Toronto Hot Docs and Nyon. In the years after, I did several shorts, as a writer and director. “Applause” is my first feature film


You might call the making of ” Applause” a combination of luck and misfortune. My screenwriter, Anders August, and I had actually written another script that we really liked and wanted to make. Sadly of course, nobody else wanted to. Mainly, I think no one in the business believed in me. Nevertheless, giving up is not what mom taught me, so I sat down with the only two people who believed in me, my Producer Mikael Rieks and my screenwriter, Anders August, to come up with another idea. We decided we wanted to do a film about our ”selves,” our different stories and feelings from our deepest guts – but embodied by a woman. We would pretend to make it as a short film, 60 minutes in length to secure funding more easily. Of course we always planned to make the film feature length. It dawned on me that my producer was married to Danish/American actress Paprika Steen, and after a few weeks of writing I finally got the nerve to ask her if she wanted to ”star” in this film, a film by a ”nobody” and former surfer. In the beginning, I think she thought ”what the hell is he talking about! Star in what!?” and only said yes out of politeness. But after a while she became just as involved as the rest of us. We made the film, and of course, it became a feature. My first.

Your Influences…

As a self taught filmmaker I don’t really have “any,” what I would refer to as “working tools,” to lean up against. I mostly use my self and where I am as person in my own life as a reference. In “Applause,” it was a mix off two influences:

1. My anxieties for becoming like my father (drinking, ladies and leaving my wife and kids etc.)

2. My curiosity and understanding for the people who actually have the guts to just leave everything behind and never look back in the search for something better.

Your Future…

The Future seems scary to me, it’s all about making plans. It’s my belief that most people find themselves in limbo when it comes to just living life. At least I do. How is a life to be lived? And what is an ordinary life? And why does family life sometimes seem so scary and boring? Why isn’t it okay to be selfish, to smoke, to drink, to party too much, and have wild passionate sex with the neighbor? Why can’t work be your passionate lover? Why is life all about being the loving parents we are all expected to be; a parent who takes the children to school, a parent who does the laundry and makes lunch with a smile? Doesn’t it make you want to scream for help? For me it does. But then again, every morning, pull your self together man. That’s life isn’t it?

For me these are some of the issues that come up in “Applause.” Coming to Toronto, I hope to discuss some of these issues with the audience, or at least make them think about their own lives.

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