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TIFF Women Directors: Meet Linnea Saasen – ‘Meet Me in Montenegro’

TIFF Women Directors: Meet Linnea Saasen - 'Meet Me in Montenegro'

Linnea Saasen was born and raised north of the Arctic Circle in Harstad,
Norway. She moved to Oslo to study art before settling in Berlin, where she
worked as a contemporary dancer and performance artist while making
experimental short films. In Berlin she met Alex Holdridge, and the two began a
film collaboration that would span four countries and the next three years of
their lives. The film they wrote and directed together, Meet Me in Montenegro, is having its world premiere at TIFF 2014
and it is her first feature film, which she co-wrote, co-directed, co-edited,
and acted in. (Press materials)

Meet Me in Montenegro will play at TIFF on September 7, 9, and 13.

WaH: Please give us your description of the film playing
at TIFF.

LS: Meet Me in Montenegro is a personal and
authentic love story.

Finding
himself in a career roadblock, Anderson (Alex Holdridge) begins to feel
nostalgic about a blissful but brief romantic tryst he had several years ago in
Montenegro, and heads to Berlin to rediscover what might have been. He visits
his friends Stephen (Rupert Friend) and Friederike (Jennifer Ulrich), a couple
floundering between commitment and conclusion. Berlin nestles these couples in
her outstretched streets, while they wrestle with the perennial challenge of
finding love, recognizing it, and keeping it alive.

WaH: What drew you to this story?

LS: The story is partly inspired by our own life and partly fiction.
When we started writing, it was such a special time in both my own and Alex’s
life. I had just been rejected from an art school I was sure I would attend,
and the movie Alex had been working on for a long time (his first at a studio) fell
apart. It all happened just after we’d met each other on this small
Island in Croatia. All of a sudden, we were both without a place to live, a
job, or any future plans. So we felt very inspired to write a fictional story
about the whole experience. As the project drew out for more than three years, the movie became even more personal and closer to reality than we had
anticipated in the first place.

WaH: What was the biggest challenge in
making the film?

LS: We did have more than a handful of challenges on this production,
from being kicked out of one of the main locations in the middle of the shoot,
to arriving in Montenegro where it rained for four weeks straight and we barely
got the scenes in the can before our DP had to leave. There was one
crucial scene we never got to shoot before June this year, and the list goes
on.

But the biggest challenge was to never give up, to believe the film
would have its day and get out there. Even when we felt the
movie was never going to be finished, the challenge was to keep working on it
with the same energy to always make it better. In the end, what a wonderful
payoff to be premiering here at TIFF. 

WaH: What do you want people to think
about when they are leaving the theatre?

LS: I want the audience to feel like they saw something unique,
something that’s not made after carefully calculating what sells, but a
personal story that comes from the heart of two people — to feel that life can
be so beautiful, and that it always has surprises for you.

WaH: What advice do you have for other
female directors?

LS: Be less afraid to fail, strive for the unachievable — hard work is
the only thing you can control whether male or female. Don’t be too sensitive
towards yourself. Some people will write you off. Ignore it and act confident, even if you are not. I do power positions so my body produces more testosterone
(look up Amy Cuddy on TED). It sounds silly, but it does work. And, most
importantly, don’t stop yourself before you begin, something very important
Alex taught me — always start a creative process with yes, and never begin with a
no.

WaH: How did you get the film funded?

LS: Alex sold a script to a studio in Hollywood, and the money he got
from the sale financed the first principal shoot. As the project dragged out, we
both emptied our saving accounts. Our families and a handful of other investors
have chipped in as well. So the film has been funded 100% by private investors.

WaH: Name your favorite women-directed
film and why.

LS: Agnès Varda is a great
inspiration, especially her movies from the 1960s, which have a unique feel and
interesting female characters. They are wonderfully shot, and tastefully
tackle philosophy, relationships, life, and social roles. Věra Chytilová is also
a great inspiration. Her film Daisies is one of my all-time
favorites. It has an amazing creativity and energy to it, while playfully commenting on the political situation of the time. Of the
younger generation, I’m a big admirer of Miranda July. Her films for me are
very relatable and have a beautiful sensitivity to them, as well as being very
funny.

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