My interview with Swedish film maker Emil Johansson

Jon Klarström

I had the chance to have a catch up with fellow film director Emil Johansson.  We didn’t meet face to face as he lives in Sweden, but that didn’t prevent us from talking about his film work! 

Tack för din tid Emil!

Jon Klarström
Emil Johansson photographed by Jon Klarström

I have a background in theater (mostly Shakespeare) and filmmaking felt like the natural way  for me to evolve my craftsmanship further. So after 13 years on the stage I left it for the camera. Sure I did some short fun stuff while doing theater, but my focus shifted to have more creative control really. The first “real” short I did that I still sometimes show is called The Sacrament (2006) and is a graphic retelling of the sacrament. We (my team and dear
friends) were about 15 or 16 years old and had come up with the idea while being high on caffeine and watching The Passion of the Christ (2004) around 3 a.m while being exhausted from a day of rehearsals of The Merchant of Venice.
Some people really liked and some not so much. We grew up in a pretty small religious town so we had our audience cut out for us. We did a couple of shorts after that in a lot of different genres, mostly in the crap one. But we enjoyed what we did most of the time.
I usually skip ahead a couple of years while telling “my origins” by this point because it’s barely interesting even for me. If I ever write a autobiography I might bring it up in some way then, but for now – no. I did things, yes. But nothing that I want or, sometimes, even can show. In 2013 I did my last Shakespeare play with my original ensemble and I wrote and directed my first short that “went anywhere” – Sleigh Runner (2014).  A movie about a man who grew up without Santa during Christmas and who later decides to hunt the jolly icon down and kill him.
It did good enough to be shown on a online video magazine by the name ’12:01 Beyond’ run by Josh Hadley in 2014 and it got a great reception. I currently work on a project with Mr. Hadley and it’s a pleasure. I do recommend you all to look him and his podcasts up here.

Sleigh Runner is pretty amateurish in it’s execution but we did it with no budget and with happy amateurs as actors with one exception and that is the lead, Hauer, played by my dear friend Mattias Malm. A great actor with a lot of talent that prefers economic security and a good night’s sleep before unstable freelance work and long nights, burning the midnight oil.
A joke of course, but there is some truth to it as I bet you know.

Sleigh Runner and all my theater work caught the attention of some local “big shots” and I got a scholarship big enough to buy more and better equipment. By then I had also been selected for a newly started filmmaking program in a city one and a half hour away from my home. I traveled there almost everyday for the first semester and lesser days during the second (sometimes while being drunk I might add). My life crumbled around me at that time and the only thing I could focus on to keep me from breaking was my next short – Evy (2015).

I’m gonna be honest. This was a very dark period in my life. But I could still write and shoot, and I did most of my days. But I really wanted to quit. I hated what filmmaking had done with me and my life. I had lost a very important person in my life – my girlfriend for almost six and a half years. She didn’t die or anything, we had grew apart for sometime so it was time. Still,it hurt.
When Evy was “in the can” I met my highschool sweetheart and we got back together. She was my rock for the next two years, but I didn’t treat her well and that hurts me a lot now. We have a great relationship now, but I’ll never get over my arrogance towards her.
I moved to Gothenburg to study at the university but I didn’t count on me getting burned out in a really bad way by the end of the first semester. I had to quit my studies and most of 2016 I spent in my apartment sleeping and being terrified of the outside world. I was diagnosed with exhaustion, depression, anxiety, stress sensitivity and I suffered a lot of harsh panic attacks during the year. I’m not gonna lie, it was rough and I still suffer from some of it. But 2017 was quickly coming up and it came with a few surprises in store for me…
I got a phone call about making a music video, that same night in a matter of fact. I grabbed my camera and went into town where we shoot one of the most renegade things I’ve ever done. Long story short though – I got unceremoniously fired from the project. But through this I met the cult movie maker Jonas Wolcher of Die Zombiejäger (2005) fame. We began talking and I agreed to help out on some of his projects and suddenly I got my passion for filmmaking back! I don’t know how, why or when but it came back. It’s a very ungrateful line of work most of the time, almost always underpaid (Hollywood salaries is an exception, not the rule) and very tiresome – but I love it! Without filmmaking I would feel even worse than with it, despite all the poor hours and low pay.

Through Jonas I got to know most of the team I’m currently work with, with DP/editor David Nilsson and actress/makeup effects artist Eliza Sica being two of the most important part of my craftsmanship.
The most recent project we made is a crazy weird segment in a anthology called The Gated Community that I produced together with director/prop maker Gustav Ljungdahl for a extremely low budget (below eight hundred USD, perhaps even lower). The segment is called Unplanned Parenthood and was shot in a barn between Stockholm and Uppsala in below zero degree temperatures by the end of it.

It was a very stressful shoot and we discovered that we had very different ways of working. I strive for quality, even in the smallest of projects. Gustav works fast, and according to me sometimes too fast. My projects might take time (not Terry Gilliam long) but in the end the look pretty good with a look and feel that I’m happy enough with. I admire and respect Gustavs way of working, but I wouldn’t do it myself if I didn’t absolutely had to. I actually shot another segment for “Gated” in under two hours because we needed another one because of some drop offs, just to reach a running time we were satisfied with. Am I happy with the result so far? Yes. Because I knew from the beginning that we had a time crunch and we had to get it done. We took an idea I had for another project, evolved it, did some much needed prepping and then we shot it – everything in less than a week.

It became a pretty fun and gory little short (with the name Auopssessed ) that shouldn’t have a problem finding its way into the hearts of quick and dirty low budget gore lovers. Hopefully it will at least make someone laugh, that’s the whole idea with this – to entertain and maybe even disgust a teeny tiny bit.
The release of the whole thing have been a bit of a mess as well with many different ideas and opinions. All I know for certain at the moment is that the whole anthology will have a preview showing the 29th of June and that we might sell some DVDs, maybe. The whole DVD thing have been its own mess, haha! We’ve had some independent distributors showing interest in releasing it in a very limited run, but some in the team didn’t want to wait
for everything to be settled with that so that might not happen with this project. We have some festivals that we’ll send it to and I’ve decided to send “Unplanned” as its own thing to some others since I have complete control over that segment.

By next time I will push harder for some contracts, haha! They exist for a reason. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed making this whole thing. But the entire experience could have been so much smoother, but as long as people enjoy what we’ve made I think it’s been worth it.

Jon Klarström
Emil Johansson photographed by Jon Klarström

My next project won’t be a splatter or horror one though. I don’t want to get stuck with just making that. I have some scripts that I really want to dive into and make into something beautiful that I’m optioning at the moment.
I think I’ll take a more backseat role the rest of the year and produce some things rather than start another bigger project on my own. There is some other things in life I need to tend too, so I think that would be the smart choice. I also need to get back to writing again. I haven’t been able to the take the time to actually write a good script or story since I’ve been so busy getting things done that already was in motion that I had to prioritise and good writing takes time and dedication that I sadly haven’t been able to afford the last couple of months, but I still write in some capacity everyday (with some rare exceptions).

I have two feature scripts that I need to have another look at and another two or three that I have in active development that I really need to sit down and work with. Writing is where I shine I think and it’s been way too cloudy for way too long, haha!

And as a low budget filmmaker I can say that I need to find another job. Not just to pay the bills, but to fund my and other projects. Getting funding is a nightmare and being able to handle all that yourself is a really good feeling when things aren’t too expensive. And I really need a vacation. That was years ago!!

Related Images:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *