When you started planning the movie, you did not expect the focus to be on Helge. How and why did that change? Was it difficult to change the focus, because you had probably filmed a lot already? And what was the original plan for the movie?
I started working on this film as early as in March 2010 I think. The first thing I did was to write Kaizers an email through their official page (kaizers.no) about my idea of making a film about them. There were no specific thoughts about how the film should be at that stage. I met with Janove and Geir in March/April 2010 in Bergen. That was just after they had finished recording Violeta I and II and they were very positive to the thought of having the next few years documented on film. They had a feeling that these would be exciting years to come, and they also wanted a memory from this time for themselves actually. So we agreed I could follow them for some time and then the idea was to talk at a later stage to see how this was working out both for them (as I would be filming them a lot), and how the project was developing, because the process of getting a film made is quite complicated technically, artistically and financially.
I had some general ideas about that I wanted to make a film about the band. I think at that stage my thoughts were quite open as to the way the film was going to be. I generally think the first step to make a film is that there is some kind of fascination there for the subject. That was present there for me. I liked the music and the band. The next step is research. As I did not know any of the band members before I started working, I had to get to know them. So I started filming with quite an open mind, this was a part of the research of the film - but I have used some of that material as well in the final film.
As I got to know the band more and more, there were different ideas as to who should be the protagonist (main character) and how the film should be. Quite early on I wanted to bring the "Kaizers universe" into the film. Both because I think it is visually interesting, and also because I think it is one of the great things about Kaizers. I think the world that they have created through their lyrics is quite cinematic to begin with. And then I was fascinated with the communication process that happened when the band was on stage ... Because the Kaizers concerts were not "regular" concerts. They were full of energy and showmanship. This created another level in their communication with their audience that I somehow wanted to bring into the film. And when I started to have these ideas, I started to film Helge for some fictional scenes that I had made up. I joined the band on a tour from Berlin to Oslo just before the Spektrum concert in 2011, and I shot some stuff with Helge in his mask that turned out great. I started to try to edit that together with the documentary material and I felt that there was some magic to that. There was a big contrast in how Helge was on and off stage, and of course there is a human story there, which is very important to me. The story of an outsider that became a rock star. And this I hope brings the story from being "just" a film about Kaizers and their music, to becoming a film about a person and his personal journey. To me stories about people is always the driving force of any narration.
So to answer the question. To follow Helge was quite early one of several ideas, but it was quite hard for me to narrow the film down to be about Helge, and to decide that this was the story. Maybe that's because I am a fan of the band as well, so there were SO MANY things I found interesting. So I was shooting quite a lot all the time, especially in the beginning. This resulted in that I had extremely much footage - and it was quite a challenge to edit it down and prioritize when the editing process started in 2013. There could have been so many different films. It wasn't until 2012 I think that I finally decided the film should be about Helge. But the band was always to be a big part of his life - as it is in reality. And during the editing process our key question would always be how a scene affected Helge. If it was not relevant to Helges story - we cut it away.
How did Kaizers react to your project? How did they support you? And how involved were/are they with the movie (for example when you changed the focus to be on Helge)?
I had the most contact with Geir Zahl. That was natural as he was the one in the band working with the visual communication (Geir was making the "Geeza production" documentaries). Since the start he was my "contact person" when it came to discussing how the film was going to be. But I never felt that there was any "guidelines" from the band as to how the film should be. The contact was more about me telling Geir about my plans, and him helping me to see how the band worked together and giving me insight into how they work on many different levels, what in his opinion might be interesting to focus on and so on. Of course we also talked about the look and the creative and artistical part of the film. This of course helped me a lot. Especially in the first few years the band was quite eager to inform me about special gigs and happenings, and I was filming A LOT in 2010 and 2011. As the years went by, there was maybe a bit less filming (my daughter was born in 2012), - I knew the band better and therefore could prioritize a bit better, what to film and what not to film.
Through the whole process I felt a lot of support from the band. They have been incredibly patient with me and I am very grateful for their openness. It demands quite a lot to accept that somebody would be around them more or less nonstop for several long periods of time with a camera (and filming so much). And they have been very open and helpful and understanding to that. They have all the way also been supportive of the film exploring the Kaizers universe. And I think they liked the idea that the film is not a "regular" documentary. As they themselves have put a lot of effort into making the band "larger-than-life", so I think they have always liked the idea that the film also should be a bit "out of the box".
What's the target audience for the movie? Mostly Kaizer fans, or anybody who's into music?
Of course I hope the fans will go to see the film and enjoy it, but it has always been important for me that the film should tell a story that goes beyond being a film "just" for the fans. I have worked very hard for the film to tell a story that can be universal. It's a film about all those "accidental" circumstances that bring you to be who you are in your life. And at the end of the day it's not just about Kaizers and their music, it's a film about finding your place in life and looking for friends and finding whom you are.
You are planning to present the movie at international film festivals as well. Do you think people will like the movie even if they don't know the band?
Yes, we are hoping to present the film for an international audience as well. Already we know the film will be in cinemas in the Netherlands (we do not know the dates yet), we are working on presenting it on international festivals as well. I am really excited to hear how people who do not know about Kaizers will react to the film ... I do not know that yet, but it will be very interesting!
What was your best experience during filming?
I guess it's hard to choose one moment ... There were so many ... Standing backstage at Koengen in Bergen listening to the screaming of the 20 000 people crowd just before the band went on stage is definitely a "goose bump moment". Wandering about Berlin during a tour with the band is also a great memory. Having the band come to shoot some of the fictional scenes in Poland with almost a hundred persons working on the set to make the fictional scenes as good as possible was magical, seeing the "Kaizers universe" coming alive ... But I guess the whole thing, to feel you are part of this very well organized "process" was impressive and memorable although it wasn't a specific moment ...
Do you have some "behind the scenes" stories, something extraordinary that happened?
For me I guess just to hang out with the band backstage was nice. Feeling the excitement just before the band goes on stage. I enjoyed very much the trip to New York, I remember doing some interviews on the rooftop in the hotel on Manhattan and the concert in the MET. Meeting the American fans was cool. I also very much enjoyed working with the crowdfunders and getting to know them better. And also working with Helge has been a great experience. For me of course showing the (almost) final film to Helge was quite a nervous experience as I did not know what he would think about it. But I was very impressed by his reaction, he said that he wasn't of course proud of everything he had done or said in the film, but that as it documented him he didn't want to change anything. I think that shows a bit how open Helge actually is.
When and why did you decide to increase the budget by starting a crowdfunding project for the movie? Did it turn out as you expected? How did it change the movie?
We started the crowdfunding in the spring of 2013, and thanks to the support of the Kaizers-fans we raised 129% of our goal. We were very exited to get so much engagement from the fans. As the film is supported mostly with governmental funds, there are some rules that you need to have some private funding so that the film is not 100% funded by state money. So the crowdfunding helped us to make the private investment in the film higher. In the beginning this was meant as a way to help finance the film and engage fans in the project, but as I got to know some of the fans better I was very fascinated in the fact they as well were captivated by the universe of the band, and I wanted to bring them into the story to tell about the "magic" that happens when Kaizers is on stage. That through their stage shows, Kaizers bring their fans into a "parallel universe". So from one of the "perks" of the crowdfunding being the possibility to be an extra on set, some of the crowdfunders have actually become (accidentally) a bigger part of the film than I thought when we started the crowdfunding.
Mixing documentary style and fictional scenes presenting the "Kaizers universe" is rather unusual. How and why did you come up with this idea?
I guess it's because of my fascination with Kaizers being storytellers and the way Kaizers perform on stage. I had also seen some fiction films like those of director Michel Gondry or the films of Terry Gilliam that create a parallel universe. Although I personally hadn't seen it that much in documentary film, I wanted to experiment with that. It made the film artistically more interesting to me.
Kaizers stopped telling stories based in the Underground/resistance/mafia/mental asylum setting with the Violeta trilogy and moved on to a completely different universe. Still, the "Kaizers universe" will probably always build on the atmosphere they created in the first albums. And this is also what the movie is based on, even though the concert clips are from the Violeta era. Do you see a mismatch there?
No not really, as I tell the story of the band from the beginning. But the editing is not linear (in the way that it does not tell the story from A to B to C and so on), it's jumping back and forth in time, but that makes it more of a puzzle for the viewer to fill in the blanks and to make his or her own interpretation.
You started working on the movie in 2010, but you were already a Kaizer fan before that. How did you encounter them and become a fan?
I saw them for the first time in November 2001 in Lillehammer. I was immediately taken by their stage act and energy. I didn't expect anything like that and I guess I became a fan that night.
The last week of concerts in Stavanger was a very busy and hectic time for the band and probably also for you, getting the last shots for the movie. Did you have a chance to enjoy the concerts as well?
I enjoyed it of course, but I was mostly focused on the film. But there were emotional moments there that I remember very well that are in the film as well. The fans, of course, and also how Helge really was hoping this would not be the end ...
What is special or extraordinary about Kaizers for you?
I guess it's the combination of the music and their live performance on stage.
What would be your #KaizersMinne? =;-)
Koengen ... :) The outdoor concert there and the fact that it was not a festival but 20 000 people that bought tickets especially for Kaizers that night, the set list with many of my favorite tunes and the crowd. And the sound ... It was just like a wall of sound coming out into the summer night. Great concert - and I love Bergen ...
How do you see Helge's role in the band?
I think he has become more and more a very important band member over the years. He is kind of the mysterious guy in the background that embodies what Kaizers is. The mystery, the darkness ...
Do you think that Kaizers Orchestra would have been possible without Helge?
What do you expect from Kaizers Orchestra in the future? Will they get together again? If so, how long do you think it'll take?
I think it will still be many years. I would love to see them live again (without having to film). So I am really hoping and looking forward to that happening. And I hope they will play together again because they have made a new record, not just to have a reunion. But I guess it depends on how the lives of the band members develop. I don't think they have any plans of playing together again at this stage. But ... for now, there is the film. I think with the surround sound in the cinema - it's going to be better then a concert ... :)
Do you have some "statistics" about the filming? For example, at how many concerts did you shoot, how many sessions/hours of interviews did you do, how many people were involved in the movie?
No, I didn't make any recordings of that. The only thing I can say is that I have an EXTREME amount of film material. I was following the band for three years. I also got access to all the material Helge and Geir shot before that, and I have gotten concert materials from fans and the first manager (Remo). So it's an extremely large amount of footage. I actually think I will never make a movie again this way, because it has made the editing process very challenging. On the other side, the things we finally ended up with in the film are really unique.
Is there some question about the movie that you are just waiting to be asked, but nobody ever asks it? =;-)
Is it great?
Yes. It's the best film I have ever made - and I can't wait to share it with an audience.
Now that the movie is (almost) out, are you jumping right into the next projects? What's next for you?
I really want to make a feature (fiction film). I really have to reset myself after this project that has been very big and long, but I can't wait to start to work on the next project. I also hope I will be able to make a music film again in the future, but I haven't really decided what will be the next project yet. As it takes so much time to make a film, I don't want to rush into a next project, but use some time to find the right one.
You mention that this is one of many possible films, that you had several different ideas, and that you have a huge amount of footage that you didn't use. Of course it is way too early now to make any promises, but in theory: Could you imaging doing a "sequel" at some point in time, a second movie about Kaizers? Or is that completely out of the question?
No, I dont think I will make a "sequel" ... It is so much work to make a film, I have just spent five years making this one, so I think I will do other stuff for a while now. And next time Kaizers play together (I hope) I will be there to just enjoy the show, and not to be making a film. :))