Saturday, May 24, 2008

Kim Sønderholm Interview

Kim Sønderholm is a filmmaker, actor, and writer among other things from Denmark who has been very active in the film scene. One of his most recent releases is The Horror Vault, a collection of horror shorts with very different tones and styles from sarcastic to gloomy to the old and the new. Kim had two of his short films released through this, "When John met Julia" and "Mental Distortion". Another big film for him that has recentally been released is Craig, a movie about the severity of one man's instability and lonliness leading him to horrific actions. We talk about these as well as his several other projects he is recentally working on and the horror movies that inspired him to get to where he is today.

Kelsey: In the short films that make up The Horror Vault there are prevalent linking themes of delusions and not being able to see things clearly until it is too late. How do you think this applies to our society today?

Kim: That's very observant of you, and I think it applies scaringly much today. I think a lot of people today are walking around only being able to see the tip of their nose, only worrying about themselves. I think in many ways most horror films are only weak copies of some of the things we are presented to in society today. But, it's not like I wanna make social comments anywhere I go, but I do think the world today is quite scary, to be honest, looking at some of the things that goes on in the world and how little people care for each other.

Kelsey: What motivated you to make the shorts that you were involved with?

Kim: Well I've always had a huge fascination for horror films so that was my main incentiment, I've always wanted to work on horror films as an actor ever since being a teenager.

Kelsey: What horror movies have had the biggest influence on you?

Kim: As a kid in the early 80's I was hooked on Star Wars and the 007 films. Always wanted to be up there as a part of the action. Throughout my teenage years I turned very much towards horror films, such as the Friday the 13th series, the Freddy Krueger flicks, not forgetting the Halloween films. I still love these films to this day I still watch any horror film I can get my hands on. I suppose I've been hooked on horror ever since I saw "The Exorcist" one late night it was shown on the TV. I guess I was 12 or so, and my parents had forbidden me to watch. But, you know, as it is with kids, what you are not allowed to do is always the most exciting. So I saw it and as cliched as it sounds, it changed my life in many ways. The film scared the living crap out of me. I didn't sleep properly for two weeks after that. (laughs) What scared me wasn't the possession as such, it was more the face of the demon you see in very short frames in a dream that Damian Karras is having, with his mother having to cross a highway. I mean, that fascinated me a lot. The fact that we have this whole film and what terrified me the most was what you hardly saw, I guess those glimpses you catch of the demons face is less than a second in the entire film, but it made quite an impression on me. No other film has ever been able to get to me like that one did. It actually took me several years and a lot of persuasion to see it a second time. These days, obviously, it might not look like much - although to me it still does. As I got older I loved the slasher films such as Friday the 13th and the likes, and I guess I grew a bit tougher with age. I have a huge fascination in general for the "darker" movies, the Predators films and the Alien films also have a very big place in my heart, as does David Lynch's films.. Not forgetting "The Crow" which in my eyes is an absolute masterpiece.

Kelsey: What is your opinion on the current state of horror movies?

Kim: Well they've become more crude, which is not necessarily a bad thing, I mean I've enjoyed films like Saw and Hostel very much, but in general a lot of garbage is released too. I do try to watch anything I get my hands on though, and I'm not the sort of person to bag things I don't like, so I'm not mentioning any of the bad ones. In general though I think horror is in a very good place, but I do miss some of the Friday the 13th sort of stuff, maybe it's just me being an old geezer, I don't know - but it was definately good news for me when Halloween was announced to be remade, and next year Friday the 13th. I mean, in general I'm not very much for all the remakes, I think the only one which is really good is actually "The Hills Have Eyes", but I'm extremely curious to see the F13 remake, hoping I'm not gonna be too disappointed, so let's see.

Kelsey: How do you think the films of The Horror Vault differentiate from the bulk of films that are around in the mainstream today?

Kim: Hm, well some of the segments in The Horror Vault are of the same bag of goods as "new" horror, others are inspired a little more by the older stuff, but I hope people will like it all and enjoy it. I think we managed to make a nice mix that will please everybody.

Kelsey: With the faulty state of sequels, especially in the horror genre, what made you want to be involved with 2 more sequels to The Horror Vault?

Kim: It was actually always decided to be a trilogy, and seing how all the stories are completely non dependent on each other I think it's gonna work out well. Then again, not all sequels are bad - just most! ;-)

Kelsey: For The Horror Vault 2 and 3, will it be a continuation of the type of short films from the first or will there be any new styles or themes shown?

Kim: No stories are gonna continue, all stories in the first ones are ended. I'm a little against revealing too much about part two and three, to be honest, but I can guarentee that The Horror Vault 2 will feature some supernatural themes and some Edgar Allen Poe inspired stuff, so it should be interesting :-)

Kelsey: You got your start in the media very early, as you already had a radio show at a local station when you were 12. What was that like for you at that age and how did that affect the rest of your life to the point you're at today?

Kim: Not a whole lot - or maybe more than I know of, I'm not sure. I've always been interested in the media world, I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be an actor, but I kept it very much to myself until I actually auditioned for acting school and got in at the age of 25.

Kelsey: What was it like to be involved with so many aspects of the making of The Horror Vault from acting to directing to the cinematography and editing?

Kim: Stressful! And extremely exciting... I'm so glad I dug into it, although I had a lot of reservations about it to begin with. It's been extremely interesting and now I wouldn't be able to live without it. Sure, it's a lot of hats to wear on a production, but then I'm also a control freak and want to have control over everything, so I guess it evens out.Well it was extremely hard work, absolutely. But you are given a lot of advantages when you both act and direct. You won't have to spend endless days with the lead actor explaining the character and his deeds, cause you just need to understand them yourself. And obviously, I know what I want, so if I deliver it myself I'm sure it's done the way I want it done, haha. No I'm kidding on that last bit, but I always wanted to play a serial killer part and there was so many things about Craig I wanted to try out, both as an actor but also working with the film media, so it was kinda given from the beginning. But yes, it was extremely hard work and if it wasn't for me collegues at Cetus Productions, Jan and Jim, I would never in my wildest dreams have been able to pull it off, that's for sure.

Kelsey: How did you merge into writing and directing from acting and what was that experience like the first time?

Kim: Well I wrote my first stuff already a year into acting school, dark comedy stuff I always wanted to do, but it sure was a special feeling when we started the filming, seing your stuff actually become alive on the screen. Quite addictive :-)

Kelsey: Do you have one favorite aspect of filmmaking or do you just enjoy each phase, having that artistic control?

Kim: Acting is still my main thing, but I love jamming ideas, writing, directing... actually even enjoy the editing stage of it... but I hate pre-production like location scouting and stuff....

Kelsey: Is there anyone in particular who you would really like to work with in the future?

Kim: I could fill pages up and down with names, but I guess anyone who does interesting work. Recently I've worked a lot with the horror genre, but I've also done comedy, action, romance, drama and just about anything else and I'd love to keep spreading over the genres.

Kelsey: Another recent film that you were heavily involved in, Craig, seems to be more of a dramatic
thriller, but has some truly horrific elements in it like the capabilities of mankind and how severe human dependency can be. From a filmmakers stand point how did you weave all of these genres together and as an actor what was it like portraying the heavy role of Craig?

Kim: I wanted to play Craig even before the story was developed fully. I knew it would be an interesting journey for me to take. I always was very interested in the serial killer films, both the ones about fictive killers and the ones about real-life killers. Without of course thinking what they did was cool, I've always found it quite interesting, and as the time was right it became more and more interesting to me to explore that as an actor. I had developed this serial killer story over several years in my head, and finally I got around to actually making it a full-on story and we started to film it before I hardly noticed it. I wanted to make it a little surrealistic as well, a bit "messy" if you will, because that's how Craig's mind is - messy. I've been a huge fan of David Lynch for years and love the way he is able to affect your subconscious. Sometimes his movies don't make a whole lot of sense, but you still do get something out of it. I mean, I've watched "Lost Highway" and "Mulholland Drive" several times now, and every time I think I get something new out of it. Now, that far being it from me to compare myself with "The Lynch", but I tried to put some elements in that didn't make a whole lot of sense, but at the same time on another level, did. I've had a lot of reactions to it, positive I'm glad to say, but different people get different things out of it, but all things fit in somehow, so it's an amazing thing to explore. Another thing with Craig was - I wanted to if it was possible for a character to gain peoples sympathy, in this case because he is rather pathetic and sad, and to see how far that sympathy stretches when he starts doing evil deeds. Will they on some level be able to understand him, not condoning it necessarily or how will they react? It's clear that Craig has had a very tough life, experienced very gruesome things but does that justify punishing other people? The film is about a shy guy named Craig who loses both his parents when their house burns down. His sister survives, but due to heavy lack of oxygen, she is sent into a deep coma. Craig has only got one friend, Cliff, but he's got more than enough problems on his own, so he cannot really be there for Craig. Meanwhile, Craig is under heavy medication, and when he one day looses his precious Lithium pills, his whole world is getting turned upside down. Anyhow, if anyone is interested in checking it out, it's available from

Kelsey: Did you see Craig in yourself at all and what made you want to bring this character to life?

Kim: Well not really... There may be a few similarities, like the feeling of alienation toward other people in a period of my life, but it is fiction and it is only very losely based on my own experiences, heh..

Kelsey: You have around 10 more films that you are working on this year. Can you tell us about some of those?

Kim: I'm currently in the early stages of two other feature films as a director; Tour de Force, which is an action film about a policeman who due to a tragic loss has a breakdown and starts doing hits for the mafia. Second, as already mentioned, Czech Mates, of course. Finally, we in Cetus Productions are currently working on a supernatural thriller in Danish named "Sølvtråd", English title will most likely be "Silver Thread", which is being directed by Jan T. Jensen and I'm producing and playing a bigger part in it too. And FINALLY, recently, I played a supporting part in a feature film named "Jon" by Texan based director William Instone. Another part in "Unlikely Prophets" by director Cristian Cupertino based in Florida, and finally a part in "The Tourist" by Andrey Iskanov from Russia. I'm looking forward to "What nobody knows" ("Det som ingen ved") by Sren Kragh-Jacobsen. A Danish political suspense thriller by the same people behind "Mifune's Last Song", the third of the dogma films. Not a very big part I play in this, but I am very much looking forward to seeing that one as well. That film incidentally premiers in Denmark on my 35th birthday, heh. "Dead on Arrival", a Swedish crime thriller I was in Stockholm to do a part for last summer, directed by Henric Brandt. "Operation Sunrise" by Donovan Cerminara which is a Canadian film I was in Poland to shoot last year just had a couple of screenings and will hit the festival circuit soon, can't wait to see that one. I did a cameo bit for "Aurum" by James Barclay and finally a part in "Westbrick Murders", directed by Shaun Rana, starring Eric Roberts and Vernon Wells, in which I play the role as Officer Sam.
So I'm really happy and honored to have been given the chance to participate in projects that far away from my "homebase", it has certainly been exciting and an enormous experience for me, and I certainly hope to be given that chance again in the future. I love my job, so I always make space for new projects. I've done a lot of each, both indie films and studio films. Both definitely have their charm. I love the indie way of working, always so vibrant and alive.

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