26  March  2019

‘Rams’ Producer visits European Film College

As one of the final guest lectures during the current 8,5 months film foundation programme, Icelandic producer Grímar Jónsson visited European Film College. Jónsson is the producer behind the awardwinning films ‘Rams’ and ‘Under the Tree’. One of our film students interviewed Grímar right after the lecture.

By Marco Berton Scapinello, student at European Film College 2018/2019

Warm up question, what is a movie that you enjoyed recently?

‘Roma’! It was a nice experience in a good cinema. After I saw the movie I read a lot
of interviews of the director about how they made it, the story and everything: it was really
intriguing for me. It was a great film.

How did you start your career as a film producer?

By following my dream. I have followed my dream and I’m self-educated. It was my dream
for many years, so I gave up my economy studies – which were so boring – and I started trying
working in the industry. When I was in college I liked the social work like organising staff, things that meant working with people, like planning concerts for example. I never really wanted to direct but I had a feeling that I would enjoy producing. What intrigued me the most
about this job was that when you produce something it will be eternal, and for me that was so

What do you like the most about being a producer, and what don’t you like?

What I like the most about being a producer is the diversity of my work. I also like getting to know new people; make new friends. It’s creative, it’s exiting, it’s always about doing something new. What I don’t like is that sometimes I need to be away from my family.

How did ‘Under the Tree’ start?

It started in Transylvania, where I met the director, Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson. I was
there with ‘Rams’, he was there with his previous film, and there we really got to know
each other. The personal relationship started there and that’s how the project starts for me,
from making a personal connection.

What kind of challenges did you meet during the journey of ‘Under the Tree’?

It was a huge challenge to find the tree, one of the main characters! We don’t have that
many big trees in Iceland. We couldn’t find it at the locations, so we needed to find it
elsewhere and it demanded a lot of visual effects and a lot of work that I didn’t have much experience with as a producer. The bloody fight at the end was also quite a challenge because of the stunt actors and the choreography. Besides all these technical difficulties, it
was a big challenge that part of the crew was from Poland. It’s not easy in the beginning
when two different cultures meet and each side need to adapt to the other one, but it was
a good experience.

You have been at the Venice Film Festival with ‘Under the Tree’ and previously in Cannes with ‘Rams’, what is your experience in terms of the role that film festivals play today for filmmakers?

They have a huge role for filmmakers that are starting out. It’s where the career starts, it’s kind of a quality control because you will never enter a film festival with a bad film. For me
entering in two film festivals like Cannes and Venice was mind blowing and what I took
away from there is that I’ve learned a lot as a producer. It is also really important to
understand the business of the film you are presenting because the first festival with the
world premiere indicates how well the film will travel.

Which direction do you think European cinema is taking today?

I think these are exiting times, now that there are more possibilities for both audience and filmmakers. With all these new streaming services we, as producers, have more options than the classic European coproduction model. Now we can produce and develop a film exclusively
for Netflix, for example. It will be really interesting how it will develop on distribution side during the next 4-5 years.

What are the mistakes someone should do to become a better filmmaker?

Well, mistakes are natural, we all make mistakes all the time. So maybe it's all about
turning it our way, stay positive, remember, and learn from our mistakes. Every mistake
should that way make us better filmmakers, and there are definitely mistakes you will
never do twice. I guess everybody has to learn that the hard way.
Producer Grímar Jónsson at European Film College