10 Directors to Watch

Though Austin Fantastic Fest auds got an early look at a work in progress back in October, the rest of the world must wait until Sundance to see Andre Ovredal’s “The Troll Hunter,” a found-footage film about a group of Norwegian students who discover that their government’s been hiding something in a remote part of the country: real, King Kong-sized trolls.

At first sight, this genre film from a Norwegian director about the ugly creatures from Scandinavian folklore might appear to be very much rooted in the culture of the country that produced it.

But even beyond “The Troll Hunter’s” obvious American film influences (including “The Blair Witch Project” and “Cloverfield”), the film has strong U.S. ties: Ovredal studied filmmaking at the Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, a school the helmer picked because it was “close to L.A., where they make the kind of films that I like and grew up with.”

While there, the director wrote and co-helmed the 2000 feature “Future Murder,” about a man who dreams of his own death and grows obsessed with finding his killers. “It taught me the importance of a simple yet strong idea,” says Ovredal.

“The Troll Hunter,” which Magnet acquired for U.S. distribution based on its Fantastic Fest sneak, is similar to “Murder” in that it again juxtaposes reality and more fantastical elements.

“I enjoy watching and making films that are a mix of both,” says the director. “But I need the stories to be grounded in a recognizable reality. Otherwise, I don’t buy it. I need adventure, maybe a touch of horror and a tone that also allows for humor.”

Shooting his second feature — and first Norwegian movie — was “a loose-cannon kind of experience; a return to more uncontrolled filmmaking after doing many commercials. I worked for over a year on the screenplay and all the scenes were there. But on set, a lot was improvised, including dialogue. And though we had effects supervisors present, we didn’t block anything, not even effects sequences — it was wild.”

There are more stories the writer-director wants to tell, but he’d also be interested in directing screenplays that are not his. The most important thing for Ovredal is a simple one: “I want to make movies that I like.”

VITAL STATS:
AGE: 37
HOMEBASE: Oslo, Norway
INSPIRED BY: “Close Encounters of The Third Kind,” for its balance between reality and fantasy. “Man Bites Dog,” for its documentary approach to fiction and dark humor.
REPS: Agents: Jerome Dubois and Mike Esola (WME)

10 Directors to Watch
Looking for the next big thing
Richard Ayoade | Daniel Espinosa | Ed Gass-Donnelly | Elgin James | Patrick Lussier | Baran Bo Odar | Andre Ovredal | Denis Villeneuve | Juanita Wilson | Jason Winer

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