Haugesund: Norway’s Thomas Aske Berg on His Pioneering ‘Vidar the Vampire’

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HAUGESUND, Norway — Norwegian actor-writer-composer-director-producer Thomas Aske Berg’s feature debut “Vidar the Vampire” (“VampyrVidar”) is most probably the least expensive entry in the main program at the Norwegian Intl. Film Festival in Haugesund- It was produced without public support, on a NOK 500,000 ($54,000) budget, “from heritage, savings, mum and dad investments and endless hours of free work from the UFOh! production crew,” Aske Berg explained.

But Aske Berg had another challenge: “My dream was to star in a vampire movie – I have always been fascinated by the vampire genre; the problem is they hardly exist in Norway, so [I had to ] make the film myself,” he said.

Then came the question of content and style: How can you achieve a fairly fresh and original approach with the plethora of vampire movies out there?

“”Vidar the Vampire” is primarily a naturalistic comedy with horror elements, where the main character is in a surreal fantasy universe. It shows Norwegian culture and non-culture, but probably says more about human nature and the society we live in, from a rather subjective point of view. The themes are sex, religion and psychology; on the surface it is pure entertainment.

As for the lead, “Vidar Hårr is a 33-year-old sexually frustrated bachelor enduring a monotonous and arduous life working on his strictly religious mother’s farm. In a desperate moment, he asks higher powers for help to break out of the hell he’s in; unfortunately his prayers are heard and answered, because he wakes up in a different hell, as the Prince of Darkness in the city of sins, Stavanger,” Aske Berg added.

During his education as an actor-director in New York the Norwegian ran the PaulyPhonic Productions collective. When he returned, he met Norwegian cinematographer  John Iver Berg on the shoot of Norwegian director Inger Lene Stordrange’s short, “Night Stop.” Aske Berg had written a script, “BELIEVEtheDANCE,” which Iver Berg wanted to make for his Theon Productions in Stavanger.

But instead the two Bergs joined forces in 2012 and founded Stavanger-based UFOh!, “a small, but versatile crowd, not dependent on external skills”, including writer-director Fredrik Waldeland, editor-graphic designer Tommy Enervold Jørpeland and SFX-make-up artist Kaisa Mari Berg, also a set designer. “BELIEVEtheDANCE,” a short fantasy horror dance comedy, went into production.

Also credited for musical videos with, among others, Kaizer Orchestra, Kvelertak and Oliver Hohlbrugger, UFOh! was now ready for “Vidar the Vampire.” “We applied for state support in 2013 without success, and after several meetings with film consultants who wanted to change the project we found out that the only way was to do everything on our own,” Aske Berg recalled.

He also plays a central role in another feature in the Haugesund program, Dutch director Daan Bakker’s comedy-drama “Quality Time,” which is co-produced by Leader Films in the Rogaland county and partly shot in Norway. “Something very good and creative is under way in Rogaland,” festival and program director Tonje Hardersen said.

This year she will show five shorts from the region, “a collective proof of the cinematic diversity it has to offer”: Carl Lange’s “Kort fra Rogaland,” Knut Robberstad’s “A Heart that Beats” (“Et hjerte som sloss”), Lass-Anett Steinskog’s “Hvalagapet”, Odveig Klyve-Alexander Kristiansen’s “Traces in the Universe” (“Spor i universet”) and Stian Dale’s “Black Gold” (“Svart Gull”)

Also a new feature from Rogaland will shortly be launched: Stavanger director Arild Østin Ommundsen, who most recently signed the award-winning “It’s Only Make Believe” (“Eventyrland”/2013), will send a delicate surburbanite into a night of dark and dreamlike encounters in “Now It’s Dark,” with Norwegian actress Pia Tjelta (also in his “Mongoland,” made in 2001) in the lead.

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