HAUGESUND, Norway — Pitched at Haugesund’s New Nordic Films confab, Thomas Robsahm and Aslaug Holm’s doc “a-ha -The Movie” won’t hit screens before November 2020, but an array of new production and distribution partners have already boarded the project.
Clementina Hegewisch of Neue Impuls and Matthias Greving of Kinescope Film in Germany are now co-producing with lead Norwegian producer Yngve Sæther of Motlys (“Home Ground,” “Beware of Children”) and Tore Bucarp of Fenris Film. Public funders are the Norwegian Film Institute, Fond for lyd og bilde, Nordisk Film & TV Fond and Nordmedia.
Broadcasters that have secured rights include TV2 Norway, SVT, YLE, Arte, VRT Belgium, SRF Switzerland, while theatrical distributor Euphoria Film has nabbed domestic rights and Salzgeber & Co Medien German distribution rights. First Hand Films, who came on board two years ago, is sales rep. The release in Norway is set for November 2020.
The music doc tells the whole story, how three young boys from Oslo -Magne Furuholmen, Morden Harket and Pål Waaktaar-turned into global stars in the mid-80s with their smash hit ‘Take on Me’. As the group makes a successful come back 30 years later and tours the world to sold out venues, the pic looks at their friendship, and rivalries.
Seasoned filmmaker/producer Robsahm (“Modern Slavery”, “PunX”), behind Joachim Trier’s three last pics as producer, spoke to Variety.
At New Nordic Films, he also pitched the feature drama “Hope” by Maria Sødahl toplining Stellan Skarsgård and Andrea Bræn Hovig, and the chiller “Lake of Death” by his sister Nini Bull Robsahm.
How -and when-did you first have the idea for the film a-Ha-The Movie?
Ever since I saw “Let it Be” with The Beatles, I’ve been fascinated by the idea of filming the process of a band making an album. I tried to make a film like that in the ‘90s, but didn’t manage to find the financing for it. Then, around 2008, I got to know Magne Furuholmen, and when they released their album “Foot of the Mountain” in 2009, I mailed him and asked if I could make a film about their next one. He was positive, but gave me sad news: “There will be no more albums, we are splitting up!” But, then after five years on their own, they came back together in 2015, and that’s when this project started.
Why did you want to tell their stories and what angle of storytelling are you using?
a-Ha are Norway’s biggest pop success ever, by far. They are also still much bigger around the world than most people realize, selling out big arenas on every tour around the world. “Take on Me” is one of the most streamed songs of the last century and used in films and TV-series every year, including “La La Land,” “Deadpool” and many more. But, they have also made so much more great music than “Take on Me,” and one of the ambitions of the film is to share this with the audience. Most of all, it’s a story about friendship. Three very special personalities who made the impossible possible in the ‘80s, when no Norwegian band had ever had success outside of the country. How did they make it? What did they have that all those other dreamers didn’t have? I think they would have no chance of making it so big on their own, so their dependence on each other is interesting, especially since they are not the best of friends anymore… What has made them great is also what stops them from making more great music.
How do you share the directing with Aslaug Holm?
Sometimes she shoots material without me and vice versa, and we talk a lot about what we want to achieve while driving from city to city, following the band. But I wrote the script and have final cut. The editor Hilde Bjørnstad is also a very important collaborator on this project. We have endless hours of material.
What access have you had to the band members, friends & families?
A lot of access, but we have also shot a lot of closed doors :-)
What materials -archive-newly created- will you bring to the screen and what will be the visual style of the film? Will you mix other forms of filmmaking, like animation?
It will be a combination of archives (including never seen before material) from the ‘80s, fly on the wall and animation, inspired by the video “Take on Me.” And lots of music, of course. You have no idea how many great songs this band has.
What is your favourite song from a—ha?
I could make a very long list, but if I have to say only one: Memorial Beach.
You’ve produced “Hope” and “Lake of Death” pitched as works in progress in Haugesund. What made you board both films?
“Hope” was a no brainer. I produced a short film with Maria in the ‘90s and when I read “Hope” I had no doubt. It’s the kind of film I’m really proud of being part of.
With “Lake of Death” I suggested to my sister Nini, who is obsessed with that genre, that maybe a new version of this Norwegian classic would be something for her, after her debut “Amnesia”. I’m mostly a consulting producer on this film. She and her husband and DoP Axel Mustad have produced it themselves.
You’ve been Joachim Trier’s production partner since “Louder than Bombs”: Can you describe his next film “The Worst Person in the World” and where are you in the production?
It’s the final part of what has become a Oslo-trilogy which started with “Reprise” in 2006 and continued with “Oslo, August 31st” in 2011. This time it’s a fascinating love story with lots of humor, and with Joachim’s very own way of shooting which I see has inspired a whole generation of younger filmmakers, especially in the U.S., France and Norway. I was actually asked to produce “Reprise” back in the days, but was too busy, and later I supported “Oslo, August 31st” as commissioning editor for the Norwegian Film Institute, so we have worked together for a while now. We are both film and music lovers.