After completing an education dedicated to filmmaking, first at the European Film College in Denmark, then the prestigious American Film Institute in the U.S., Jacob jumped right into writing and directing short films and music videos, which immediately found acceptance and recognition in festivals and on MTV. Since then he has worked for prominent Danish directors Thomas Vinterberg and Nikolaj Arcel, and has gained international experience filming musicians like 30 Seconds to Mars (fronted by Jared Leto), Raphael Saadiq and Enrique Iglesias on their respective world tours. He is a recipient of the Nordic Film Foundation Scholarship and the Bridges/Larson Grant for socially responsible filmmaking.
Jacob has thus far directed nearly a dozen films, including the multi-award winning Dustland, Maria Bonita, As Long As You Watch My Heart, Sad Animals, Rumspringa, The Unfortunate Turth and Be Here Now, which have won recognition and accolades from film festivals around the world, such as the Saint Petersburg International Film Festival (Russia), the prestigious Rhode Island Film Festival (USA), Kitzbuhel Film Festival (Austria), HollyShorts Film Festival (USA), Filmques (USA), just to name a few.
I asked Jacob to discuss some of his most memorable productions. Of course this is an unfair question to ask a filmmaker, as each of his productions is the culmination of his blood, sweat and tears, but when pressed, we ended up talking about his films Rumspringa, Sad Animals and Be Here Now.
Be Here Now was Jacob's first independent film. He was deeply inspired by the work of experimental filmmaker Jesper Just, and the early work of Lars Von Trier (Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, Dogville). Working on Be Here Now, Andersen realized that “film can be completely submersive and even more communicative without being mainstream or Hollywood. It was like becoming aware of abstract art.” Andersen spent about 6 months thoughtfully writing the script, spending a lot of time in the parks of Copenhagen listening to Leonard Cohen and Jeff Buckley. As he created the film early on in his career, he admits it was a challenge making a high quality film with no budget, but he succeeded. “I had to borrow and beg everywhere, like most people making shorts for zero cash, but I think I got extremely lucky with my collaborators, or maybe they just extended an extra courtesy for a young naïve filmmaker.” The film screened at several venues in Copenhagen and participated in the prestigious International Short Film Festival Detmold in 2011.
As someone fascinated by the Amish ritual of Rumspringa, I couldn’t resist asking Jacob about the story, the inspiration, and his experience making the film Rumspringa. Rumspringa is a rite of passage that many Amish youth take part in whereby they have the option of leaving the strict confines of their insular religious communities to live in the non-Amish world. After their Rumspringa, they choose whether or not to be baptized and confirmed into the Amish community, or to leave forever and live in the secular world. Rumspringa was Andersen’s first project in Los Angeles, and he explains, “This was my first fiction project in Los Angeles and I wanted to explore some of the more extreme versions of this new world in a fairytale kind of setting. I thought it would be a good place to start and try to get a more well-rounded view of my very naïve look on Los Angeles.” Just as the main characters in the film experience the ups and downs of the world outside their sheltered upbringing for the first time, working on the film in a new country was an eye opening learning experience for Jacob in a lot of ways.
The next film we talked about was a challenging one-take called Sad Animals, which Jacob both wrote and directed. Sad Animals is a film that takes a comedic look at a suicidal man’s very emotional journey to his own death after discovering he has brain cancer. If the subject matter weren’t enough to make the film a stand-out, what really makes this film special is that it’s shot as a one-take, which means that the entire film is one continuous shot, with no “cuts”. He explains that he was “a bit surprised” that it turned in to a comedy. Jacob explains, “I do not want to make light of the struggle of the people that are actually suffering with suicidal thoughts, but I guess it is a Scandinavian approach to the existential crises.” He cites Roy Andersen as a big inspiration for this film. “A one-take demands a lot of preparation and perfect timing. Once you say ‘action,’ the film takes on a life of its own, and there is nothing you can do about it. We also had kids and stunts, which are two classic no-go’s.” The film is not only quirky and endearing, but beautifully shot as well.
Jacob Lundgaard Andersen’s is currently working on an upcoming feature comedy, as well as collaborating with musician Rapheal Saadiq. Jacob's work proves that he is one of the most talented Danish additions to join the American entertainment industry in recent years, and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!
Check out the trailer for Jacob Lundgaard Anderson's film Rumspringa below!