Tag Archives: Josephine Bornebusch

Social animals

Swedish actor, writer and director Josephine Bornebusch tells DQ about filming feature-length drama Orca, which tells the interconnected stories of 11 isolated people during the coronavirus lockdown.

Even by the standards of other television dramas filmed during the coronavirus lockdown, the speed behind the development and production of Swedish film Orca is particularly impressive. Created by actor Josephine Bornebusch, she wrote the script in three weeks, shot it in 11 days and is now in the editing room ahead of its launch on Nordic streamer Viaplay this fall.

The catalyst behind the quick-turnaround project came when production of the Love Me star’s latest television series, musical drama Harmonica, was suspended as the pandemic began to bite in March.

Josephine Bornebusch used a variety of camera tech to create Orca

“That was a disaster,” she tells DQ. “We were in prep a week before shooting and everyone had to leave. It was really sad, but the same day I came up with this idea. I thought, if we can’t shoot anything with a normal sized crew and can’t have all the actors in the same room, can we think outside the box? So I did. We had just five people on set – me and my DOP, the second DOP, the first AD and a sound guy. Then we had one actor every single day, so they never met each other and were not in the same room [during filming].”

Reflecting the socially distanced and isolated world in which it was filmed, Orca tells the stories of 11 characters cut off from the outside world and communicating with each other by screens. The feature-length drama features a son who can’t hold his mother’s hand as she lies on her deathbed, a pregnant woman who finds love, a mother who has abandoned her family when they need her most and two friends who discover they have different feelings for each other.

Speaking from the editing room at a largely deserted Warner Bros International Television Production studios in Stockholm, Bornebusch admits the basis of Orca is not a unique idea, particularly in the wake of other lockdown dramas produced over the last few months.

“But when I started to think about it, I didn’t want to write a pandemic story,” she explains. “Everyone is so tired of talking about Covid. I wanted to tell a story about not being able to be close to the people you want to be close to. The title is based on orca whales, which are the most social animals in the world. Everyone is so depressed because it’s really hard to be on the other side of a screen. So I came up with 11 characters and their stories. Everyone is connected. It’s about grief and it’s a love story as well. It’s frustrating not to be able to be there next to each other or touch each other or hug each other, but the series is actually really intimate as well.”

Conspiracy of Silence actor Vera Vitali in Orca

Viewers will see the story play out through a mixture of viewpoints, taken from traditional cameras, phone and tablet screens. The set was rigged with four fixed cameras, while the VFX team also built an app to record the hand-held action in high definition. GoPros cameras were also used.

“It’s like being in the Big Brother house because my DOP sets up all the cameras and then she walked out of the room, the actor comes in and he’s by himself and he has cameras everywhere,” says Bornebusch. “It doesn’t really matter where he’s walking or what he’s doing because the cameras pick up everything. In the editing room, we’re cutting between the phone, the computers and also the other shots.

“It’s been another way of working because, as an actress, you’re so used to going through a scene a hundred times, moving the cameras and then doing it again. But here if you nail it, you have all the angles. Then you can move on to the next scene.”

Considering the series will air later this year, how did Bornebusch consider the story in the context of where the world might be in a few months time, as lockdowns begin to ease amid fears of a second wave of the pandemic? “That was the reason why I wanted to do it so quickly,” she says.

Writer and director Josephine Bornebusch’s credits include Love Me

“Everyone knows what we’ve been through. It’s really relatable for everyone in the world. It’s horrible what has happened and for all these people who have been sick or have had loved ones pass away, but it’s also really worrying that it could kill creativity. I felt we can’t just sit and be depressed. We need to work and we need to think outside the box and deal with it. This was probably my way of dealing with everything right now.”

Directing the series under Swedish coronavirus guidelines meant social distancing was in place at all times, and hand washing was also important. Bornebusch communicated with her downsized crew and the cast via walkie talkies, “or screaming in some cases,” she jokes. “But I think 80% of directing is in the casting process. If you cast the right people, then you should just let them loose. I went for the people I was thinking of when I wrote the script, I called them up and I said, ‘I just wrote a part for you. Are you interested in reading?’ They all did and they all signed up for it, which is unbelievable.”

The cast includes Johan Rheborg (Partisan), Gustav Lindh (Love Me), Alba August (The Perfect Patient), Peter Andersson (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) and Vera Vitali (Conspiracy of Silence), alongside Bornebusch herself.

One consequence of the pandemic for television productions will be the smaller crews working on set at any given time. Bornebusch says she has often wondered why crews were so large, but came to realise why everyone is so important when working on Orca.

“Sometimes in a normal production, I’ve said it myself, ‘Why are there so many? What are they doing here? Do we need all of them?’ But then you realise that yes, you do and you need more,” she says. “That’s been challenging. And for the actors, it’s been really frustrating to play against a cross [denoting where the other actor will be on the phone or computer screen] or a green screen. It’s really hard. But that’s why you need good actors, because they can pretend that someone is on the other side. I also learned good things.

Multiple cameras tell the Orca story featuring Peter Andersson

“We shot between 20 and 40 pages a day and normally you shoot four. You can actually shoot more if you’re really dedicated and if you know what you’re doing. Sometimes maybe you should add another camera so you don’t have to stop everything and move them again. If this movie is as beautiful as I think it will be, it proves that some parts of the [lockdown] process are actually good for us and we can take them with us into a normal production. But I would never, ever do it again and never, ever shoot like this if it wasn’t for coronavirus. It’s been really, really hard.”

Harmonica is set to return to production this winter, telling the story of a country music duo – “like Roxette” – who are enticed to return to the stage for a reunion tour in a bid to resurrect their career and save their marriage. Bornebusch created and wrote the series with Jonas Karlsson (The Perfect Patient). They also both direct and star as Monica and Harry respectively.

“It’s a relationship drama but it also has a lot of music,” she says. “We shot all the flashbacks and the music videos before we had to stop, so we have that. But we’re working on it and hopefully we will get started in November.”

But whatever project she is working on, whether it is Harmonica, Love Me or the numerous stories dealing with social isolation in Orca, “it’s all about the characters and the dynamics between them,” Bornebusch concludes. “I want people to feel something. I want them to cry, to laugh, to feel embarrassed and recognise themselves or their friends. I want them to feel like they are in the room with all these characters. That’s my goal.”

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Labour of Love

Swedish star Josphine Bornebusch speaks to DQ about her acting career, branching out behind the scenes, creating dramedy Love Me and how she juggles her multiple roles on set.

As an actor, Swedish star Josephine Bornebusch has amassed numerous TV appearances, first in drama Rederiet and comedy Playa del Sol, as well as several film roles.

She is best known for playing Mickan in Solsidan, a comedy series about a couple who return to the man’s childhood town, which ran for six seasons between 2010 and 2019 and also spawned a movie; while she has also starred in Welcome to Sweden and, more recently, Love Me.

It’s the latter two productions that have also seen Bornebusch become a fully fledged multi-hyphenate. After cutting her teeth writing a script for Solsidan in 2013, she starred in, wrote on and produced Welcome to Sweden, about an American who quits his job and moves with his girlfriend to her native Sweden. She then created, wrote, directed and starred in Love Me.

Love Me tells the story of Clara (Bornebusch), a successful doctor searching for love, while also focusing on her father Sten, who is looking for a way to handle his grief, and her younger brother Aron, a hopeless romantic. Bornebusch also wrote and directed the dramedy.

Produced by Warner Bros International Television Production Sweden, it first premiered on Scandinavian streaming service Viaplay in October last year and was renewed for a second season that will debut this autumn. Season one will also air locally on pubcaster SVT this spring, while Dutch broadcaster NPO has become the first international channel to pick up the series, following a deal with distributor Eccho Rights.

Bornebusch is now prepping her next original series, country music drama Harmonica. Here, she tells DQ about her acting career, taking her first steps behind the camera and why Love Me is a show she would want to watch.

Josephine Bornebusch (left) in Love Me

What kinds of projects are you attracted to as an actor?
I think every actor is looking for new characters to play. New challenges, new takes. That definitely applies to me.

Which roles have you enjoyed most in your career so far?
That’s a hard question to answer because it’s more about the projects themselves than the roles. But I’ve played one character for 10 years now in a show called Solsidan, so I guess that’s a role I’ve liked. But also Clara in Love Me, of course. I wrote that role for myself, so the lines are very close to how I speak. Characters that are truthful are the ones I like to play the most.

Solsidan ran for six seasons. Why do you think it was so successful?
I think it’s a combination of recognition, humour and obviously the kick-ass cast.

It originally aired between 2010 and 2015 but came back in 2019. What was it like returning to the series for season six after four years away from the small screen?
Well, we did a movie in between so it feels like we never really had a pause. After so many seasons together, it feels like a family reunion every time we meet.

Have you always had ambitions to write, direct and create your own series?
I think I have, but it took a while – many years, actually – for me to admit it. I guess I was scared. I mean, it’s not an easy thing to do, and I totally respect and admire all the creatives out there.

How did you come to write your first script for Solsidan and what was that experience like?
Oh, I don’t really remember. It was a while ago, but I think they asked me and I said, ‘How hard can it be?’ And then I realised that, wow, yeah, it’s really hard.

The Swede created, wrote, directed and starred in the series

What did you learn from developing your first series, Welcome to Sweden?
That it’s hard, hard work. But I also learnt this is what I want to do! I have the best job in the world, and I hope I can keep on doing it for the rest of my life.

What were the origins of Love Me?
I wanted to make the kind of series that I wanted to watch myself. In Sweden, we don’t have many stories of this genre – a romantic drama with a touch of humour. So I tried to make that kind of show, since I felt it was missing.
At first, I started developing a show about the Clara character. After years of working with her as a sole main character, I got the idea to add her father and brother as main roles. After that, I really found the core of the story and it all fell into place.

How would you describe Clara?
Clara is an almost 40-year-old obstetrician longing to have children of her own and to find a man to start that family with. She can be sarcastic and a bit harsh sometimes, but she’s also charismatic and sincere.

What are the themes or issues you wanted to talk about and how did you tackle them?
Fist of all, the show is about love – what it feels like to long for it, to get it and also to lose it. We also have storylines about the loss of a family member and the grief that comes afterwards.
I wanted to tackle these emotions in a natural and authentic way. Sometimes, for example, you laugh in the deepest sorrow as well as feel ambivalent when faced with love.

Bornebusch with her fellow Harmonica co-creater Jonas Karlsson

How do you combine your roles of writer, director and actor? Or do you keep them separate?
Whenever I’m in a stage of writing, I feel that is the best part. But then when I go on set and I get to direct and act, I change my mind and think that stage is even more fun. When I’m in the editing room later, I once again have the impression that step is tremendous.
Writing comes first and is, most of the time, finished before shooting, so that part is not so hard to separate from the rest of the process. I get caught up in the moment and forget that I’m the one who is actually going to have to be there on set and make all everything happen.
The directing and acting is fine to separate; I’ve acted a lot before and I get a sense of when we have the scene. I can then go to the monitor and watch the playback just to check it is what I thought. I have a great crew around me that I trust, and we’ve spent a lot of time preparing, so when we’re on set it flows well.

What are the biggest challenges in juggling different roles?
The biggest challenge is during pre-production. When we have a rewrite that needs to get done at the same time as working with location scouts and attending all the meetings, I do sometimes get the feeling that it would be great to have a clone!

Your latest project is Harmonica. What can you tell us about it?
Harmonica is about married couple Harry and Monica. They were top of the pops in the 1990s, but their life as the country music duo Harmonica has been out of key ever since, as well as their deteriorating marriage.
In an effort to salvage their failing financial situation, the couple embark on a nostalgia tour of Europe with their old band, which brings their problems to a crescendo but also offers them a chance to find harmony together at last.
Harmonica is a six-episode series co-written and co-directed by me and Jonas Karlsson. It’s produced by Warner Bros International Television Production Sweden for NENT Group’s streaming service Viaplay. We start shooting this month.

Why was this a story you wanted to tell?
Almost all love stories start with ‘boy meets girl.’ With this story, Jonas and I wanted to tell the story of a couple in their 40s and show the heartache of a marriage where you just cannot connect any more.

Where do you see your future – acting, writing, directing or a combination of all three?
As long as I can have this luxury of getting to write, direct and act, I will definitely continue to create this way, where I get to do the different roles for the same project. In addition to that, I’m more than open to do just one of those roles if the right project comes along.

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