Since Danish movie director Anders Walter was a little boy he has practised getting rejected. In 2014 he won an Oscar for his second short feature, Helium – a film made out of defiance.

The consultant from The Danish Film Institute had looked at him with utter disbelief. Anders Walter’s situation was in fact quite favourable, and he should be able to benefit from it. His first short film, 9 meter, had just been shortlisted for an Oscar, and now the Film Institute actually wanted to subsidize his next project. The problem was the subject matter, however. Anders Walter wanted to make a movie about a young boy with incurable cancer. Who dies. No last minute miracle. The film would take place at a hospital, and all in all it did not really smell of popcorn, smiling audiences, and awards.

“Anders,” the despairing consultant had said, “you don’t have children yourself, do you; otherwise you couldn’t want to make something like that.” Anders Walter tried to explain; the film would not be all cold and Nordic with pale images of social realism – quite the opposite. It would be full of fantasy. Hot-air balloons, night skies, airships, and beautiful colours. And even though the boy dies at the end and that is very sad indeed, the point of the film would be to show the powers of imagination. But even when Anders told the consultant that he in actual fact was the father of a young daughter, his application was rejected.

Anders Walter was disappointed. He had actually thought that he would get his production supported. It costs a bundle to rent cameras, lights, and cars to drive everything around, and even though you might persuade actors, cinematographers, and editors to work for free on a short feature, and even though Anders would be capable of creating many of the fantasy effects himself, he still needed a bit of money from somewhere.

The year before the production of Anders Walter’s first short feature, 9 meter, had also been stunted by rejection from The Danish Film Institute, whose financial goodwill is a prerequisite for most film production in Denmark. He was too green, they thought; he needed more practice. He understood their reasoning. But then his producers, Tivi and Kim Magnussen, a father-and-son team of seasoned film producers, stepped in and said, “We’ll do it. We’ll give you 50.000.”

And the result was a spot on the Oscar shortlist.

Continue reading in Oak volume Three