‘Copenhagen’ marks filmmaker Raso’s first feature-length project for Slamdance
January 15, 2014
Mark Raso has made a name for himself creating short films that have been seen in 30 countries over the past few years, while splitting his time between Toronto, Canada, and Los Angeles, Calif.
In 2013, he was named to the Tracking Board’s "Young and Hungry" list.
His feature-length film, "Copenhagen," was selected to be one of the narrative features in this year’s Slamdance Film Festival at Treasure Mountain Inn.
The story is about a college-aged American named William, portrayed by Gethin Anthony, who is traveling through Europe with his friends, but finds himself at a crossroads in Copenhagen, the city of his father’s birth.
That’s where he meets an independent 14-year-old Effy, played by Frederikke Dahl Hansen, who is mature beyond her years.
The two embark on a journey of discovery that reaches into William’s father’s and grandfather’s past, and in the process, learn about each other and themselves.
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"The film started off more as a love story between William and Effy, but I didn’t have a script complete until I started delving into the growth story of both characters," Raso said during an interview with The Park Record. "That’s when I began to try to show where they came from and how they were shedding the weight of their past."
Raso lived in Copenhagen in 2006 and the Effy character came about through his own experiences.
"I was there with my girlfriend, who is now my wife, and we would go to bars and clubs and see a lot of young people there," Raso explained. "It is not uncommon when locals, after turning 14 or 15 or 16, start going to bars and clubs. A recent study revealed 60 percent of all the 14-year-olds in Denmark had been drunk at some time or another. And that’s where Effy came from."
William, who finds his life spiraling out of control on the European trip, actually started off as a nice guy in Raso’s mind.
"The problem was he didn’t have any impact on me," the filmmaker confessed. "I thought it would be much more interesting to make him someone who is more predatory and that would complete his journey."
Raso said developing William was a struggle.
"It was hard for me to get where I wanted him, because I kept feeling that I was pushing him too much," Raso said. "But I think in the end, he represents a part that can be found in everyone, that some are more able to bury inside than others."
Unlike many directors, Raso didn’t have any actors in mind when he wrote the script, and both Dahl Hansen and Anthony were cast after some auditions.
"There are a lot of talented actresses in Denmark, but when Frederikke walked in, the energy of the room changed," Raso said. "She was so powerful and strong, and I knew she had it."
Anthony was cast via video.
"We had been looking for an actor for four months and we were getting three weeks to the start day," Raso said. "I was getting really nervous and watched 20 seconds of his video and he completely nailed it.
"I felt he could pull off William with the crudeness and roughness that I wanted, but he also had a certain charm to him," Raso said. "He had something endearing that is underneath that would represent the human struggle."
To help enhance the story, the filmmaker looked to his own family for ideas, because he knew the film needed to be more than just William and Effy talking or walking.
"My grandfather fought in the war and he was a prisoner in Germany for a number of years," Raso said. "I knew he had a girlfriend and I thought ‘what if I wanted to go on a trek to find her?’ So, I knew William and Effy, who by the way is half of William’s age, had go on a personal journey that would help them look into their pasts."
"Copenhagen" is Raso’s first feature-length film, which proved challenging at times.
"It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, but one of the things that I didn’t realize was how the aesthetic themes you do in short films wouldn’t work for longer films," he said. "I had to rethink all of the visual strategies.
"I love Copenhagen, because there is something magical about the long days," he said. "There are only three or four hours of darkness in the summer and it feels like you’re floating through the city, and I hope that I captured that."
Mark Raso’s "Copenhagen" is one of Slamdance Film Festival’s narrative features and will be screened at 1 p.m. at the Main Screening Room at Treasure Mountain Inn, 255 Main St. For more information and tickets visit http://www.slamdance.com.
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