A question of life, death or Karaoke, On My Mind

(Rasmus Hammerich)

The short film, On My Mind, directed by Martin Strange-Hansen and produced by Kim Magnusson has just been nominated for an Oscar in the best Short Film Category.

This is not the creative duo’s fist rodeo at the prestigious Oscars with a nomination, it’s not even their fist time working together… and if this duo takes home the gold for their most recently nominated short, it wouldn’t even be their first win. Between the two filmmakers they have amounted nine Academy Award nominations and three Academy Award wins, Hansen with one win and two nominations and Magnusson with two wins and seven nominations. In the short film category at the Oscars these filmmakers have proven to be Academy favorites. 

The pair have been working together since film school days and made their first trip to the Oscars together back in 2003 for their short film This Charming Man which took home the win for Best Short Film. Hailing from Denmark, they are back in Hollywood per The Academy nearly twenty years later for their most recent short On My Mind, a story about a man who is desperate to sing his wife a song at whatever it takes.

Henrik (played by Rasmus Hammerich)— wanders into a dive bar at what appears to be a rock bottom looking for a drink, and when he learns the vacant bar has karaoke, he becomes obsessed with the need to sing a song for his wife. It has to be today, it has to be now. It has to be Elvis’s Always On my Mind. It’s a question of life, death, and karaoke.

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Reel 360 chatted with the Denmark duo over zoom where their creative camaraderie was immediately evident even through the pixelation of the screen. What was just as apparent was these filmmakers’ passion for this film and filmmaking at large.

“This film explores illness and loss in a very real and human way,” explains director Martin Strange-Hansen. Perhaps this insight is that the film was extremely personal to the director Strange-Hansen, as it was inspired by the his experience of losing his daughter. 

“I believe that the best work is deeply personal work,”  the director says of his own loss.  This painful event set in the world of Elvis and Karaoke is where Strange-Hansen’s creativity came into play. He explains that this scene of the dive allows “the painfully personal to come to life.’ 

Strange-Hansen says that, “In situations like these singing a song in a sleepy bar, suddenly feels so important and meaningful, because it connects you to the life you’ve shared with the one you have to let go of.”

Strange-Hansen also praised working with his longtime collaborator Kim Magnusson—who has championed both Oscar-nominated projects This Chaming Man and On My Mind — for his “solution oriented and problem-solving ability as a producer.”  The director says having Magnusson as is producer as been “better than gold.”

The Oscar nominations and wins can vouch for that claim. Magnusson confirms the Oscar gold that has come from his taste in filmmakers and choices as to which projects to bring to fruition is “proof that I’m working with great filmmakers and telling great stories, because there is nothing better than the Oscars!”

After all these years of dedication and huge success in the short film world, these two are still so clearly passionate about making movies both exclaiming they “can’t get enough!”

 As this passionate team has conquered the short film world,  it raises the question: why shorts? Magnusson explains that “making a short film is like having a passionate, freeing affair; it’s having a boyfriend/girlfriend, it’s not the full commitment.”

This kind of low-stakes dynamic sets up a time frame and budget that allows for full creative freedom and the ability to fully explore an idea in the short-medium without the pressure of a feature.  Magnusson continued his analogy, “you can work a week on set and a few months in post on a short and see if you like working together, if you really love this concept, and do whatever you want creatively by not having any investors or studios trying to take creative control. A feature film is marriage. You’re committed for years. You have to be fully invested in the project and the people you’re working with and know it’s going to work.”

So what’s next for this filmmaking duo? A marriage of sorts, as they plan to make a feature together and hope to be welcomed back to the Oscars, but this time for Best Picture.

You can watch the film at The New Yorker’s Screening Room.

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Megan Penn reports on the indie film market and anything that empowers women and underrepresented groups.