Just hours before the premiere screening of Slamdance's COPENHAGEN, I had a chance to sit down with Mark Raso, writer and director of the film. The Toronto native seemed unphased by the chilly outdoor interview, but did express some nervousness as to how his film would be received. As soon as we started talking about the film, Mark's uneasiness was replaced by energy and excitement.
Mark, as many filmmakers, was passionate about this story. Although the film began as a simple story of "boy meets girl," it developed into a more complex and realistic representation of two people trying to find their way in life. The setting was the beautiful city of Copenhagen where Mark had lived for a short time and met his wife. Mark was intrigued by Copenhagen for many reasons as he felt "there was a certain vibe there [in the summer] as the sun never sets." While in this picturesque city, Mark was fascinated by the fact that 15 year olds were allowed to go to bars---quite the contrary to the US and Canada. This sparked the idea for the movie of a young, 14 year old girl meeting and interacting with a 30 year old.
First drafts are never the final draft and in Raso's initial draft of the character William, he knew he must make some drastic changes. Initially, William "was passive and not captivating." Seeing that William needed more depth, the character became much more morally challenged and narcisstic. That was the ticket Raso needed to give the film a much greater level of complexity. Once the script is right, finding the right actors is the next challenge and Mark almost abandoned this project after searching high and low for the right "William." Mark said, "Without the right actor, the film wouldn't work." Another limitation was the fact that SAG restricted Raso from hiring US actors in a foreign country due to its low budget. But everything seems to work out for the best. After 4 months of auditions, a video audition came to his attention and he knew immediately that he had found his William. Gethin Anthony, a Brit, was eager to try a different character from the Game of Thrones role and this was the perfect fit for this versatile and talented actor.
Every writer puts a bit of himself into what he creates and Mark's story is no different. Interestingly, he found more of his personality in that of the character Effy. Her playfulness and youthfulness were traits he could relate to. Explaining the "sins of our fathers" or how we all repeat mistakes as parents was another aspect of the film that typifies Mark. He said that in order to progress and grow we must first be conscious of an action, recognize it and then we can change. He admitted to the fact (and we all do!) that he has heard himself sound just like his own father. "Copenhagen" allowed Mark to express his own personality as well as characteristics he sees in himself and hopes to change.
As with most independent films, financing is always an issue. Filming in the extremely expensive Copenhagen just added to Raso's difficulty. But where there's a will there's a way and he would not cut corners that might possibly jeopardize the quality of the final film. Making smart choices in renting equipment and accepting the generosity of the Danish people who believed in the film, helped tremendously. Doing little things to save money all adds up as the cast and crew recycled their bottles to collect $500 along with riding bicycles instead of renting cars to get around. Due to his ingenuity and resourcefulness, Raso was able to push forward to give us this entertaining film.
Mark expressed that the bumps in the road and the limitations he encountered actually served him well. The lesson was well-learned that you "don't have to go glitzy or flashy" to make a film of this quality. As both of us were beginning to shiver in the cold, crisp mountain air, we concluded the interview. As Mark headed back into the Treasure Mountain Inn for his first public screening of "Copenhagen," I was confident that this obviously talented new filmmaker was heading into a successful day and career.