Eirik Tveiten’s Oscar nominated short Night Ride (Nattrikken) implores us to stand up for others, to say something when we are faced with difficult and confrontational situations and not just to ignore behaviour we know is wrong. Tveiten, knowing he wanted to centre his short around an important societal issue, took inspiration from an old friend’s misguided youth for the film’s inciting incident which propels us into its central conceit. Night Ride opens with a woman standing in a freezing festive Norwegian night, just looking to get home. What immediately follows is an absurd situation which has all the makings of a fun caper, yet the film abruptly takes a dark and menacing turn as a young trans woman is subjected to bigoted, small-minded hatred. Tveiten’s film forces us to look inward and face the same debate as that of Ebba, our tram thief. Do you protect yourself and ignore what’s happening or do you stand up and do something? DN invited Tveiten to speak to us about the challenges of acquiring a tram for the shoot, not having written the script specifically for an actor of Sigrid Husjord’s stature and the ever tricky balance of finding the perfect length for a short film.

[The following interview is also available to watch at the end of this article.]

How did Night Ride come to be?

The film was inspired by a friend of mine who was not so careful during our youth and actually took off with a tram as Ebba does in the film. However, that’s just a subplot, the main plot focuses on the social issue with a person on board being harassed and Ebba having to figure out how to solve that, confront her fears and summon the courage to solve the situation.

Did you write the script with intention of Ebba being a little person?

No, the script went through quite a few rewrites and when we were auditioning for the part, it was a general call for a woman in her 30s. Sigrid Husjord, who plays Ebba, came to the audition in Trondheim where we were going to shoot the film and she was just so good, it was an easy decision to make. She plays the part really well, she’s really expressive and her stature makes an impact because when she’s confronted by these two blokes on the tram it’s not a fair match.

It also works so well because as an audience we assume she’s suffered prejudice her entire life. Did you have to change anything in the script upon casting her?

No, not at all we just kept it the same. There were a few practical adjustments in regard to driving the tram and stuff but it was not necessary to change the script. We had to change some dialogue but otherwise, the main plot was the same.

The film is a metaphor about being different and being accepted for being different which applies to so many groups in society.

How did you manage to acquire an actual tram for the shoot?

Well, that was actually a problem, or it was at least, a challenge because in Oslo we have this huge tram company that didn’t want us. They read the script and to be honest they didn’t feel that this was good for their reputation. That was kind of a weird answer and made it a huge challenge as we were on a low budget and we had to move to another city pretty far away. But then once we got to Trondheim the tram company were really friendly. They really went out of their way to help with the production and it ended up being advantageous. Moving the film to Trondheim added so much to the film in terms of the set design. The old tram and all the surroundings and atmosphere of the woods and the town of Trondheim were really suitable for the film.

Was it written in the script that it took place over Christmas?

I actually can’t remember if that was in the early script but once we got the funding I saw that Christmas time gave us a lot of opportunities. One thing was the snow and the cold. The other thing was what Christmas represents for people. It’s a time for being kind which is a contrast to what’s going on in the tram. It also becomes a little bit of a fairy tale with the lighting and the atmosphere.

Why did you choose to talk about this specific type of injustice and address transgender discrimination in Night Ride?

In general I wanted to talk about a social issue, of which there are many, so you have to choose. I was in discussion with my producer in the script development and we saw that a meeting between a trans person and Ebba would be a good option for the film in that it’s an important issue. My producer is a part of the LGBTQI+ community and once you put that element into the story you get some twists and turns with the wig and the young guy harassing her after he misunderstands so it gives a lot to the story. This is an important issue but for me, the film is a metaphor about being different and being accepted for being different which applies to so many groups in society.

A lot is given to your film when the audience is taken on a journey like that because it produces a lot of contradicting feelings.

The film starts off very lighthearted and funny but it moves quite suddenly into a situation of threat and menace. How did you build that swift change in atmosphere so effectively?

We just had to try it out and see if it worked, we believed that it would work. All filmmakers will know that during the process, you are challenged by people who ask “Okay, so why don’t you keep a serious tone all the way? Why does it have to involve this subplot and the twists and turns?” I guess that is who I am as a filmmaker, I wanted to have this contrast and to try to make it work. A lot is given to your film when the audience is taken on a journey like that because it produces a lot of contradicting feelings. First you feel that this is a comedy, then it goes into a dark space where we’re not expecting to be confronted on a different level because we’re not expecting it to happen, which is a good thing. I like it when I watch a film or a TV series and I’m a little bit surprised and I get torn between different feelings, I think It’s a good thing.

When people submit shorts to festivals, they’re always told to keep it as short as possible, preferably below 15 minutes. We couldn’t do that so it’s a little bit longer than 15 minutes but that’s the art of short film. You know it has to be short as festivals will prioritise the shorter films because they want to fit as many as possible into the programme. The longer a short film gets, the more difficult it is to enter or be accepted into a festival. So that’s something to consider and to balance out.

I felt that it worked well for our film but now I’m in the editing process of a new short film and I’m presented with all the same dilemmas. I show it to my colleagues and they say, “You just have to cut it, you have to take out scenes, make it shorter, make it have this impact that a short film should have.” It’s an art form, you have to not tell too much but enough in a short span of time. So, that’s a challenge.

The longer a short film gets, the more difficult it is to enter or be accepted into a festival.

At first we see if it is possible to make it under 15 minutes. That’s the magical sweet spot. Some festivals won’t accept films longer than 10, 15 or even 20 minutes. So you try to make it as short as possible, but you can’t compromise. I’ve done that before when I’m trying to rush things which isn’t a good thing either. You can see it while you’re writing the manuscript, but you’re not so critical. People may criticise the development and ask “Does this have to be this long?” but you experience it for real when you’re editing. Then you get panicked as you see the length of the film and question how to make it shorter.

What about your ending? I think it’s quite unambiguous.

I feel that it’s up to taste. It’s quite a sweet ending and some people would feel it’s too sweet. Some people would say that it doesn’t have a quality that many short films have, where it stays with us because we don’t really know how it ends. It rounds up in an unambiguous way. It’s something I consider, where do you stop? For Night Ride, I think our ending was the best solution. For other films, like the one I’m editing now, I’m really uncertain how to end that. I had an idea and now I’m looking at different options.

We’re considering ending it in two very different ways which change the whole meaning and message of the film. It is a joy to have these possibilities but the best thing is to have this solved before you get to the edit. People look at the end and they find different options that were not really in the script because they feel that the ending that was planned doesn’t really work or make an impact. That’s where I’m at in my latest film. I just sent my editor a solution that would pretty much turn the film upside down.

So what is this new film? Can you tell us a bit more?

It’s a fun film about a couple whose car breaks down and they, involuntarily, have to spend the night at nudist camping. This is very confrontational, not only for them personally, but for their relationship as it actually brings up a lot of issues in the relationship. It’s a comedy, it’s a bit too long now and it can end in so many ways because it takes a quite dramatic and absurd direction but how we land the film is still up for discussion.

Has the Oscar nomination for Night Ride meant you’re now having to promote it differently?

Yes, it’s a whole new experience for me, actually. There are so many things that I didn’t know we had to do. Once it is even shortlisted it’s pretty important to have a publicist to set things up to promote the film. There are many other things that we have to do when we get into that run and it’s a whole new experience. I live my life in obscurity, making short films. Nobody really knows what’s going on. I get asked, “Eirik, what do you really do?” and then this happens. Suddenly it gets a lot of attention which is great and I’m really happy about that. Both for me personally but also for the issue, the theme of the film and everybody involved. My day to day life isn’t very glamorous but once we get to the awards it becomes something totally different, it’s an adventure.

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