Director Jimmy Olsson is a DN alum who has consistently impressed us with his shorts tackling a wide series of topics and his latest, Last Weekend with Jenny and John (Sista helgen med Jenny och John), sees him broaching the delicate bond between a father and his teenaged daughter. Olsson drew from his own experiences of fatherhood and, through an intuitive method of writing, managed to pull the whole script together in a day. Last Weekend with Jenny and John gently explores the ever changing relationship parents face as their children grow older with a subtle colour palette and a 4:3 ratio which draws us into the film’s more sensitive explorative scenes. Grounded in an everyday reality the story feels authentic and genuine, free from the over-saccharine or bitter tones which are often employed in such explorations of parenting. With Last Weekend with Jenny and John still on its festival run, we took some time with Olsson to talk about expressing the shifting dynamics between father and daughter by switching perspectives and working to achieve a closeness in his scenes even when shooting from a long distance.

What inspired you to talk about a father-daughter relationship in flux for this latest short?

The idea sprung from a podcast. There was a segment about a man and his daughter in a car. He was watching her listening and singing to this old song that was from his generation and he described it as he could almost see her thoughts, what the future may bring for her and what kind of decisions she will take growing up as an adult. How exciting everything is, stuff she doesn’t know about yet.

Since the scenes are like one shot a piece it was fairly easy to edit it together.

So that was something I thought about. I have a daughter myself. She is 10 and I felt like I wanted to do a film about a father who feels the anxiety of not being needed or wanted anymore. Almost like a preparation for the things I myself will experience in a few years. I wrote the script in less than a day when the idea was finished in my head and then applied for funding. The Swedish film institute liked it but we needed more funding so we got grants from Film Stockholm and Film I Väst. We shot for three days and then we edited it for 3-4 days. Since the scenes are like one shot a piece it was fairly easy to edit it together. Once it was financed it went fairly quickly. From shooting it to completion it took roughly a month.

The dialogue between them plays as realistically jarring at times and beautifully reflects the relationship between father and daughter, how were you able to put it together so quickly?

Thank you very much! I’m a father myself with two children, a 7 year old son and a 10 year old daughter which is why the story is so personal to me. When I write I always wander around with an idea for a while and when that idea transforms into a scene I am comfortable with, the dialogue comes quickly. I have voices in my head that say the lines and I don’t really need to construct them. I wrote this script in a day and had the idea in my head for two weeks or so. I wrote down ideas for scenes and when I had an order I quickly sculpted the scenes and the dialogue came quickly as well.

Why did you choose to frame the relationship between father and daughter from different angles between the two car journeys?

I wanted to tell the story from both perspectives really. In the beginning the father is in control and he is somewhat demanding and so I wanted to start the story from his perspective and in the end, I wanted to show the complete opposite. There is a change in their relationship and I wanted to show her going through things in her mind.

There’s a real intimacy to the film’s cinematography, where did you draw inspiration from?

Visually I am really inspired by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer and I wanted to shoot a film where every shot is like a painting so I started with the painting called View of Delft. I wanted to see if we could feel the characters from such a distance, to try to capture intimacy from a big distance. Since almost all of the shots are very long and fixed it’s a bigger challenge for the actors but if it’s done well the intimacy and naturalism comes out. We went for a subtle colour palette and we also decided to go with the 4:3 format to make it look more like square paintings.

I wanted to shoot a film where every shot is like a painting.

I very much found myself caught up in the ebbs and flows of tension until their eventual acceptance of each other, did you shoot the film in sequence?

No, sadly we didn’t have the time to do it in sequence. Mattias Nordkvist who plays John is really experienced and used to not shooting things in sequence so that wasn’t a problem. Gry Eriksson, the actress who plays Jenny, was very green coming into this and I thought perhaps that it could be an issue for her but it turned out that she was only acting using her gut feeling and my very simple instructions so I think that was a lucky combination actually. Gry has a pure naturalism in her presence and it was quite easy for me to get her to understand the different situations.

How did you manage to capture so many different locations and scenes in just three days?

Very good planning and few shots I would say. We shot the whole film in three days and it wasn’t actually that hard to make time. We had a lovely crew and really good actors so it was a pure joy to shoot it.

Your films have such a nuanced sensitivity to them, what topic are you looking to explore next?

At the moment I’m developing a feature based on my short film Alive that I made three years ago. That is a story about a disabled woman and her assistant, coming from different worlds, different classes. They are underdogs and outsiders and they help each other grow. I’m also developing another feature about a man who helps an illegal immigrant out of the country. He is dying from prostate cancer which he was told he had by this immigrant after he visited her at the massage parlour where she worked. She gave him a hand job and a prostate massage and after he fell for that immoral temptation, his shame made him want to try to help this woman escape from the people who control her.

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