American filmmakers take a crack at Swedish Midsummer

As Swedish cinemas prepare for Friday's opening of the romantic comedy “Äntligen Midsommar” ('Finally Midsummer'), The Local spoke with Ian McCrudden and Schif Musarra about how a pair of American filmmakers ended up making this very Swedish movie.

American filmmakers take a crack at Swedish Midsummer
Ian McCrudden; 20th Century Fox

Although the romantic comedy “Äntligen Midsommar”, has a decidedly Swedish title, the director and producer both hail from the other side of the Atlantic.

What’s more, the film also stars Luke Perry, the American actor perhaps best known for his work on the popular 90s television series Beverly Hills 90210.

So how exactly did this team of Americans end up in the idyllic Swedish town of Trosa making a movie about one of the quintessential Swedish holidays?

The Local sat down recently with American director Ian McCrudden and American producer Schif Musarra to learn more about how they went about capturing the spirit of Midsummer and all unpredictability that comes with it.

The Local: How come you chose to shoot a movie in Sweden?

Ian McCrudden: Well, I think I’ve got an easy explanation for this. My wife is Swedish…and we have got this strong group of friends who are all actors. Anyways, one day our friend came up to me with this script and I had a look at it and I thought it’s definitely doable. Yeah, and then one thing led to another and here we are sitting today.

Schif Musarra: Well, my wife is Swedish and we’ve got two kids. Ian and I met through our wives a few years back. As he mentioned, we’ve got this close group of friends in Sweden who fortunately happen to all be actors. And when I read the script the idea of shooting a movie over here seemed pretty viable to me.

TL: Why did you pick Midsummer as the main theme of the movie?

McCrudden & Musarra: We both think it’s a very unique holiday. Family and friends gather to celebrate this traditional day where friendship and relationship values are what matters. It kind of feels like it’s the day for re-evaluating your life.

As outsiders, it’s easy to observe that Swedes are very reserved, but on holidays they actually manage to let loose and break with typical Swede behaviour. We like Sweden best during summer and especially during Midsummer; people are more fun!

And Sweden is the only country that celebrates this unique holiday and it sort of matches our funny concept. Come to think it, the first time we met was at Midsummer celebration in New York City.

TL: How did you manage to get Luke Perry to star in a Swedish movie?

McCrudden: It wasn’t as tricky as people might think. Once the script is done it goes out with the director’s name. Luke’s manager read the script and he came up to us and told us that he liked it and said Luke is the guy you’re looking for. And then one thing lead to another and this is how it happened. Sweden went fucking gaga about it, casting someone that was a former TV-star and all.

Anyways, Luke and I hit it off and had no problem working with each other. Luke took it all pretty easy for the short time he worked with the people over here. He had no problems adapting to the group. It all happened pretty fast once we had the chat.

TL: Was it different to shoot a movie Sweden compared to the United States?

McCrudden: It wasn’t that different since I had my American crew over here. All I can say is that the spirit of the crew was great. Well the only thing I could mention, though, is that back home we do work a bit faster than over here.

Musarra: What I’ve noticed is that the Swedes are used to command and they were pleasantly surprised how laid back and relaxed we work. We were open for suggestions and ideas. It was a fun set to work on and that kept us going.

TL: Did the movie meet your expectations?

McCrudden: From an artistic level I can say that it definitely worked. And now I’ve have seen it play in front of an audience and I can proudly say that they loved it. I have to say that it all depends on the marketing of the movie.

Musarra: I have to say that it exceeded my expectations. The work we put into it can be seen on the screen. It’s a lot better that I thought it would be. Certain relationships in the movie are very comical but when things move along people start to see things on a deeper level. Even people at home enjoyed it – we’ve got the Swedish thing, you know. So it’s been great so far.

TL: Which is your favourite scene in the movie?

McCrudden: A scene I like a lot is the one with Emil (Daniel Gustavsson) in which he ends up on the cliffs with Eva (Anna Littorin). They basically end up singing a song from back in the day. It’s a song that both feel connected to. They fall into each others arms and know that it’s meant to be, but their official partners are still there waiting for them. Originally this scene was written in a different way. The actors actually suggested that we do it a different way – so the script kept getting re-written on the fly. They managed to change the scene into something magical though – the kiss on the rocks.

Musarra: My favourite scene is actually a very fun. Anders (Olle Sarri) and his wife Maria, (Annica Bejhed) are trying to have a baby, but during all these innumerable attempts he never told his wife that he’s actually shooting blanks. So he goes up to Emil and asks him for a sperm donation. It’s so funny – you’ve got to see it for yourself.

TL: What is the best and worst experience you had in Sweden?

McCrudden: The best thing was marrying my wife, Annica Bejhed, and the worst thing that ever happened to me was my bachelor party. My friend got me into this boxing ring and when I got there I was facing this beefy Armenian guy who could have no doubt killed me. The only thing my opponent said was: “I will box up to the third round” and I think you can guess how it ended – a sort of horrible, yet funny nightmare.

Musarra: The best thing that ever happened to me was the birth of my now three-year-old son. I was so lost when I moved here and he gave me the comfort and the strength I needed to find myself. The worst experience I had was when I was teaching corporate language classes. Man, I was so not fit for that world. The worst part was that I had to pretend I knew what I was talking about.

TL: Do you think you will be doing any more movies in Sweden?

McCrudden & Musarra: Yes, we will. As a matter of fact we just started our own company called “Stockholm California”. We set up this company for co-productions between Sweden and United States. We’ve actually got some other things going on already.

One project is a TV-show “SFI – Swedish for immigrants”, a sort of Romeo and Juliet style story about immigrants in Sweden falling in love. And yes, much of the story plays out in their SFI language classroom.

Another is a movie with the Swedish actor Peter Stormare called “Cuba Libre”, a hip-thriller about a kid who gets caught in the Cuban-American underworld.

So yeah, things are rolling.

Check out The Local on Thursday for an exclusive interview with Luke Perry in which he discusses what he learned about Swedish women while shooting “Äntligen Midsommar”.

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How a Swedish film festival is offering a nurse downtime during pandemic

A front-line Swedish nurse is getting some Covid downtime with a week of private screenings of the Gothenburg film festival, in a former lighthouse off the country's west coast.

How a Swedish film festival is offering a nurse downtime during pandemic
Competition winner Lisa Enroth.

More than 12,000 candidates from 45 countries applied to watch the festival's films in almost near isolation on an island 400 kilometres (250 miles) from Stockholm.

The prize is a week viewing as many of the festival's 70 premieres as they like in a hotel in the former Pater Noster Lighthouse. But they will be in isolation and will have no access to their own computer or laptop.

READ ALSO: Decision on stricter restrictions for foreign travellers to be made quickly

The bright-red lighthouse, built on a tiny island off Sweden's west coast in 1868, is surrounded by a scattering of squat, red buildings originally built to house the lighthouse keeper's family. It can only be reached by boat or helicopter, depending on the weather.

After a series of interviews and tests, festival organisers chose emergency nurse and film buff Lisa Enroth for the prize, in keeping with the 2021 festival's theme, Social Distances.

Before boarding a small speedboat out to the island on the clear, chill winter's morning, Enroth said she had applied not only out of her love for the cinema, but also to seek respite from her hectic work as an emergency nurse during the pandemic.

“It has been hectic, so it's a nice opportunity just to be able to land and to reflect over the year,” she said.

Months working amid Covid crisis

Sweden, which has taken a light-touch approach to the pandemic compared to its neighbours, has been facing a stronger than expected second wave of the virus. So far, more than 11,500 people have died from Covid-19 across the country.

Enroth works in the emergency ward of a hospital in Skovde in central Sweden. Since the start of the pandemic, her hospital's work caring for virus patients on top of their regular workload has been intense.

Lisa Enroth on her way to the remote festival location. Photo: AFP

“We had a lot of Covid cases during this year and every patient that has been admitted to the hospital has been passing through the emergency ward,” she told journalists.

The organisers said they were surprised by the numbers of applicants for the prize but were confident they had chosen the right candidate — not only for her love of cinema.

“She has also dedicated this past year in the frontline against the Covid-19 pandemic,” the festival's creative director Jonas Holmberg said to AFP.

“That's also one of the reasons we chose her”. 

Isolated screenings

Boarding the boat dressed in a thick survival suit, Enroth sped over the calm, icy waters, jumping off in the island's tiny harbour and disappearing into her lodgings.

A screen has been set up in the lantern room at the top of the windswept island's lighthouse, offering a 360-degree view of the sea and coastline around.

Another wide screen has been set up in one of the island's buildings.

Enroth will also have a tablet and headphones if she wants to watch films elsewhere on the island, which measures just 250 metres by 150 metres.

With only one other person staying permanently on the island — a safety precaution — Enroth's only contact with the outside world will be through her video diary about the films she has viewed.

The festival's films will be shown online and two venues in Gothenburg itself will allow screenings for just one person at a time.

Holmberg, the festival's creative director, said he hoped events like these would maintain interest in the industry at a time when many screens are closed because of pandemic restrictions.

“We are longing so much to come back to the cinemas and in the meantime we have to be creative and do the things that we can to create discussion,” he told journalists.