Meet the filmmaker: Lise Raven’s ‘Snaeland’ makes world premiere at Vail Film Festival
Filmmaker took small cast and crew to small northern Icelandic town to film
Editor’s note: The 16th annual Vail Film Festival returns Aug. 15-18. In addition to more than 40 film screenings, the Vail Film Festival also offers a workshop, panel discussion and more while again celebrating women in the industry. Festival passes start at $50. For more information, visit http://www.vailfilmfestival.com. Festival organizers recommend checking out the website beforehand for trailers, times and more information about each film. The Vail Daily interviewed three female directors attending the festival this year, including Haroula Rose (“Once Upon a River”), Louise Woehrle (“Stalag Luft III”) and Lise Raven (“Snaeland”).
“Local audiences are the best because they’re not there to do business, they’re there to enjoy film,” filmmaker Lise Raven said, “and that’s who we make them for.”
‘Snaeland’ shot 99.9% outdoors in Iceland, Berlin
Filmmaker Lise Raven would cut school growing up if she knew one of her favorite films would be on, especially something from the ’50s or ’60s. But it wasn’t until she met a filmmaker while living on the Columbia River in Astoria, Oregon, that she thought about filmmaking.
“It had just not occurred to me that this is something that people do,” Raven said ahead of the Vail Film Festival, where her new feature film “Snaeland” will be making its world premiere.
However, she thought she would pursue something more of a career and got accepted into New York University to study neuropsychology.
“When I got there, I chickened out and signed up for film classes instead,” she said, admitting she’s “always an adventurer.”
For “Snaeland,” Raven flew to Iceland and Germany to film, mostly outdoors.
She had always wanted to do an “Apocalypse Now”-type film, “taking everyone to an island and not let them leave until the film’s done,” she said. She was randomly Googling “island” and missed and got “Iceland” — saw the cheap airfare available.
While she didn’t want to make a film heavily focused on the ecosystem, she did want to mention bees to raise awareness about the alarming rates at which bees are dying, and the consequences.
So she Googled “Iceland” and “bees” and discovered how and why bees are thriving in the country — “because they isolate their bees to protect them from invasive species,” she said. “And there I had the metaphor to write a story.”
Raven wanted to film in a small area in the northern parts of Iceland, and found a small town — one that was willing to allow her and a crew of six, as well as two German actors who live in the U.S., into the town to film. She also cast some Icelandic actors.
“We were able to make a film 99.9% outdoors in Iceland — because it was light out 24 hours a day,” she said. “We had the entire town available to use, meaning people were interested.”
(Her previous film, “Kinderwald,” was filmed entirely outdoors in Pennsylvania, she said.)
She was committed to having a small footprint in the Icelandic town of Olafsfjordur, while also offering a unique experience for some of its 800 residents to see a film created.
The film also has a couple of scenes shot in Berlin “because the main character comes from Berlin and I’ve lived in Berlin for a really long time.”
“Snaeland,” pronounced with an elegant twist, “is an old, historic, romantic term for Iceland. It means ‘snow land,’” she said. And while the film’s title doesn’t necessarily reference anything in particular in the film, that’s exactly how Raven planned it. “When I saw that word I said that’s it. It’s a word that encapsulates the feeling, the romance and the flow.”
“Snaeland” features English, Icelandic, German and French and includes subtitles.
“The next thing I want to do is go back to Iceland and make a version of ‘Frankenstein,’” Raven said. “People in Iceland are incredible. It’s not just a tourist destination, it’s a country of 350,000 very, very smart people.”
Always an adventurer, that Raven.
‘Snaeland’ (feature film)
Director: Lise Raven
Synopsis: When disgraced German journalist Fred Haaas goes to a small Icelandic fishing village, he stumbles upon the tabloid story that could redeem his career. A slow burn neo-noir.
Starring: Emily Behr, Frank Bruckner, Vikingur Kristjansson, Vignir Rafn Valborsson
Length: 75 minutes
When: Saturday, 1 p.m., film followed by a Q&A; Sunday, 4:30 p.m.
Where: CineBistro at Solaris, Vail
Session 2 of the three-part series focuses on finding a publisher and making sure it’s a good fit.