Magne was born with severe brain damage and was unable to communicate with the world - unable to speak and write, he was effectively locked inside his body. The world of him and his parents was turned upside down when he learned how to write with the help of his parents. What's it like to be Magne? What are his dreams, aspirations and fears?
Interview with Director/Producer Silvia Schmidt
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I met Magne in 2006 and kept thinking about his story. Magne was locked inside his body until he was 27 years old, as he couldn't write or speak. It's only at that age that he and his parents learned a new way of writing together. I kept wondering what had happened since I visited them and in January 2017 I finally visited him and his parents to make a short documentary about them.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Magne should be watched because it touches on deeply human themes of love, respect and independence. Magne has moved many audience members, because it shows what Magne and his parents are doing to ensure he can continue to have a good life even after his parents can no longer look after him.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
One the one hand, Magne is a deeply personal film about his life and the incredibly sacrifices his parents are making to look after him. What will happen to him when his parents can no longer look after him? There is more than Magne's independence that is at stake - can society accept someone as 'fully' independent when it's not scientifically proven that he can communicate? What does it take to prove full agency and independence? What does it mean to have brain damage and to what extent can the notion of neuroplasticity help?
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
Magne and his parents live in a remote area of Northern Norway. Before I visited them in January 2017, I wasn't sure how or if Magne's life had changed since I met him in 2006, so I wasn't too sure what angle my documentary would take. Had he learned how to speak? Are they still exercising as much? I tried to come with an open mind. My style of documentary filmmaking is quite observational, so I tried to keep in the background and film the family whilst they were going about their daily routines.
After I got back to London I had to take a couple of weeks to think about what I had experienced and what I had seen and filmed. I think during that period my perspective did change a bit, particularly in how I wanted to show their lives and what the parents are doing to help their son.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
I have been told that it's very touching and moving - one of my friends watched it during her train-commute to London and ended up crying! Not that I want to make people cry of course.... but it's nice to know that people are touched by Magne's story.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
A lot of people react to the way he and his parents write. This is his way of communicating with the world and a lot of people mention it after having watched the film - is it him who is writing or is it his parents who are writing for him? Some people accept that it's him who writes and others question it completely. This has inspired me to make a longer version of the documentary and I'm currently filming the family again. I want to spend more time on the way he communicates as I know that the audience has lots of questions about it.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I am continuing to film Magne this year – from specialist therapies that take the family all over Norway and Europe, to filming the rebuilding of their family home, which tragically burned down last year. I would love for more people to take an interest in his story and to continue following his story by watching the short documentary as well as the longer version, which I am currently working on.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
I am currently looking for a producer to work with on the longer version of Magne. I am also looking for a TV sales agent to help me sell the long version, which I would love to see on TV as I would like to find a big audience for it. As for documentary which will be screening at the Melbourne Film Festival, I would love to open a dialogue about disability, independence and human agency - there are lots of charities working in this field and I think that their members might also be interested in the film.
Sales agents and journalists would be able to get me in touch with this group. I am submitting Magne to other film festivals and hope that I will be able to show it at more festivals and continue talking about the important themes that it raises.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I would like to spark a conversation about what it means to not be accepted by society as 'fully' human. What does it mean to have agency? How do we demonstrate agency and what does it take to be fully accepted by society as an independent human being? Is there a difference between brain damage and disability? Does the ultimate aim of bringing up children need to be that they become fully independent?
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
What does it take to be accepted as fully human?
Would you like to add anything else?
I really enjoyed working with the composer for the film, Knut Rygnestad (https://www.knutsmusic.com/about) and can't praise him too much! He also happens to be Norwegian and also did the voice over for me. I hope to be working with him again, as his music adds so much to the emotions of the film.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I'm a self-shooting documentary filmmaker which gives me lots of freedom and the ability to be spontaneous. This year I'm working on a longer version of Magne and I'm also working on a documentary about artificial intelligence.
Interview: June 2018
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTQIA+, POC, First Nations, scifi, supernatural, horror, world cinema. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Magne was born with sever brain damage and was unable to communicate with the world - unable to speak and write, he was effectively locked inside his body. The world of him and his parents was turned upside down when he learned how to write with the help of his parents. What's it like to be Magne? What are his dreams, aspirations and fears?
Length: 12 minutes
Director: Silvia Schmidt
Producer: Silvia Schmidt
About the writer, director and producer:
Having started out as a film-lawyer, the director decided to switch sides and to make films herself. She studied documentary film-making at University College London and completed her graduation film in 2017 under the guidance of Marc Isaacs and Sandhya Suri.
Key cast: Magne Skaaden, Per Skaaden, Asbjoerg Skaaden
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month?
Melbourne Documentary Film Festival. Others to be announced!