“Simon and Siván are the perfect artsy couple. Everything in their lives is curated, from the way they have sex to their choice of therapist. One night, during another soulless art exhibition, the shiny surface of their relationship starts to crack.”
Swedish-Iranian director Arvin Kananian’s short VERNISSAGE is a “playful and elegant” commentary on “a couple whose whole world and existence is perfectly polished in any given moment.” The film, which appears on T-Port via our partners at Screen Talent Europe, has also screened at Gothenburg Film Festival, Palm Springs Short Film Festival, and Festival Internacional de Cine Bajo la Luna – Islantilla Cinefórum.
We caught up with the director to hear about directing the film in four days while battling sickness, what it means to work with his dream team, and why he chose to pillory a certain kind of person in the film world.
Hi Arvin! Please introduce yourself in a few lines
I’m Swedish-Iranian. Started out as an actor about 10 years ago and started writing and directing about 3 years ago. As an actor, watching the directors you work with is an incredibly efficient filmmaking school. After a couple of years I could help myself but to try it.
How did you first start working on this film? What was the process like and what first sparked the idea to make it?
Nina and I started writing it during COVID. There were some individuals in our industry that inspired us to make a film that talks to them. The audience of a short film is significantly made up of people in the film industry anyway, so we thought it would be a perfect format to call them out. The people that live directed lives, where who you hang out with, which red carpet you walk on, etc etc is more important than the art and storytelling.
Tell us a bit about your film and the filmmaking process – what did it take to make your film?
It was mostly a fun experience. The team was incredible, and it really felt like we all made the film together. Every single person owned their department with finesse.
What were the biggest challenges you encountered during making your film?
The shoot was a bit hectic since I was shooting another production in parallel. The shooting days were squeezed into the only four days I had off on the other production, and of course I got sick perfectly timed for our first shooting day. So on the first two days I was pumped up on medicine, fever-sweating charmingly by the monitor.
How was it to collaborate with your cast and crew?
Honestly, it was a DREAM team. Each and every individual was perfect for the job. I wish I had a bat-signal I could assemble them all with from now on.
Tell us about the sound choices in your film
I loved working with the sound and the music. Petter Karlsten was splendid to work with, we clicked in our high ambition where every little frame was as important sound-wise.
And it was the fourth time I worked with my favourite composer Max Kiusalaas. We had such a fun time in his studio finding the sounds, then the melodies, etc. The music was very inspired by the Safdie brothers films, I’m a HUGE fan.
Tell us about the visual choices in your film?
I was telling the story of a couple whose whole world and existence is perfectly polished in any given moment. The word “vernissage” does not only mean the opening night of an arts exhibition, it comes from a french word and means to polish a surface. So the visual style of the film had to carry the characters’ perspective in that sense.
Playful but elegant is what we tried to go for. I really consider the DoP Emil Klang a co-creator of this film in that sense, we found the style together and he interpreted what I was trying to say perfectly.
What would you like people to take away from your film?
That although those people are all around us – the ones that only care about fame, money, their insta-accounts, awards and all that nonsense – there’s also equally many good honest people with warm hearts. Tell the former to f*ck off, and surround yourself with the latter.
Can you share the most important lessons you learned through the process of making the film?
I want to try to be closer physically to the DoP and actors on my next shoots. I sometimes felt on this film that I was too far away, sitting by my monitor. The first thing I did after “cut” was to approach the actors, but there was still some distance and hence miscommunication that I’d like to try to amend next time.
If you could go back in time to pre-production and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Ask production one more time to push up the shoot a couple of weeks. And eat your vitamins!
What was it like for you working with the actors you cast? Do you have a technique for working with actors?
I don’t know if I have a specific technique, I feel like it’s mostly in the gut. But I always try to adapt my scripts, locations, etc so we’ll have time to play around with many takes and try stuff.
What are your plans and dreams for the future?
To keep working with warm hearted and ambitious individuals, on a bunch of different creative projects.
What is the best thing you recently watched or experienced?
Tár by Todd Field, Close-Up by Abbas Kiarostami, Aftersun by Charlotte Wells, The Worst Ones by Akoka & Gueret
Which film do you find overrated, and why?
Barbie. Its humour and message (which had huge potential!) was told in a way where it should have been marketed as a film for 5 year-olds. I find it a bit sad when filmmakers expect their audience not to activate one single brain cell.
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