DOCUMENTARIES, INTERVIEWS, NEWS — 11/15/2010 1:12 PM

L. Lense-Møller (Magic Hour Film) “Burma VJ has been shown in over 120 countries”

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Lise Lense-Møller (Magic Hour Film) is the happy Danish producer of “Burma VJ”, the doc film which was Oscar 2010 nominee  and won over 47 awards. The day after the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Lise speaks about the production process and the huge international success of the doc.

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Who brought to you the idea of “Burma Vj” ?

The idea to do a film on Burma was presented to me in 2004 by Jan Krogsgaard, a Danish video artist living in Asia. Initially, we thought about finding stories in the border area, where the ‘footprints’ of the military regime would be visible through the people crossing in and out of the country. WE knew, that we would not be able to film freely inside the country ourselves.  The idea to follow the VJ’s came as a result of our research into potential stories.

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In mid-2005, we learned that Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) got seed money to do television, and this immediately caught our attention as it would be a way to get video images from inside the closed country.

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Who coproduced it with you in Europe or in western countries ? did you had the support of European broadcasters for the production or pre-financing ?

The first two and a half years, we worked with quite limited funds from The Danish Film Institute, the Danish broadcaster DR, and a grant from, DANIDA Danish Foreign Aid.  Only in 2007 did we begin to get more financiers -e.g. Swedish Film Institute and SVT (Swedish Television) through our co-producer WG Film, Fritt Ord (a Norwegian foundation) and NRK (Norwegian Television) through our Norwegian co-producer, Mediamente, Nordic Film and TV-fund, and later also pre-sales to Channel 4 in the UK, WDR-Arte, Germany, HBO in the US and several other TV-stations in Europe.

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The doc has won many awards all over the world (Berlin, Sundance, IDFA …). Were you surprised by such an international feedback ?

The courage of the VJ’s and the enthusiasm and hope of the Burmese people touch everybody who sees the film deeply.  We prolonged the editing several times, because I felt, that we had a good film after 14 weeks of editing, but if we continued, we could have a great film. WE felt obliged to do the very best we could with this awe-inspiring, and
historic material, that only we had full access to.

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So I was not surprised that the film had a major impact on people who saw it, but there is no way I could have foreseen the enormous success it has had and the amount of awards it has received – 47 until now and an Oscar nomination.

Did your burmese friends and vjs had a feedback about  this international buzz ?

Throughout the editing and postproduction did we stay in close contact with the VJ’s, so that they could advice us on security measures. We have remained in contact with the VJ’s and our Burmese friends all along, and several of them have joined us at various awards ceremonies. At the Oscars we were happy to be joined by some of the monks and Aye Chan Naing from DVB, and we were told that the ceremony was followed closely in Burma.

Did you managed to show the finished doc to your burmese contacts ?

DVB has shown the film in Burma, and we have secretly distributed DVD’s in the country.

Did you kept the contact with the vjs ? some of them have been put in jail ?

We have not been able to have contact with the VJ’s who are in jail, but  we are still in contact with the VJ’s, who are not, and with DVB in Norway. We also have contact to the monk leaders from the film, who now have asylum in
the US.

In how many territories has the film been shown ?

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The film has been distributed on three levels:
1. the classical distribution to TV (including Arte and HBO), cinemas, festivals etc.
2. the political level (key politicians, orgnisations,conferences etc)
3. grass root level – through NGO’s, home screenings etc.

It has been our aim from the very beginning to make the film seen as widely as possible so that it could help create awareness and change the situation in Burma.  It has been screened at some 125-150 festivals, had theatrical
release and/or event screenings in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, UK and US
, and it has been sold to apx. 100 territories, my sales agent tells me.

Where did you sold it in Asia (TV or theaters) ? was it easy to distribute it in this continent ?

It has been sold to Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea,  India, but only TV, cable and video, as far as I know.

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What was the budget of the doc ? what has been its gross revenue ?

The budget was 1 mill € and it took from late 2004 until the end of 2008 to make the film.  Because of the need to prolong the editing and because of the devaluation during the financial crisis of several of our financing
contracts, we ended up with a huge private investment in the film, which still has not been recouped. We are expecting a sales report from the sales agent shortly and hopefully it will bring in the first revenues.

Are you working on new doc projects in / about Asia ? Do you want to do more projects in this part of the world ?

AT the moment we are not working on new projects in Asia.  We are a small company, and we can only engage in a limited number of international productions at the same time.  We are absolutely open to work on new
projects from the area
, if the stories are in line with our profile and interests.

We don’t have partners in Asia, but we do have a network in the region, even if our European and US networks are more extensive.

How do you see the evolution of documentary production in Asia ?

I regret to say, that I know very little about Asian documentary production. Ironically, the success of Burma VJ, and our most recent film ‘Into Eternity’, which has also won several international awards, have kept us so enormously busy, that we have had next to no time to stay in touch with the developments of documentary production as such, and I never in my professional life have I seen as few films as I have since the release of Burma VJ. There simply has not been any time to spare. The distribution efforts and the handling of the interest and inquiries that we have had has taken up all our time.

What did you learnt from Burma VJ experience ?

It has been an enormous privilege to help the Burma cause through spreading the film, but the truth is, that it has also drained us. Burma VJ is by far our biggest success in the 25 years the company has been in existence, but it is also the project that has brought us closest to collapse.  Our company is small (3 people), and we have had no financing to cover all the distribution work, that we have done.

Still we are extremely happy and proud to have been part of this, and it has been absolutely invaluable for us to get to know the VJ’s, DVB, and the monks who lead the uprising.

About “Burma VJ”

Directed by Anders Østergaard

Produced by Lise Lense-Møller (Magic Hour Films)
Written by Anders Østergaard & Jan Krogsgaard
Narrated by  Joshua
Starring The Burmeese VJ´s
Music by Conny C-A Malmqvist
Cinematography Simon Plum
Editing by Janus Billeskov & Thomas Papapetros
Distributed by Dogwoof Pictures (UK), Oscilloscope Laboratories (US)
Release date(s): November 12, 2008 (2008-11-12) (COPDOX)
Running time: 84 mins
Country: Denmark
Language: Burmese & English
Gross revenue     $123,477

Sales agent : First Hand Films in Zürich, mail

“Burma VJ” website

Trailer on YouTube

IMDb

Wikipedia

DVB website

About “Into Eternity”

“Into Eternity” website

“Into Eternity” : best Nordic Doc

About Magic Hour Film

Country : Denmark
Year of creation : 1984
Nb of people : 3 (plus part time accountant)
Main activity : Film production (docs and fiction, but more docs than fiction)
Nber of docs produced and co-produced:  33
Website :  magichourfilms.dk
Contacts mail address :

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