The filmmakers hit the American highway with the idea of a documentary where the camera itself does the travelling, not a host or a main character. We follow one character until they cross paths with a new character, and in this way the film travels from New York in the east to Los Angeles in the west, via the swampland in the south. We get a unique peek into American culture and working class, with a intimate and sensitive approach, covered with the everyday philosophy: who are all the people surrounding us, and where can a random encounter lead us?
5 questions with Six Degrees director, Trond Kvig Andreassen at the half-way mark.
Monday, May 1st, 2017
1Hi Trond! Thanks for being a part of our festival. First, what was the initial seed that inspired you to make Six Degrees? I think the first signs of the film was scribbling down "cross section of lives" in a book. Very naive and corny, I know. I was watching a lot of Richard Linklater's (and the Maysles brothers) films at the time, and loved this notion of a small meeting leading to something greater. We did some tests shooting meetings between people, but they weren't all that interesting. It was when I hooked it to this "six degrees of separation"-philosophy, and letting it all be up to chance it got interesting. Then the film got this tension that anything could happen.
2This is such a cool concept for a documentary. Did you have any idea where these connections would take you? What were you hoping to get out of the experience? We didn't cast anybody beforehand, we just rented an RV in Brooklyn and lived in it for 5 weeks. But my "script" was a kind of wish list of people that would be interesting to portrait, people that would contrast each other well. Locations, archetypes, and some situations. I had pictured beforehand places where people cross paths, how we could make some of the transitions. From someone shopping in a store, to following the store clerk. The scene with the truck driver in the diner was very much thought out beforehand: I wanted a lonely character to just observe the people around him/her, overhearing lines of dialogue.
But it was a very real scenario where the whole thing was just incoherent and babbling, so we were hoping we could make something that would make sense. It would all depend on the characters we met.
3Obviously you must have encountered plenty of other people along your path. How did you decide to focus on the people of your doc. What was it about them that intrigued you? Like I mentioned, they had to contrast each other well. This is a lot of people to get to know in a very short time, so you had to be able to tell everyone apart, for one.
We met everyone in very different ways, we were always just on the lookout for the next character to follow. So in Harlem, we basically just walked up to them in the corner and said "hi, we're from Norway". They were in from the first minute, and showed us around the neighbourhood. When they got used to us, they were just great in front of the camera. So that was point two: they had to not mind having a camera following them around, and be natural on camera. We were surprised at how well people usually worked.
A common way to do documentaries is spend time with your subjects, getting to know them well, then bring out the camera.. We did none of that. We started filming straight away, and got to know them as we were filming. Sometimes we would film a group of people, and one person in the group would just stand out naturally as the main character of that scene, and we would just go with that. So it was a lot of gut feeling involved in the prosess.
4This film took you from the East Coast of America, to the South and then to the West Coast. Since you're not from the USA originally, I'm curious what you learned about the US and Americans from this experience? How different or similar is it from Norway? It's just an amazing experience to travel like this with a camera. Seeing how many doors open to you just because you're making yourself available to the opportunity. We could not have made this in Norway -
Scandinavians are way more shy and private than Americans when it comes to being filmed, I don't know why that is.
I definitely got to experience another side of the States than I get through film and TV (we'll watch anything American in Norway). We'd generally spend most of the time in places you usually would just pass through as fast as possible. Drive-thrus, street corners, swamps, we stayed at a truck stop for two days, and I think we lived on the side of the road in Venice for four days. For the most, we met hard working, very welcoming, sometimes struggling people with big dreams. In addition to being more shy, I don't think Norwegians dare to dream as big as the common American do.
5What's next? We currently have a couple of film projects going on: one about a hermit musician going from Northern Norway to LA to make his next album, another following a group of urban explorers in Kiev, Ukraine in the underground and Chernobyl. The next one is about a person who was found dead in her apartment in Oslo, who knew nobody, and nobody knew her. We're making a film about the imprints she has left on her surroundings.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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