“Waltzing Tilda” proves big winner at the 25th Sydney Film School Festival. Written and directed by Jonathan Wilhelmsson and produced by Raquel Linde the film won five awards: Best Film, Best Director, Best Producer, Best Editor and the Audience Award.
Waltzing Tilda is an award-winning post-apocalyptic comedy about the last woman on earth. It is a Sydney-set comedy-drama about an eccentric lone wolf named Tilda who one day wakes up to find herself the last human on earth. The talented cast includes: Holly Fraser, Glean De Goya & Bandit the Rabbit.
Director Jonathan Wilhelmsson in an exclusive interview for NY Elite talks about the making of the film and his latest projects.
Meet the Artist: NY Elite Interview with Filmmaker Jonathan Wilhelmsson
NY Elite: Tell us a little bit about you and your career beginnings.
Jonathan Wilhelmsson: My name is Jonathan Wilhelmsson and I’m a 25-year old filmmaker from Sweden. I grew up in a small village where I as a kid used to write a lot of short stories until I eventually started to make films with my father’s home video camera. I made some stop-motion shorts and experimented with model building and VFX and I grew very fond of making narrative short films.
In high school I studied social sciences but I got into trouble a lot since I was almost never there. I cut class to make films instead. At that point I didn’t really consider that filmmaking could be a career, especially not if you’re from a village in Sweden, but I enjoyed doing it so much. Luckily a Swedish feature film director read an article about me in a local paper and invited me in for a meeting. He introduced me to the real filmmaking world and that’s how I started to realize that maybe it could be more than a hobby.
Some accomplishments: In 2011 I won the Swedish Film Institute’s Award to Young Filmmaking. In 2012 I was chosen to be a part of a talent programme for young filmmakers where I created a 28-minute film called “Naomi and the Heartbreakers” and in 2013 that film won the award for Best Film at Sveriges Kortfilmfestival (Sweden’s Short Film Festival). Most recently my film Waltzing Tilda won five awards at the 25th Sydney Film School Festival: Best Film, Best Director, Best Producer, Best Editor and the Audience Award.
NY Elite: What projects are you currently working on?
Jonathan Wilhelmsson: I recently finished the Advanced Diploma of Screen & Media at Sydney Film School and I now work as an editor and VFX artist in Sydney. I’ll probably be making some more short films but the dream is obviously to write and direct a feature and that’s where my mind is at the moment.
NY Elite: What is the new film about?
Jonathan Wilhelmsson: Waltzing Tilda is a dystopian comedy-drama about Tilda, the last person in the world, and her adventures in a post-apocalyptic Sydney along with her friend Shane, a talking, foul-mouthed bunny rabbit.
I’ve always been torn between enjoying solitude and at the same time not wanting to be alone, and that’s what I wanted to make this film about. I decided on the post-apocalyptic setting in part for my love of dystopian/end of the world stories and also because I wanted to see if we with limited means would be able to create a world usually reserved for Hollywood productions. We live in a world where anyone can make a film yet a lot of people still seem to think you need a certain budget, certain equipment or a big crew to make a “proper” film.
We shot this film on a consumer budget camera and almost half of it was shot with a skeleton crew of three. Initially there was some scepticism about the achievability of the film but that only made us more determined. It proved to be a huge challenge and at times I wasn’t sure if we would pull it off, but I think it’s important to aim a bit too high because it forces you to be better. I’m very happy with our end result!
NY Elite: What is different about being in the director’s chair with this project?
Jonathan Wilhelmsson: The biggest difference is probably the film’s setting because it’s such a big part of the story that it almost becomes it’s own character, and recreating a completely deserted city obviously comes with some complications. Since we’re just a student short we naturally can’t close down roads or anything like that, so we shot our scenes amongst hundreds or thousands of real people and traffic that was later digitally painted out. This meant that it could sometimes be really tricky to get that 3-second shot that we needed without something interfering.
It wasn’t something that was frustrating though because we knew that this would be the case and had the time set-aside for it. It was also important to us that we were very respectful of the real people we were filming around and leaving as small a footprint as possible. Having said that some of them didn’t know what the heck was going on when Holly was dancing in the street like a maniac.
NY Elite: Which actors stand out and why are they perfect for the role?
Jonathan Wilhelmsson: Holly Fraser as the main character is doing a one-woman show that I think is pretty incredible. Her only co-stars are a bunny and a kangaroo puppet and somehow she makes it work. She goes through quite a wide range of emotions within the 15-minute runtime and manages to make people laugh as well as tear up, sometimes within a minute or two.
NY Elite: Who are the film’s stars?
Jonathan Wilhelmsson: It’s always hard to film with animals but I don’t think we could have hoped for a more calm or co-operative bunny than Bandit the Rabbit, and of course I have to give a shout-out to Glean De Goya who gave Shane his voice and who made him into a character rather than a confused bunny on a film set.
Behind the camera the film’s real star was our producer Raquel Linde who had the hard task to take everything I wrote on the page and try to make it a reality. We had a lot of locations to cover including filming at the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and the Australian Museum and she’s the one who got us the permission to shoot in all of those places. Since I took the decision to shoot with as small of a crew as possible she also had a lot of other responsibilities on set that she took care of beautifully.
NY Elite: What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?
Jonathan Wilhelmsson: A good comedy makes you laugh and a good horror makes you scared, but I suppose that a film becomes great when it truly communicates something on a personal level, whatever that message might be, the kind of films that grab you out of your seat and all that.
NY Elite: As a screenwriter, what is the most important aspect of building a character?
Jonathan Wilhelmsson: I like writing very flawed but likeable characters that through the film go on a journey towards self-improvement, ending the story as a very different person than they were at the beginning. I think that change is probably the most important aspect of character building as without it there’s no conflict, no drama, and no story.
NY Elite: What scripts have you written so far?
Jonathan Wilhelmsson: Mostly short films in various genres, often comedy-dramas. I have a soft spot for films that evolves in tone or even genre through the film, for example films that starts off as a comedy but ends as more of a drama.
I’ve also written a draft of a Swedish feature film called “Punkmammor” which translates into “Punk Mothers”. It’s a story about three depressed, middle-aged women who decides to reform their teenage punk band.
NY Elite: Top 3 favorite projects that you have been involved in?
Jonathan Wilhelmsson: “Naomi and the Heartbreakers” which I wrote and directed was a really fun one. It’s a story about a slightly unstable woman who gets her heart broken and decides that this should be illegal, so she becomes a masked vigilante trying to stop this from happening to anyone else. At 28 minutes it’s the longest film I’ve made. Its kind of an action/adventure comedy-drama drawing influences from “Kick-Ass” and “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World”. It was a huge learning experience and it was one of those kind of films where you don’t really know what you’re doing but the sheer passion of everyone involved pulls the project through.
I also really enjoyed working with my producer Raquel on her own short film “Atomic Gardens” last year and working with my girlfriend Ellen on her new film “The Magpie Complex”.
NY Elite: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?
Jonathan Wilhelmsson: I draw sometimes and I also play the piano (very badly).
NY Elite: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in filmmaking?
Jonathan Wilhelmsson: Use what resources you have and go for it, without fear of failure. There’s so much that can go wrong on a film that you’re kind of bound to fail every now and then. When it works out it’s the best thing in the world and when it doesn’t work it’s still pretty great because you’ve learnt something new.
NY Elite: Any plans to direct another movie?
Jonathan Wilhelmsson: Definitely! We have actually started to adapt Waltzing Tilda into a feature. It’s going to be quite hard in many ways but I also couldn’t be more excited to develop the story and it’s characters into something bigger!
NY Elite: NY Elite: What can we expect from you in 2017?
Jonathan Wilhelmsson: Maybe another short but I will likely spend a lot of the time hidden away writing the script for the feature length version of Waltzing Tilda.