Last year Emilie Thalund picked up a gold Screen award at the Young Director Award in Cannes for her film, Period. Here she discusses what compelled her to make the film and how the YDA helped her get noticed.
You picked up a gold Screen Award in the Passion Project category at the 2018 YDA for you film Period.; what do you remember most about last year’s ceremony and your success at it?
I remember feeling seriously surprised and very unprepared. My EP at Bacon CPH, Mette Jermiin, was in the jury last year, and she phoned my producer, Birgitte Rask, and I to prepare us on how tough the competition was this year, and we shouldn’t keep our expectations too high. She has a strong poker face, and I honestly went to the ceremony expecting I would leave empty handed. There really was a lot of great work and strong fresh talents, so I got such a lovely surprise, when they announced our film. My knees were shaking all the way through and I can’t remember a word of what I said.
As a young woman, [commercials] taught me that periods were something to hide – a taboo. It made me feel detached and awkward towards my own body.
How hopeful were you that your work might come out of the YDA with some form of recognition?
Not very hopeful. I knew our film, which was a very personal project, was dealing with quite a delicate subject, and that it would be one of those things you either hate or love. On top of that it was one of my first films, so I don’t think I dared trust that the work, or rather I, was good enough.
I got to meet a lot of interesting people through the YDA that I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise – both other young, inspiring talents as wells as people from the industry that I admire a lot.
What effect did the win have on your burgeoning directing career?
It had quite a big and important effect. At that time I was working busy hours as a director’s assistant and didn’t really have time to work on my own projects. But after the win I was fortunate to get some great commercial jobs and also some wonderful offers from exciting production houses, which finally convinced me that I should focus more on directing myself and so I stopped assisting.
On another level it was really motivating to experience that a personal – and in some way activistic project like this – could get that kind of recognition from such a strong and professional jury as the YDA. That makes me proud and gives me hope for my future work, but also for the industry. I still feel very excited and grateful for that.
What made you want to get into directing in the first place?
Great cinema has always made me feel less alone. It’s a mirror of our souls and society and I find it very compelling to try to reflect some of the stories, we are not that often exposed to. It’s also the art form that in the most natural way allows me to stay curious and work with everything I’m interested in – human relations, spaces, music, art, intuition, storytelling, climate, sociology, history, women, dreams, fears, fashion, youth, politics…
Always try to stay true to your way and what you believe in – be bold and naive and pick your battles, but never stop questioning the way things are done.
What compelled you to make Period?
I grew up only seeing periods portrayed in commercials with women in white dresses running in flower fields, blue liquid as blood, and pink packaging saying “secret!”, “discrete!” or “delicate scent”. It never really felt like something I could identify with. As a young woman, this unfortunately taught me that periods were something to hide – a taboo. It made me feel detached and awkward towards my own body.
As a grown-up, I was still missing a more reflected side of this mystified subject and I wanted to try to create a new, fresh perspective. I had never seen real period blood in any film or portrayed as something poetic, difficult or empowering. My mission was never to provoke, but rather to turn things around and make people see it in a different light, and emphasize the grand importance of a proud, well-functioning body. So in a way you could say this is a film to my lonely, younger self.
Do you think it’s become more or less difficult for new talent to break through in the world of commercials?
I honestly don’t know. I think that I’ve been quite lucky so far, and I’m probably still a bit too young in this commercial world to really know. But I hope the industry in general is becoming less old boys club, and more welcoming towards a nuanced pool of talents and stories.
I had never seen real period blood in any film or portrayed as something poetic, difficult or empowering.
How important do you think competitions and events such as the YDA are for allowing new directing talent to get noticed?
This might be wrong to say, but I’m not really a competitive spirit. I don’t like to compare too much – for me, it can get in the way of the work and stop you from taking those chances you sometimes need to take. But I really do think creating platforms and focus on young talent is very important. It’s especially a great way to be noticed beyond your own country and market. At least it was for me. I got to meet a lot of interesting people through the YDA that I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise – both other young, inspiring talents as wells as people from the industry that I admire a lot.
What advice would you give to any director looking to carve out a career in advertising?
I don’t think if I’ve been in this long enough to hand out advice, so this is also just things I try to tell myself:
Always try to stay true to your way and what you believe in – be bold and naive and pick your battles, but never stop questioning the way things are done. Push yourself, and always push the work. And do it all with nice intentions. Advertising can be so damn powerful and with great power comes great responsibility. We all need to be aware of that.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a few commercials and charity projects that will launch later this spring. Besides that, I’m in the developing process for several personal projects – one concerning shame, another on sisterhood. I also draw a lot and I am working towards an exhibition later this year.