Bo and Marianna Landin, heads of the nearly 30-year-old prodco Scandinature, just joined forces with Sterling Van Wagenen, co-founder of the Sundance Film Festival, to create Utah-based prodco Slickrock Films. Realscreen spoke with Bo Landin about the plans for this new prodco and his views on the industry, this many years into his career.
How did the creation of Slickrock come about?
Sterling and I worked together on a couple of films for Discovery in the ’90s when we did Secrets of the Pharaohs and The Dead Sea Scrolls. We just decided lets do something together. Let’s work together in both documentaries and features and anything in between. Docudrama will have its place on the agenda.
It’s kind of nice after many years of focusing on natural history as I have been doing, to just get into it from another angle.
How will you balance your time between Scandinature and Slickrock?
We’ll do a couple of film projects through Scandinature and continue the archive of course, and together with a group in Sweden we call Nordic United, where a couple of documentary filmmaking companies have come together under one brand and are putting the archives together for international distribution. We’re right in the middle of setting up the film archive stock library under Nordic United.
We had our departure into broadband, we set up MPS Broadband here in North America and worked on that for one and a half years but felt we wanted to go back to filmmaking and provide material for broadband delivery and wait for the market and technology to catch up. The technology is there though. I feel very confident about broadband delivery today. Right now with IBC in Amsterdam, the big costumer market in Europe, we have material there together with another company that does HD broadband delivery and we’re going to continue to work with them to get the quality up on broadband because I think, especially here in north America with HD on television, people are used to it and they’re going to demand HD on broadband sooner or later.
Learning from Light, a one-hour doc about 91-year-old architect I.M. Pei’s newest creation the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, is the first project for Slickrock. What made you choose subject?
It came to us. We were invited to come over to Qatar to see if we could help them build a film industry. We looked at the possibility of setting up a film school because we said step one in building a good industry is of course that you have talent and that they have a chance to develop through internships. We traveled around the country and we saw they were in the construction stage of this museum and we said ‘are you doing a film about this?’ They said we should do it. So we said yes.
The opportunity to work with someone like I.M. Pei and follow him the way we have for a couple of years has been an amazing journey. He’s an icon in the architectural world and at 91 he’s still going strong. He didn’t just say yes when he was asked if he wanted to be the architect of this prostigous project, he said, I’ll come back to you. Then he studied Islamic history, Islamic art history and Islamic architecture for half a year, then he came back and said yes. But like the super-architect he is, he doesn’t construct the typical Islamic architectural building. He said there’s an old Islamic mosque in Cairo that’s his inspiration. Something built in the 8th or 9th Century fit his ideal of what traditional Islamic architecture is. It’s been a journey for him and us and it’s been fascinating.
Apart from this film we’re also in the planning stages of a three part series on the history of Islamic art which is going to be a big international documentary project. We will bring that to MIPCOM and we hope to start shooting next year.
What’s the aim for Slickrock?
Sterling and I have been around long enough now to not necessarily say it was better in the past, but we can say styles are changing. There is so much reality and we are not into the reality end of filmmaking. We think the classical documentary film has a role to play where you actually spend the time getting the best photography, you spend the time getting the story where people will say ‘wow I didn’t know that’ and we think there’s a place for those films on screens around the world. We’d also like to do more dramatizations inside our documentaries. There are different ways of doing that and I think we all agree in the business these days that bad reenactments are really bad and good reenactments can really work.
You have to be very cautious because we still have to inspire the buyers to buy into the projects. I normally say that buyers are still more conservative than their audience. They’re not likely to take the risks that an audience can do with a film. It’s difficult to convince a buyer to buy into a new concept that looks different. That’s a pity, but that’s a fact.
What do you think is the key issue effecting your industry right now?
As someone who has been around for awhile, I find it more and more complicated to keep up with new structures and the very rapid turnover at some of the broadcasters. The terrestrial traditional public broadcasters of Europe, no problem, people usually stay around long enough to keep relationships. But take the Discoverys and cable operators around the world, they have a fairly quick turnover of people. To build long term relationships is much harder today than it was.
It’s a healthy environment though. There are a lot of channels and a lot of options. I’d rather focus on the positive side than the negative.