Eva Sigurdardottir

Photo courtesy of Kari Sverriss

Photo courtesy of Kari Sverriss

Eva Sigurdardottir is a BAFTA-nominated Producer (Good Night) and Icelandic Academy Award-winning writer/director/producer (Rainbow Party). Rainbow Party was made through the London Calling scheme, and went on to win 12 festival awards, as well as the Icelandic Academy Award for Best Short and was also chosen as the winner of the London Calling scheme in 2015. She was selected as the Best UK Female Director at Underwire Film Festival, nominated as Best Female Director at London Short Film Festival, and chosen as Best New Filmmaker at Toronto Film Week. Sigurdardottir is also the founder of her own production company, Askja Films, which focuses on female-driven stories and filmmakers. She is represented by Kelly Knatchbull at Sayle Screen.

On her first cinematic memory: 
I grew up watching old classics with my father. He really loved the movies of Charlie Chaplin, as well as musicals like The Sound of Music and West Side Story. I loved those musicals, too—they really bring back nostalgia every time I hear the tunes, which I know by heart, of course.

On her path into the film industry:  
It took me a while to figure out that I wanted to get into film. I knew that I loved the arts, and I spent a lot of time on stage doing theater or dance. It gave me a lot of confidence and I really loved it. But I never thought I would go into film, as my father was working in film and I therefore somehow thought it was super lame!

But after registering for medical school, I finally started to think about film, so I did an internship at a local TV station and worked with my father on a short film, and that was really the beginning of it all…. 

I started off as a producer, and I really fell in love with it. I’ve been making my own films as a producer for over 10 years now, as well as working with others. But it wasn’t until recently that I turned my mind to directing. I had always dreamed of directing, but because I didn’t go to the “fancy film school,” I somehow did think that I was “allowed” to direct. After a lot of encouragement, I finally directed my first short film, Rainbow Party, and I really fell in love with directing. I am now working toward a dual career in both directing and producing.

On launching Askja Films: 
As a producer, I have set up my company, Askja Films (www.askjafilms.com), with a focus on female-driven stories and filmmakers. After setting it up, I was inundated with super strong female talent that was simply looking for a home, so I know that the talent is out there. What’s still needed are more producers and more film funds or financiers taking a chance on women directors.

On the making of her short film, Rainbow Party: 
When I wrote the script, I had no idea that it would ever become a film. I had just moved back to Iceland, where I hadn’t lived since I was 14. And so all these old memories from my teenage years came flooding back. I had been bullied at school, so I wrote this script inspired by those memories. I later developed the story a lot further and added lots of fictional elements, yet the inspiration was old memories.

I then submitted the script to Doris Films, a script competition for women, and it won. And then I won a pitch award in Cannes by ShortsTV. So by now I knew I should make the film, but I still only thought of myself as the producer and writer, so I started looking for a director! But after meeting with a few great directors, and hearing all of them say that I should simply do it myself, as it was my personal story, I finally gave in and decided to direct it: I’ve never regretted it. I received funding from so many wonderful organizations including the Icelandic Film Centre, Film London, Erasmus+ etc. The film was shot in spring 2015, and we completed the film in autumn. It has played at over 70 festivals so far and won over 10 festival awards. We won the Best Icelandic Short at the Icelandic Academy Awards, and I picked up an agent off the back of the film, as well. It’s been an amazing journey, and I cannot wait to continue directing.

The concept behind a rainbow party seemed crazy [when I first learned about it]—girls put on different shades of lipstick and give a blow job to a boy, thereby giving him a rainbow pattern on his penis. But when I asked some teenage girls I was working with if they had ever heard of this or something similar, they all gave me the green light that this could happen in their age group. It was perfect, as I had been searching for a way to tell a story about the trivial approach that teenagers have to oral sex, and finally I had found a visual way to tell the story (although we never see a penis in the film!). And [as I said], I have a personal experience with bullying…. But I never went to a rainbow party!  

A still from Rainbow Party. Courtesy of Kari Sverriss for Askha Films.

A still from Rainbow Party. Courtesy of Kari Sverriss for Askha Films.

On what’s ahead for her in 2017:
So many things! I am developing a few feature films, mostly with directors that I’ve made shorts with in the past. Some are closer to production than others, but all are super exciting! I am currently working as a line producer on an Icelandic feature film called And Breathe Normally, directed by Ísold Uggadóttir. I’m also currently preparing my next short film as a director; it’s called Cut, and it’s about a teenage girl who turns to bodybuilding in an effort to change her image after she has been victimized by revenge porn.

On the importance of telling women’s stories:
I simply want to tell stories that I myself would want to watch. It’s not a calculated thought—to tell stories about women— but it’s those stories to which I most relate. Women are complicated and complex, and so I love seeing and telling stories of girls or women who have these complexities and flaws: real dynamic characters, instead of one-sided, flat ones.

Although it is true that women tell more stories about women, I would also like to see more men tell stories about women. And I would also like to see more women telling stories—whether about men or women. It’s about equal opportunity, and we do not yet work in a film industry where it is as attainable for women to direct a film as it is for a man [to do so]. This needs to change—then I believe that we will have more dynamic stories for all audiences.★