Set in the world of drama and theatre, this week’s Staff Pick Premiere ricochets ideas around gender politics and representation like no other. “Exposed” by Anna Fredrikke Bjerke explores a collective decision for a young drama student’s most important scene, but clarity on what is right is unclear as difference in opinion becomes stark.

After finding out the theatre director is leaning towards a full-frontal scene, the lead actress makes clear her reservations, but as the decision is made by the ensemble as well, the conversation quickly stumbles awry. Ultimately, an arbitrary move is made for, depending on who you ask, the better or worse. 

Beyond the myriad ideas surrounding this film, one broader theme that stands out is equity. It’s equitable in essence, but when the weight bears on the set of the lead actress’ shoulders alone, this idea gains nuance in more ways than one, and the thought of being truly “exposed” might not be what we think.

Ahead of the premiere, we were pleased to chat with the director Anna Fredrikke Bjerke to chat challenges, inspiration, and advice for burgeoning filmmakers.

On inspiration:

“I always wanted to direct something that explored the artistic struggle of producing theatre, and, in particular, the rehearsal process of a play. Then, my dear friend and frequent collaborator, Vilde Moberg, who`s a trained theatre actress, came to me with the screenplay for “Exposed”, which is inspired by real events and was written with actors in mind. I found that really fascinating. Its examination of the frustration that makes us question our artistic integrity and portrayal of a woman at a crossroads both professionally and personally was immediately recognizable.

The screenplay instantly read as a comedy, which I knew would be important when tackling difficult subject matters such as the film does, including the long-overdue #MeToo movement. In telling this story, which I know resonates with a lot of women especially, the tone had to be humorous and avoid any form of lecturing. I think this comes across in how the characters attempt to navigate the difficult discussion.

I wanted to contrast this intent with gritty visuals that reveal the darker undertones of the story, which tells of personal boundaries being crossed and power positions exploited, which is exquisitely captured by the director of photography, Simon Matthew Valentine. Some works that inspired the film’s visuals are John Cassavetes` ‘Opening Night,’ Alejandro G. Iñárritu`s ‘Birdman,’ Darren Aronofsky`s ‘Black Swan,’ and Noah Baumbach`s ‘Marriage Story.’

I also have to mention the music, which is absolutely brilliantly composed by Anna Berg, and the patient editing of Mathias Hamre Askeland. Their contributions definitely took the film to the next level.”

On challenges:

“We filmed during a global pandemic and with a very limited budget, which was not a small challenge. But we were very fortunate in that everyone involved was willing to extend themselves above and beyond to make the film happen. However, the biggest challenge we faced was when we had to change our exterior location on the day due to loud noise (a heavy metal band suddenly decided to rehearse in the backyard we were supposed to film!).

The director of photography suggested an alternative location, and I didn’t spend much time weighing other options. I sent more than half the crew home and together we drove to the place he’d suggested with two of the actors and the sound recordist. I knew the spot already and felt certain it would work out, which it did! It was a great exercise in trusting my gut instinct and decision-making.”

On advice to filmmakers:

“Don’t judge or dismiss your own writing, and do share it with people whose opinion you trust and value. Find structure in your writing and your working process. And lastly, take the leap. Go out and make your film. It’s the best way to grow as a filmmaker.”

On what’s next:

“I’m currently writing my first feature film, which is an ensemble piece that I have been developing with actors through improvisations for some time, with the support of The Norwegian Film Institute, Viken Filmsenter, and Torino Film Lab. I am also developing a dark comedy series with a Norwegian production company, and directing commercials and music videos in Scandinavia and in the U.K.”

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