VON SCHWERIN: A MODERN INTERPRETATION OF ORWELL IN PEACEFORCE

Award-winning director David Gerson describes Beatrice von Schwerin professing, “Beatrice is the epitome of a doer. A producer who always gets the job done as effectively as possible, inventively, and with deep respect for the directors she works with. She grew up a member of the Swedish nobility, spending her youth hunting in the south of Sweden. I believe that hunting nature in her is what makes her such an excellent producer. She treats a film shoot like the hunt; a task to be cautiously, precisely, and effectively maneuvered.” Gerson has worked with von Schwerin on a number of productions such as: Automatic at Sea, All These Voices, Destiny’s Child, and others. Having worked closely with her he knows well that Beatrice can be seen leading the charge just as should would during a hunt. These days, von Schwerin is respected as a producer with many productions to her credit. It’s fitting that Gerson views her as a huntress as we revisit the first film she produced, Peaceforce, as the subject matter is a hunt…a hunt which is much more complex than it appears to be. Beatrice concedes that her forthrightness, determination, and loud speaking voice, are all products of her noble lineage and rearing; attributes that serve her well in leading a film production. More at ease facing challenges on set than relaxing in her family’s castle, this Swedish baroness prefers a life of creative pursuits in an industry that cares nothing about her heritage and yet appreciates every ounce of her talent and hard-work ethic. A dissection of her first production shows that the very template for her approach was a solid foundation which has served her and the films she enables to result in many achievements.

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Beatrice worked in the Danish film industry for 9 years before producing Peaceforce. Denmark is one of the strongest countries when it comes to film production in Europe. Copenhagen has a solid film industry and is equipped to modern standards. In many ways it mirrors the productivity of Hollywood’s industry and community. Peaceforce was the first film on von Schwerin’s long list of producing credits. She confirms, “This is the first production where I realized that I really, REALLY wanted to be a producer. I knew that if I could get the cast and crew through all the challenges, then I could do anything. This film was the ‘AHA’ moment in my career, the one that made me love my job even more than I did previously.” Jonas Allen of Miso Films recognized her talents and placed her in the Producer role for the film. Peaceforce is loosely based on the George Orwell essay “Shooting an Elephant.” The film is set in the near future, in a world where capitalism has run its course. Daniel, a young Peaceforce officer, meets Jesper, a prominent local citizen. Jesper claims that an elephant is running amok in the city and killing people. Spurred on by his idealism and desire to do good, Daniel follows Jesper deep into the heart of a desolate city. Daniel believes he can make a difference by helping the wounded and dealing with the elephant. Not long into his mission, Daniel discovers that he’s in way over his head when he meets a little girl who is the sole survivor of the group that cared for the elephant. Daniel understands that he has been misled by Jesper. Jesper and his hungry entourage keeps breathing down Daniel’s neck. Fearing for his life, Daniel feels forced to make conflicting promises to Jesper and the girl. Soon Daniel finds himself confronted by the magnificent beast, a live elephant. Daniel desperately searches for a way out of this dilemma as he has no desire to kill the beautiful animal. The mob grows ever more impatient and hungry for blood. Daniel finally relents and shoots the beast, thereby betraying not only his own word, but also all that he believes in. It’s an epic and tragic tale. The components used to portray the action on-screen were grand as well. Peaceforce was a challenging shoot, with many different pieces that needed to match. Beyond the typical cast, crew, and locations logisitics, there were elephants, children, extras, & VFX to contend with on this production. Recognizing early on that she could lead with positivity to create momentum, Beatrice began with the animals. She recalls, “We spent two days shooting in a field outside of Copenhagen, close to a circus, where we rented an elephant for the shoot. One day was spent with the elephant and one day with the extras. We had three elephants on set with us and we used one of them. Elephants are flock animals and if you split them up, they are not happy. To contend with this, we had the two elephants not used in front of camera, close by so that they could be in contact with one another. Every now and then during the shoot, we’d have our star [elephant] head over to the others for some down time. It was a great and exciting day for both us and the elephants. I always try to have a positive attitude, no matter how challenging the day may be. I know that if I’m smiling and keeping positive, it trickles down to the cast and crew. It’s always important to show kindness and respect and I try to do that. I don’t separate my crew members from cast members. I really want everyone to feel equal, like one big happy family!” It’s a template that resulted in a happy and committed production family and a successful film as well. Peaceforce received a nomination at the Robert awards (Danish equivalent to Academy Awards) and garnered a Canal+ Award at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival. Director Peter Gornstein couldn’t be happier as he notes, “Making Peaceforce with Beatrice was such a positive experience. I have known and worked with Beatrice for more than 8 years. We have won international awards together as well as developing several other projects. Beatrice is truly a one of a kind person and producer. Her positive energy and go getter mentality is something that spreads to everyone that she works with. Not only does she have a fantastic personality but her skills, and more importantly, her moral compass are beyond reproach. I’ve had to face some tough obstacles in the course of projects we’ve worked on together and no matter how hard or difficult the situation was; Beatrice would always guide me towards taking the high road. When I’ve wavered I have always been able to count on Beatrice to help me make not only the right choices for the projects, but also the moral choices.”

It isn’t always easy to keep that sunshine attitude. Persevering through the sometimes tedious portions of filmmaking are the obstacles that teach von Schwerin how to remain cool and collected. She describes, “Sometimes it’s not going over schedules or obtaining a piece of gear that is the challenge. Quite often it is just getting all the bricks in the puzzle to fall into place! We had so many moving parts on this film. It took what felt like (at the time) an army to get it made. The shoot was only two weeks, but the VFX was done in post and took almost 10 months to complete. When you are coordinating between VFX artist Ivo Horvat being in LA and the Director being in Copenhagen, you sometimes wonder where you are and what time it is.” These days, Beatrice von Schwerin knows exactly where she has been and she is considering heading to Hollywood as she fields offers to be a part of city that is the epicenter of film. One thing is for certain, Hollywood could use another producer who puts a smile on everyone’s face.

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