Sitdown with a Director: Fredrik Bond on His First Film 'Charlie Countryman'

Sitdown with a Director: Fredrik Bond on His First Film 'Charlie Countryman'

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Director Fredrik Bond, who works out of his production company Sonny London for Europe and out of MJZ in the States, is known for his ability to tackle a diverse range of genres, from intense emotion, to visual stunners, to laugh-out-loud comedy and any combination of the above -- apparent in celebrated spots like Heineken's "The Entrance," Levi's "First Time," and Carling's "Space."

He recently made a leap that many in the commercials world aspire to -- feature films. On November 15, his first full-length movie "Charlie Countryman" will hit theaters. Written by Matt Drake, produced out of Voltage Pictures/Bonfide Productions and distributed by Millenium, the off-kilter love story stars Shia LaBeouf as the title character who goes to Romania to fulfill his late mother's wishes. There, he meets his dream woman [Evan Rachel Wood] who carries some unfortunate baggage -- like, for example, a gangster husband [Mads Mikkelsen], requiring Countryman to go to violent, destructive lengths to prove his devotion. Mr. Bond spoke to Creativity about crossing over to features, working with a new kind of acting talent and telling a story he truly loves.

Creativity: How did you get involved in the film? Was this your first attempt at a feature?
Fredrik Bond: I had a few attempts before. I had been trying to write some scripts and also read a lot of them. The really good ones --and the good ones that get made -- are few and far between. I read this script five years ago, and a lot of directors had been first in line. But I bided my time and when it became available, I put all my horses on it.

Creativity: What attracted you to this film?
Mr. Bond: It's very hard to find something that speaks to the core of yourself. The tone and temperament of this script attracted me, and it resonated with a time in my life in my eary 20s in the early '90s and I didn't know what to do. For lack of better options, I jumped on a plane and decided to travel and experience different people and places -- without a parachute. I went to Japan, Australia, New Zealand. It was extremely instrumental for me. When you're looking for yourself, going on an adventure, you come across very absurd, fantastical situations. What I wanted to capture was sort of a fever dream -- is this true, or not true? Not a dream sequence but it has those moments.

Creativity: Can you talk about how you landed the film? What did you do to convince the producers you were the director for this job?
Mr. Bond: It was a process of five to six months before I finally came on board. You meet all the producers and there are a lot of meetings. I think finally they just felt it was coming from the right place. I wasn't masking any of my passions. I was very blunt about what I wanted to do. It was not like I just wanted to make a movie -- this was a movie I really wanted to make, so when you go in with the amount of love I had for the project, maybe they felt it.

Creativity: Can you talk about the casting process?
Mr. Bond: I met Shia LaBeouf, and he had also been someone who was wanting to do this film for a long time. I was extremely excited to see how he was as enthusiastic and intense about the movie as I was. And then you really have to populate the movie around our lead actor, create your symphonic orchestra. We started from there, and we talked about who the [lead] woman could be. Evan Rachel Wood was the first woman we discussed. She's an incredible actress, she has a bit of hardened, Romanian quality, and wasn't 100 percent about playing off her female Hollywood softness. We needed someone with an edge.

Creativity: What about working with the actors on set? I imagine it's different from what you encounter in spots.
Mr. Bond: It couldn't be more different. They are artists in their own right, and they know how to use their instruments, and every instrument requires its own technique. So you have to be aware of everyone using their different techniques -- that's a big part of my direction. It's all about the prep. YOu really work closely with the talent, you craft who the characters are, and in commercials you don't often do that.

Creativity: What was it like working with Shia LaBeouf? I read he actually dropped acid for a scene in which he drops acid.
Mr. Bond: He's a form of method actor -- not pure method, but he works in that range. He basically came to Romania as the main character of the movie and didn't step out of character. He experienced Bucharest through the eyes of Charlie Countryman. It was an incredible gift -- very seldom do you get to work closely with an actor who gives so much. I never saw him on a cellphone or on the Internet. He was 100% in the movie. It's a very emotional, eclectic and vibrant ride, and in certain scenes when you get to the day of shooting, you see that he's ready. So there's no point in talking about the scene. Other times, you talk much more, you discuss more. On the day of that scene, I could see he was ready. There was no point discussing anything, so I decided, "Let's shoot it." I don't know what he did that day, but he was good.

Creativity: Overall, what was the biggest challenge on the film?
Mr. Bond: When I do commercials, I kind of try to absorb myself into the commercial, and the hours are very long, 24-7. But on a movie, it's not 24-7, it's 28-7, every minute of the day. You have to be completely on top of everything. So to deal with that, I decided we all had to be on an extreme health regime. I became almost a professional athlete. We had boot camp every single morning. I took the whole team with me each morning, and we got Romanian special forces to train us. On our movie, everyone came home exhausted and extremely fit.

Creativity: What was your biggest takeaway from the process of making a feature?
Mr. Bond: I realized that when making a film, you're making it three times -- when you're working with a scriptwriter, when you're shooting and then when you're editing. When you're shooting the movie, you realize it's organic and living and when you're editing, you realize OK, this is what it is. In a way, it's kind of similar to commercials, but the phases are so much more obvious.

Creativity: So how did your commercials experience help you on the film -- or did it?
Mr. Bond: With commercials, you get in so many shooting hours in terms of technique, so on the film, I never had to worry about when and how I wanted to move the camera or block the rooms, since that's something I do all the time. I felt like I could really take a step away from that, once prepping was done. So it gave me a chance to focus on the actors. If I hadn't had that it would have been chaos.

Creativity: Looking back on the film, is there anything you would have done differently?
Mr. Bond: I don't think so. Whether people like the film or not, I felt like I made the most honest movie I could have made. I don't regret anything. It has elements that might scare or offend, but I love my movie. Even if there's a little bit of violence, what I'm most proud of is that everything has heart. There's nothing mean about the movie. Also, what I really loved about it is that it had so many different angles. It was a fun challenge to blend all the different tones -- it's got comedy, a thriller aspect, and at heart, it's a love story. It's a very dynamic, eclectic mix, so if there's only one movie you see this year, this is the movie you want to see [laughs].

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