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LIU Film Student Wins International Short Film Contest

Mimmi C. Montgomery

“Someday, I’d like to become the world’s greatest filmmaker,” said Petter Holmsen, 21, the winner of Norwegian Videomarathon 2012, and later, the winner of the Scandinavian version of Videomarathon 2012. In late September, the Norwegian film student returned to LIU, after flying to Copenhagen, where his short film ‘Have You Heard About…?’ was elected winner of this year’s Videomarathon contest, awarding him $17,200. Somewhat jet-lagged, but excited to be back in New York, Petter shared the process of making the short film, what he intends to do with the prize money, and why he decided to study in the U.S.

At a Hungarian-Czech restaurant in the West Village that serves crusty, well-tasting sandwiches and European draft beer, Petter explained his definition of the “the world’s greatest filmmaker.” Has the world’s dominating filmmaker generated the largest amount of money? Produced the most popular blockbusters? Or is he or she the one with the most trophy’s collecting dust on a shelf? He shrugged his shoulders, as if indicating that he could not define it himself, and replied, “I had a weird dream once. I walked into a store and found a set of plastic miniature figures depicting some of history’s greatest directors. Steven Spielberg was there, so was Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock, along with the Cohen brothers. I remember thinking to myself, that one day, I want to be made into a plastic miniature figure and join them in that box.” If he will ever become that famous remains to be seen, however at this point, the young, Norwegian filmmaker seems to have a promising future.

Holmsen was born in Oslo on Norway’s national day, May 17, 1991. His family became very surprised when an 11-year-old Petter, after having watched Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, gave up his dreams of becoming a chiropractor, claiming that film was what he wanted to do. “Our family does not have a pronounced interest in film,” said Kari Skybak, Petter’s mother. “But at that point, it was like a bolt from the blue that Petter wanted to become a director, and since then, he has been very goal-oriented.”

The 21-year-old graduated high school with good grades. In addition, he always managed to work with film projects outside the classroom. In 2008, he started Purple Cow Pictures, a small film and advertising company, together with two friends. Since then, the three have worked with marketing, produced television commercials and participated in several film festivals, like Amandus in Norway, Strangerfestival in Holland, and Worldfest Houston, Texas, (which they won). This summer, he extended his resume by working in postproduction on reality television in Norway.

During the summer vacation, he left New York and returned to Oslo, where he committed himself to producing a short film for Videomarathon 2012. The contest was inaugurated 12 years ago and aims to discover talented Scandinavian filmmakers. First, contestants participate in the national version, where four pieces are selected by a jury to win a prize. Then, a national winner is appointed and asked to represent the country in the Scandinavian final. Anyone can participate, however the film making process must be executed within frames. Every year, at 12 pm on Friday, Videomarathon reveals a topic that has to be the main theme in every participating film. This year’s topic: Punishment. Thereafter, the contestants must shoot and edit a 3-5 minute-long film in the following 48 hours. The assignment includes writing the manuscript, casting the actors, filming, and cutting. On Sunday at 12 pm, the final piece must be uploaded to the Videomarathon website.

His short film, (exactly five minutes long), was named ‘Have You Heard About…?’, and touched upon the theme of punishment through the conversation between a little girl, Pia, and a man in his twenties, Thomas. Their relationship is undefined, but it is obvious that Thomas is guilty of something. With his guilt comes the little girl’s disappointment in him — with her disappointment, comes disappointment in himself. The story is told from a closet-like space, where the two sit looking back upon a late summer day when they picked apples in a green, summery garden. When reality catches them, the little girl keeps asking: “Why did you do it?” Pia will not be answered, and the audience is left wondering. “I am very satisfied with my actors,” Petter said. “The young girl’s devotion for her part was fantastic. In addition, she chased me between takes, curiously inquiring me what Thomas really had done,” he said.

After having won the Norwegian version of Videomarathon 2012, he was asked to represent Norway in the final. From the beginning, approximately 300 short films had been sent in. He had recently got back to LIU for the fall semester, but did not mind packing his bags and flying across the Atlantic again. His professors encouraged him to go, and at Post, they are impressed by his work. “I think Petter has a wide curiosity and a strong imagination, and I am really looking forward to his continued development as a filmmaker,” said Susan Zeig, a film professor at Post.

On stage, after the obligatory long, nervous minutes, his name was called. “I got confused since I had no idea if the jury was addressing first or third place,” he laughed. When receiving the diploma, he understood though. “It said “Winner Scandinavia,” and I realized that ‘Have You Heard About…?’ had won.”

Winning Norway’s version of Videomarathon, awarded him approximately $1,750. Winning the Scandinavian version, gave him an additional estimated $17,200 prize. According to Petter, there is no doubt what he will use the money for future projects. Next summer will be busy. First, he is planning to make a zombie short film, and later, to travel to Iceland to shoot another project close to the polar circle.

His future projects are still in the planning stage, however, Petter is now back in New York to study, while simultaneously working on starting up a new production company; his “natural next step” after Purple Cow Pictures. His future dream would be to combine working in Norway with working in the United States. “But the Norwegian film market is smaller, and there is not an excessive amount of cinema visitors,” he explained.

Where he might end up is hard to tell, he simply knows that film is his true passion, regardless of location. It might take a while before he is made into a plastic miniature version of himself, however he seems to be headed in the right direction.

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