André and Vito Gogola are multi talented Swedish filmmaker brothers who are embarking on an exciting career in the industry. I spoke to them after watching their immediately captivating short film Borders (2019) which features Magnus Af Sandberg (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)).
You can watch Borders (2019) by the Gogola Brothers immediately below.
FF: When did you realise that you both wanted to work together as filmmakers?
AG: I think it kind of emerged organically. So I really don’t know when we made that decision. It’s almost felt like we always wanted to make movies together to be perfectly honest.
VG: Actually I remember… I think we were maybe around 10 years old and Andre saying ‘how about we make movies together as the Gogola Brothers or something?’ So, really since then… We were both creative; we both liked to make movies and to draw, and these kind of things.
FF: Can you explain what Borders (2019) is about and did one of you write it or was it a collaborative piece of work?
VG: It was a collaborative. It’s basically about a relationship within a drama or thriller set on the North Korean border. It’s this love story between two people in a situation that is very complex and tough for them.
AG: We’d read about Sweden’s unique role in the North Korean/South Korean border and, so, we thought maybe we should do like a love story there. Later on, in the process of writing, we added elements that would increase the tension of the story, like having her pregnant and the very impatient soldier etc.
FF: What’s the main takeaway that you’d like the audience to get from this film?
VG: I think the main takeaway is that they are going to feel enthralled and that they want to watch more. We make these short movies with a lower budget to showcase what kind of movies we want to eventually make in longer formats. So we want to make something that looks really cinematic and really cool and something that people want to see more of, basically. It seems like at least some people who have seen Borders (2019) have had that kind of feeling as well, that they want to see it as a feature length film or even a series.
AG: We really wanted to make something that quickly grabs the viewer’s interest in the story. So I guess that’s one of the goals, to make a story that was really engaging.
AG: So, in Sweden we have like a website for actors and extras etc. and I don’t remember if we contacted him or if he contacted us, but we basically made an announcement on this website that we’re going to make Borders (2019). We really liked what he had to offer for the story during the audition. It was a fairly quick process and it was the same thing in regards to Dennis Tapio, who plays the soldier.
FF: I noticed from the credits of the film that you write, direct and produce this film together which is impressive in itself, but you also wrote and performed the music for it. Is that something you’ve learned to do recently or have you always been musically capable as well?
VG: I think it’s kind of the same thing as film making though I think we’ve made movies for a longer period of time. Maybe since we’re about 14? [looks at AG] Yeah, you were 12 and I was 14?
AG: Yeah, actually, we took drum classes before and, I don’t know about you [looks at VG], but I never really thought I could make music until we got new software for our computers and stuff like that, but it was still terrible music! So, it was like a really long process of slowly starting to understand how to actually make something that people enjoy. So, yeah, maybe around that time.
VG: Yeah, it started around that time. We liked listening to music as well and it was something that we really liked doing. So, we thought we’d combine those two things – making movies and also make music for it.
FF: What did you both learn from your Master’s degrees in Film and Media Production at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, USA
VG: One major aspect I think is that we learned to grow a thicker skin. When you’re in an environment with a lot of people, especially teachers, as well as other students who have strong opinions about your film, sometimes it’s good to listen to what they have to say and perhaps change your original idea. But one thing that is hard is to stand up for your own idea if you truly believe that it’s the right thing to do. So I think, at least personally, that has been something that I have sort of become better at: defending ideas that I truly think will work. So I think that is one important aspect that you can get when you work with other people in a school environment. A lot of people have different opinions about what you do.
AG: Yeah, I agree. It definitely was a process of realising that, in some areas, when it comes to filmmaking, you have to become more stubborn. I think it’s an easy mistake to make, when you start making movies, to be very open to the idea that you could be wrong… But, at the end of the day, it’s also your vision. So, you have to have some respect for your vision.
VG: Yeah, and in that sense, you’re also more willing to accept when you’ve made a decision and it turned out to be wrong, because then you can only blame yourself as opposed to just following everyone else’s opinion and, then, if it doesn’t turn out well you’re just angry that you listened to them!
AG: Yeah, and then you’re like, ‘I knew it…!’ – that my idea was best or they were wrong etc.’
FF: Do you foresee a time in the future where you may work on your own projects instead of working together, essentially.
VG: No. I think we work exceptionally well together because we have kind of the same taste, but we do some aspects differently as well. We also kind of compensate for each other’s flaws.
Artistically and aesthetically we have the same vision which is a real benefit when working together with someone. So, I can’t imagine making my own feature or film. [AG nods in agreement].
FF: Can you tell me a bit about what you’re currently working on and what’s next for you guys?
AG: So, right now we’re working on a science fiction project….
VG: Yeah, The Swedish Film Institute, and Swedish TV are inviting pitches for collaborative projects. So we’re working on a science fiction story to pitch for that. If you ‘win’, that’s 1.4 million crowns to make an eight minute film. So what we’re going to do is we’re gonna work on this story that is basically about humans being a minority on another planet where another species live; so kind of the difficulty of being a minority as a human being on this planet.
AG: Yeah, so, the story really starts where the main character is planning on escaping from this place (humans live in awful conditions) and it has some social undertones as well. But I think we also want to tell a genuinely entertaining story..
Also we have this Nordic noir idea. In Nordic countries, for some reason, detective stories and criminal tv shows are really popular; they’re like our biggest exports in terms of entertainment. So, actually, you [looks at VG] had the idea that we should do perhaps an homage to that genre that we hold so dear in our region. It will most likely be a production that’s more similar to Borders (2019), where we just do everything and we don’t have institutes helping us to make this.
FF: When do you think that when do you think he might be in a position to shoot your first feature length film?
AG: We have some ideas… we’re kind of split on this issue, because part of us feels like we should just go and make the film, you know? Another part of us is a little bit like, when it’s our first feature film, we really need to bring our ‘A’ game. We don’t want to rush the decision, you know? The idea would be a revenge tale set in Stockholm but it isn’t developed yet.
VG: We studied in Los Angeles for one year and had the opportunity to work there for one year after our education, as part of the so-called OPT. But we decided to go back to Sweden and, as soon as we came back, we were like, ‘let’s start developing this feature… let’s, let’s get going!’ So, as a result, we have a couple of ideas and a couple of drafts as well. I think we really want to find a story that we’re so madly in love with that we can work on it for like a year or something. We’re still kind of trying to make up our minds… We’re not really sure which one to settle on. But as you [looks at AG] said, we want to, like bring our ‘A’ game to it as well, because that’s kind of when we feel that we’re starting our official filmography. So we don’t want to start with something that isn’t good enough.