Under the subtitle: “Seriously playful”, the Swedish-based film production company founded by Helene and Leif Mohlin, has specialized in producing family-oriented stories, treating serious subjects in an entertaining way, with kids often at the center of the story.
Recently, Mint has chosen to work with Music Partner on the composition and production of an original soundtrack for one of their current projects. We have asked Leif Mohlin, Producer and Manager to introduce MINT and its activities.
Music Partner: MINT is an internationally recognizable name that often refers to a flavor or unblemished condition or connected to the manufacture of coins. Is there a story behind calling your company MINT?
LEIF MOHLIN: We liked the connotation of MINT as in MINT condition, as well as the fresh and often sweet taste of MINT. Our family name is Mohlin, playing with letters and "Min" which in Swedish means "Our", we ended up with MINT
MP: MINT aims to produce drama combined with a pedagogic message. Where this ambition to educate through storytelling is coming from?
LM: Yes, we produce drama with a message, but not necessarily pedagogic. "Minichefs" for instance, our current production for which Music Partner is producing the soundtrack, is based on the idea that kids like to play around pretending to be adults. So "Minichefs" is exactly what children are playing, but in this case, they are not pretending. Their adventure is a real one, and they are actually in charge. Being in charge leads to challenges. And here is the key to our mission. We want to show and make children feel they are very capable, that they can solve problems and handle different challenges. These are the stories that we loved as kids ourselves and this is the message.
MP: The format mostly used by MINT is the feature film. Are you considering the production of documentaries or TV series?
LM: We are producing documentaries and TV series as well. For example, “Animals that change the world” tells the story of 12 different animals and their importance to the ecosystem in light of the current climate change. It is a 12 episodes docuseries. Another interesting example is the documentary “Love Sex” where young couples reflect on their relationship and their experience of intimacy. As you can see, MINT is producing educative content for all ages.
MP: What are the main differences working with young actors?
LM: The key is to cast young actors that are close to the character they are going to play. Of course we must work with them like amateurs and can’t expect them to be able to adjust and redo scenes in the way professional actors would. But that is not necessarily a child issue and more a question of experience. What is really interesting, is that they are kids, they understand what this game is about in the eyes of a child. In an exciting way, they are our experts.
MP: You share the leadership of MINT with Helene Mohlin and have a team of loyal collaborators. Could you introduce your team and their responsibilities?
LM: Helene and I founded MINT in 2005, with the idea of developing stories for and about children. This has led us to look for collaborators that primarily like to work with children and share our devotion to storytelling.
Sara Blohmé started in 2009 and has a degree in industrial design. She is working a lot with costumes, casting and other pictorial elements and is always a part of our creative team when evaluating ideas.
Pernilla Olsson joined us in 2013 after graduation from STDH (Stockholm school of Creative arts) as Director.
Frej Bergstrand writes some scripts and is a incredibly talented and appreciated Assistant Director. He joined MINT in 2011 and is today studying biology.
Kristoffer Jönsson, our Director of Photography, is a freelance prize-winning DP (Guldbagge 2018).
Finally, our scriptwriter Arne Lindtner Næss. Norwegian acclaimed Director and scriptwriter. He and Pernilla share the direction of "Minichefs".
MP: Malmo is at the very south of Sweden, a bridge away from Copenhagen Denmark. Would you say that your geographic location is culturally influencing the subject of your productions?
LM: Malmo is a remarkably interesting and culturally vibrant city. According to public statistics it is number three in the world regarding the number of languages spoken in one city. It is also very young, the median age for men is 31 and 26 for women. It has an unconventional and highly ranked university in parallel to big gaming industry. It is also a relatively poor city with rather high unemployment. So having said all this, it is one of the largest urban area in the Nordic Countries. If you go 60 minutes in any direction from Malmo you will reach around 4 million people, (2.8 million or so in Denmark). This does of course influence our culture. But now during the Pandemic we are cut off from Denmark. This is very significant as well. I can see Copenhagen from my window, but we cannot go there. Have not been to Copenhagen since February 2020…. It feels odd.
MP: Producers see their role as multi taskers, but a great definition was given to us in an interview on this very blog by Marc Smolowitz founder of 13th Gen productions in San Francisco: “The role of a Producer is to make sure a movie gets on screen”. How would you define your role as a Producer?
LM: We are Producers in the story-telling business. Yes, reaching and moving the audience is what it's all about. But for us, producing goes further, keeping the original idea and vision. We only develop our own ideas or ideas that are very close to us.
Our task is to keep the fire or the magic of the basic idea living and vibrant. Out of this concept, we produce the project.
MP: How much artistic or creative input do you have with Writers and Directors?
LM: When the idea is coming from us, they will know our vision, then it is up to them to give life to the story. We never interfere, there is no need to. We are in constant communication though, but we do not bring critical comments to the work of our Writers and Directors.
MP: Beyond the Producer role, do you or Helene write stories you intend to produce?
LM: We are developing ideas. But we do not write our own scripts. With a few exceptions.
MP: What is the process in choosing the projects you plan on producing?
LM: We should really review our process and cut down a bit on ideas. Too many projects get into development because we like them, but do not get funded. We always have something "cooking" on our slate.
MP: Do you have an anecdote or funny story you could share with us?
LM: In 2009 at "Cinekid" we had an appointment with a Swedish still photographer who had a vision about a film and we were not overly impressed with her ideas though, we did not want to make her unhappy. It was obvious she had led a very tough life. So we met, and got along very well. She had settled in the Netherlands as her new homeland but now she wanted us to take on this script. We promised to do our best. She is a particularly good photographer, and the jury was led by another photographer so one could say they bonded over the images that came from the script and we received funding for a 30mn film. This was a huge task. This talented photographer never had written a story before, much less a script, and never directed. But she did know how a photo could tell a story. We prepared and prepared and tested and kept on testing. Finally, we shoot the film, which was in a way saved in the editing room, and had it screened in Gothenburg January 2012. The rest of the competing titles were produced by well known professionals. But her film, based on a true story, did not only win the Jury prize but also the audience prize. this had never happened before, and it got played directly live on national Broadcast the same evening. That was a great moment. A first impression is not always a good one, how you tell a story that moves the audience is the key to most successes.
MP: Getting investors to be part of a film is a central focus of independent Producers. How do you source necessary funding to start production?
LM: We work with distributors here in Scandinavia, national film fund, regional film fund and European funds through Creative Europe.
MP: Have your films been distributed outside of Scandinavia?
LM: We are now working with "Level K" in Copenhagen, they will sell our film
MP: You recently asked Music Partner to compose and produce the score of a film currently on your slate. What are the artistic and business factors motivating your choice?
LM: We looked for something that was not what to expect on a domestic feature aimed at family audiences. Sweden is a small country, and we wanted a different approach, still within the grasp of our young audience, our primary audience.
Music Partner offered a fresh take, and we were so pleased with the demo test they produced that we ask them to compose the score for "Minichefs".
The team is fun and their working model unparalleled.
Minichefs behind the scenes
MP: COVID-19 has affected everyone in the industry, have you resumed production and what is MINT working on for 2021?
LM: "Minichefs "of course. We are trying to fund educational TV series and children's drama series. In September, we are organizing the Nordic kids' media conference (https://www.nordickidsmedia.se) where it will be possible to meet all the youth department from the four Nordic Public Service Companies. (SVT, YLE, DR and NRK)