Danish director William Sehested Høeg is an exciting new talent who premieres his new short film ‘The Complaint’ this week.
The film features a fantastic cast including the likes of Simon Sears (Shorta), Natalie Madueño (Those Who Kill), Dulfi Al-Jabouri (The Investigation), and Mikael Birkkjær (Borgen) – not to mention his sister Emma Sehested Høeg (Killyjoy) too.
We spoke with the director about bringing the film to life.
Tell our audience a little bit about what your debut film is about?
The film is about toxic group dynamics in the workplace and the role we each play in creating them. It is my most personal film since the very first short I directed. I want to tell stories, where I can portray some of the more “unpleasant” sides of myself. I do this primarily because I hope that an audience can recognize the same sides in themselves and find liberation in sharing their shame.
The film questions our constant need to compare ourselves to others. Like many others in my generation I struggle with self-worth, and I spend an incredible amount of time in my life doubting myself. It has caused an extreme need for people to like me. The worst thing I can imagine is if someone doesn’t like me.
It was fun to make a film about a character who lets her social-conspiracy thoughts run wild and see how wrong it can go. And at the same time a story about how difficult it is for us to lose face – or admit a mistake.
How did the idea and concept of the film come about for you?
It started with a fascination with self-help culture. I researched various books, coaches and courses and came across a woman, who for a year had been living by the philosophy of a new self-help book every month. Oscar Giese (screenwriter) and I attended a coaching seminar over a weekend in October 2021 at a fancy hotel. It was a wild experience with magic, coaching, joint dancing, joint reading, etc. During a lunch break, Oscar suggested that there was an exciting concept for a story here. Some characters check into a hotel and attend a seminar over a weekend – and how do they feel when they check out again?
The film has a fantastic cast, what was it like to get to work with these stars?
For me, a film is nothing without a good cast. We had an idea at an early stage to make a film with an ensemble cast, but with a big lead role. I found that the cast and I were all on the same page in terms of what story we were trying to tell. And through our rehearsals before filming, we discovered how the film’s humour and tone should feel. We spent a lot of time on that.
I remember the filming as a really good time with lots of laughs. We ourselves think that the situations we tried to film were unbearably fun to be in – which confirmed to us that we were on the right track.
And also getting to direct your sister too – how was that experience?
Fortunately, we have worked together before – on many different things. But I definitely feel that this film was the biggest project we have collaborated on so far. My sister is a brilliant partner – both personally and as an actor on set. She is so generous and very dedicated to her work. She challenges me – because she knows me so well. But most importantly, I think it’s fantastic that we manage to be each other’s best friends in private – and great colleagues when we work.
Numerous times I had to pinch myself on set. It felt very surreal to stand with my sister at the filming of my graduation film from the Danish film school. It’s something we’ve both dreamed of since we were very young.
You have the film’s premiere in Denmark this week – what are your plans next with the film?
This film sets the tone with the type of films I want to continue to direct. I want to continue working with comedy and try to create new conventions of the genre.
The film’s producer, Sofie Bergstein, calls our film a suspense-comedy. And I absolutely love that! So hopefully the film will be able to be used as a reference point, when we pitch our first feature.
At this point, we see the story as a closed chapter – but you never know. There are many thematic elements that I would like to continue working with on my first feature film. There are many different ways to talk about toxic group dynamics – both as a feature film and as a TV series.
We thoroughly enjoyed this short film and ensemble cast and will keep you posted when the opportunity comes round for a wider audience to see the film.