We Are The Art Life: Interview with Thor Amli

Welcome back to Matt Armitage’s and my bi-weekly column showcasing the art and artists inspired by Twin Peaks, and in some cases other Lynch works. This week I talk to the brilliant filmmaker, Thor Amli, about his Twin Peaks inspired short film, ‘The Summer House at Pearl Lakes’ his inspiration for the film and what he has coming next!

Watch “The Summer House at Pearl Lakes” in full here:

The Summer House at Pearl Lakes from Thor Åmli on Vimeo.

25YL: Last year we had the pleasure of seeing your short film ‘The Summer House at Pearl Lakes’ which, as you know I absolutely adore! It is exactly how I pictured BOB luring Leland into becoming his host, so beautifully creepy. When did you get the idea to do this?

TA: Thank you so much for those kind words, Laura! I got the idea around October 2016. After rewatching season 1 and 2 I suddenly got the idea after watching the episode “Drive with a Dead Girl”. I pictured in my head the opening of my short film:  Young Leland lying on the floor, driving his toy car from side to side while we hear “Surrey with the Fringe on Top”. That picture in my head got me started with this short film.

25YL: Oh I love that! Can you tell us a little about how it became a reality? How long did it take?

TA: Yes, for a really long time I wanted to see how BOB and Leland met. How to create when evil meets innocence? One of the first things I did was to re-watch several episodes and read all the things around what Leland actually said happened to him with BOB. It was very important to me to get this story correct. The sad scene where Leland dies in Coopers arms, when Leland enters the sheriff station with the poster of BOB were among those. When I had all those things right I wrote down the story of how I imagined it would look. Then I contacted two friends of mine who I know have a lot of old props. The dress used in the movie I got from one friend and all the other props I borrowed from a friend of mines parents. They collect old things and the things I use in my short film are original 1950s props and most of them are from USA too. The toy car was the most important one for me. It took me around three days to pick those out. I am so grateful that I got to borrow those. It took two days to do the shooting: All the exterior scenes was done on March 25th 2017 and all the interior scenes we did April 1st 2017. It took me a little over three weeks to edit it.

young leland plays with toy cars

25YL: Everyone has their own story about how they first got into Twin Peaks, what’s yours? Were you a fan back when it originally aired?

TA: Yes I was a huge fan already from 1990! I actually didn’t watch the pilot when it first aired but I watched everything from Episode 1. A friend of mine asked me if I saw the pilot the Monday after it was shown in Norway. I told him no and he said that I had to watch it because the girl who was found dead was so pretty. I had to check that out and that is how I got hooked! I was 14 and I can remember almost every single feeling I had watching it. BOB stills scares me! I was one of those who had seen the VHS Twin Peaks movie with the European ending before the series came out, so I thought all along that BOB was the killer hiding in the basement on the hospital. When I figured it was Leland it freaked me out even more! I was hooked throughout the whole series.  

25YL: I was lucky enough to see your film on the big screen at the Twin Peaks UK Fest last year and it was also shown at the US Fest, those must have been such proud moments for you?

TA: That’s one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced! So honored, grateful, proud and happy! It was kind of scary making a story about something that iconic, but I took a big chance and I am so glad I did it. I never imagined it to become this popular! Taking those kind of chances turned out great and that is why I want to take a different kind of feeling with my new short film I am planning. I might make something different, but something we all have Twin Peaks references to. I might do a prequel or a sequel to ‘The Summer House at Pearl Lakes’. I am still in the planning of this.

25YL: Oh I really hope you do! I think what made ‘Summer House..’ so popular is that it really clicked with people, that you depicted the scene like they had imagined it, the way that BOB stalked Leland, lured him in before taking him host. Brilliantly done!

pearl lakes 3

25YL: So what cameras/medium do you use to make your films?

TA: I shot ‘The Summer House at Pearl Lakes’ with my Nikon D5300 and I edited it in Final Cut Pro X. I am planning to buy a more expensive camera, but I have to save some more money first.

25YL: Did you have much of a budget to work with and how was it funded?

TA: No, I didn’t have much of a budget. I used the money I had in my own account. I borrowed props, so the only thing that actually cost me some in this short film were Leland’s clothes and the corn. I am guessing it cost me around a total of $50. I got help from friends to all the locations and props, so that was no cost for me. You can see that it is a low budget film, but since I don’t have a bigger budget that is how I like to make them. I would love to make a bigger movie once with a bigger budget.

25YL: On the contrary, I don’t think it looks low budget at all! You did an amazing job with the finances you had at your disposal and the actors were superb! Did you hire them or were they friends?

TA: Thank you so much! Yes, they are just perfect for those parts! Andreas who played BOB was a fellow student in my drama class. Bendik who plays the little boy is a son of a friend of mine from kindergarten teacher education. I put out on my Facebook that I needed a 12 year old boy to play in a Twin Peaks short film. He sent me photo of him and I saw immediately that he was perfect for the part. He didn’t audition or anything, but I knew that he was perfect! He did an amazing job! Linn who plays the woman I have known for many years. She is a kindergarten teacher and also likes to act. I think she is a great actress who I hope to work some more with. I have to say that David Lynch’s way of directing has inspired me very much. His way is how I directed the actors in this short film. I told that certain things that I wanted them to feel and then do the scene. We didn’t have that many takes because of their great performance and energy on set. They acted the way I had imagined it in my head.

25YL: The Twin Peaks fan community has been hugely supportive of your film and rightly so! How’s the experience been this last year?

TA: Truly amazing! The love and support I have gotten is huge! First of all I have to thank the Twin Peaks festival in North Bend who has this short film contest where I won 1st place with it in 2017. Without them I wouldn’t have had to chance to get this publicity and love! I am so grateful and thankful for what they have done for me. The same goes for Twin Peaks festival UK who screened my short film at the festival. So grateful! I have gotten so many texts, messages, inquiries and new friends because of this. Cameron Cloutier has also told me that I was one of his inspirations to start making the Twin Peaks fan movie “Queen of Hearts”. That makes me so happy and humble to hear. I also love it when people share their thoughts and feelings after watching it. That gives me so much inspiration! The first one to ever watch my short film were my good friends Mary and Tim Reber. After they watched it and gave me their feedback I knew I had done something right and good!

25YL: How did you feel about Series 3 and what’s your take on the finale?

TA: I love it! I couldn’t re-watch part 17 and 18 before a week had passed. It was just too much to take in and interpret. I find it difficult enough to express the thoughts and feelings I have when I speak with my Norwegian friends. I find it even harder to articulate what I feel in English, but I absolutely love the article ‘Hiding in Plain Sight – Judy Revealed’ by Brien Allen and ‘Understanding Season 3: How the Fireman “brings back some memories” – Electricity Nexus #14‘ by John Bernardy. If I was able to write something as good as those I would have liked to describe something like that. My first thought after I saw Laura scream was: “Oh wow… I love this, but this is too smart for me to interpret yet. I have to let this sink in”. It is still sinking in and I still love it very much! It gets better and better every time I watch it. I would love a Season 4!

pearl lakes 6

25YL: Oh me too! Still praying for some more good news, but in the meantime I hear that you have a new film on the horizon? Inspired by Series 3?  Can you tell us anymore about that?

TA: Well, I can say this much: I have the opening and final shot clear in my mind and the music for the final shot. I want to make something that will be somewhat different than “The Summer House at Pearl Lakes” but at the same time with the same sense and feeling. I don’t know how it will be when it is finished, but this is my plan thus far. I have almost every role ready, but finding the right location is always very hard since I am a perfectionist. I hope to find the locations and start shooting by the end of April.

25YL: I really can’t wait to see it, I know you will do a great job as you said, you are a perfectionist and that shows in your work.

Have you been inspired to create by any other shows or films recently?

TA: I love series like Stranger Things, Game of Thrones, Black Mirror, Lost, The Leftovers, etc., They inspire me in different ways to make ideas to stories and characters. I also learn so much listening to the actors, Sabrina Sutherland and David Lynch about how ideas appear, “happy accidents”, how they are directed, etc. But when it comes to inspiration to actually make them and direct, my biggest and almost only inspiration is Twin Peaks and David Lynch. Twin Peaks has such a special place in my heart and look at how many people who have made so many new Twin Peaks friendships over the years. I have Twin Peaks friends all over the world now. Twin Peaks makes pure magic and makes the inspiration and people come together! I am forever grateful to the town that has the best cherry pie and damn fine coffee.

Thor at the infamous Snoqualmie Falls

25YL: Thank you Thor it has been so wonderful to speak to you and absolutely fascinating to hear about how the film came to be. I think I can speak for the whole fan community when I say that we can’t wait for your next film. Good luck with it!

Laura Stewart

Written by Laura Stewart

Laura is the Editor-In-Chief at 25YL and she runs the Music Department. She has been part of the team since May 2017 when she began writing about her favourite TV show of all time: Twin Peaks. 25YL is her passion project and is constantly delighted at how big and beautiful it has grown.

Laura lives by the sea in Gower, Wales, with her husband and a very special little boy.

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