Eight-time Staff Picked filmmaker Kristoffer Borgli knows how to find a great documentary subject. Or wait, does he? Are his films, which follow sensitive emo fans with restraining orders, underground Youtube stars who share dance moves and drug recipes, and his own existential breakdown, as earnest as they seem? Or is Borgli a master of fabricating charming yet complicated people and scenarios that are simultaneously relatable and ridiculous?

Today’s Staff Pick Premiere, “Former Cult Member Hears Music For The First Time,” gradually, painfully, and hilariously answers these questions. What is so entertaining about this Sundance 2020 film is that as the plot increases in absurdity, its characters become more familiar to us. In short, the longer the short goes on, the harder the laughs come. Those who create and/or watch documentaries may be laughing (or crying) the hardest. 

In celebration of today’s exclusive online premiere, we reached out to Kristoffer Borgli to learn more about how the film came together. Scroll on for excerpts from our conversation.

On the film’s inspiration: 

“The initial sparks of inspiration are always abstract to me,  but my first rational thought that organized the abstract ideas I was having into a cohesive narrative was to make a film that tracks the moment when sanctimonious altruism as a business model contradicts itself. Altruism can be a positive sum game, but it seems that the shallow and opportunistic versions out-crowd the effective ones. Most importantly, I saw this scenario as a great comedic opportunity.”

On mockumentaries: 

“From my early days I just saw that format, that way of shooting, as a convenient and accessible way of exploring a character. I don’t know if I ever had a special interest in mockumentary as a genre, but I guess the flickering edge between fact and fiction is a place I’m attracted to.”

On Los Angeles’ influence on his work: 

“I love this boring paradise, but moving to LA was not motivated by seeing it as a great setting for film, I was simply sick of the cold and brutal winters we have in Norway.”

On fooling an audience: 

“People will believe anything! They’ll believe this interview is real.”

On advice to aspiring filmmakers: 

“In the slightly altered words of Glengarry Glen Ross: ABC – Always Be Creating.”

Check out more Staff Pick Premieres


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