Estonia’s Liisi Rohumae recalls highlight of her prestigious screenwriting career

Liisi Rohumae first fell in love with screenwriting as a child. She wore through her VHS copy of Practical Magic, watching it repeatedly, rewinding the tape to her favorite parts just so she could write down quotes that moved her. At that age, she didn’t understand that she was appreciating the dialogue, the brainchild of the screenwriter. 

“I still have that notebook somewhere in the attic, full of quotes from movies I adored. I guess you could say the words of other writers inspired me to write,” said Rohumae. “I don’t think I ever thought about it when I decided I wanted to be a screenwriter. There’s no rhyme or reason to it really. It is my passion. It was more of a becoming. If I’m not writing, I feel like something is missing. I feel incomplete without it.”

Flash forward to today, Rohumae is a leader in her industry in her home country of Estonia, writing box office hits and trending television shows that have captivated Estonian audiences and those around the world. Her shows Secrets (Saladused) and Behind Closed Doors (Suletud Uste Taga) have hit the TOP5 spot, and her film Chasing Unicorns is currently available on Amazon Prime Video in several countries around the world.

Evidently, Rohumae’s resume is decorated with success stories, but she still pinpoints the highlight of her career as working on her film Bad Hair Friday (Vasaku Jala Reede). She still remembers attending the international premiere at the Raindance Film Festival in London, England where It was nominated for the Raindance Film Festival Best Debut Feature Award. The film went on to be a box office success, spending the first 4 weeks in a top 3 position at the Estonian box office and had a total 9-week run in cinemas. The film participated at Cannes Film Festival 2012 where it had a Market Premiere. 

“Working on that film was such a memorable experience. A bunch of young people making their very first feature film together with no money and a lot of passion. And then to end up representing it alone in London at the Raindance Film Festival just felt like a crazy dream. But the film was well received and I was able to talk about the writing process and how it all came together. It is so cool to see how a film travels, what impression it has on international audiences and critics. It cemented my love of film festivals – both as a place to interact with fellow filmmakers and audience members,” said Rohumae.

At an ever-accelerating pace, this thriller/dark comedy tells the story of eight very different groups whose paths cross in the space of 24 hours. We meet a wide range of characters – from spoiled rich brats to real bottom-feeding criminal scum, and everyone in-between. In the best traditions of Commedia dell’arte, the characters each have easily recognizable roles – although there are a few twists to throw the audience off and keep things fresh. The story revolves around a few odd coincidences and quite a few bad decisions, which all result in a really messed-up Friday.

“This is a completely fun ride. You will definitely be entertained by this film, and that was very much our goal. It is also funny and showcases some of Estonia’s best actors in a completely new light. This movie was a breath of fresh air both for the audiences and the people involved in making it. What could be more important than that,” said Rohumae.

Rohumae began working on the script in 2010, two years before the film was released. It went through many revisions as there were many characters. Trying to fit everyone into the story was a challenge, but Rohumae found a way to make it flow brilliantly. Working with a team of writers, Rohumae wanted the jokes to really light up the audience. It was a truly collaborative process and the movie only benefited from it. 

Rohumae was instrumental in keeping the story grounded and ensuring that despite many characters, it was still easy to follow. She fleshed out the female characters, giving them more substance and weight, and eliminated some characters from the first draft that did not add anything to the story. On top of this, she ensured that despite the thriller/comedy aspect, it was still a believable story.

The film is still a hit 8 years after it premiered in cinemas, it was shown most recently in 2020 on the commercial television channel TV3.

“When I saw that it was on television again last year, I was overjoyed. Who would’ve thought 10 years ago that the movie would endure and still find new fans a decade later. What a wonderful thing. And to think that when we were writing it, we had no idea if it was ever going to get made. We were just crazy enough to keep working on it regardless,” she concluded.

Photo by Ain Liiva

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