Chess, films and timepieces: a filmmaker’s IP journey

Author:Catherine Jewell
Position:Communications Division, WIPO

At 25, Norway’s Magnus Carlsen is already a chess legend. In 2004, he became the world’s youngest chess Grandmaster at the tender age of 13 years and 148 days. He is the current chess champion of the world.


In the early 2000s, Øyvind Von Doren Asbjørnsen, a Norwegian film director and avid chess fan, saw Magnus Carlsen in action and, recognizing his genius, set about making The Prince of Chess. This documentary takes viewers on a fascinating journey into the young player’s life and explores the workings of his brilliant mind. Øyvind’s latest production, Magnus, a feature-length film, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in April 2016 and is now in cinemas across Europe.

In a recent interview with WIPO Magazine on the sidelines of a WIPO Roving Seminar in Oslo, Norway, in October 2016, Øyvind explains how he came to make the film and why copyright is so important to filmmakers. He also shares his views on the importance of intellectual property (IP) in general as he embarks on a new venture that combines his passion for filmmaking with his love of watches.

How did you get into film?

I have always had a passion for film. I graduated from the London Film School in 1987, so it was great to be back there recently for the screening of my latest work, Magnus, which has now been sold in 60 countries.

What inspired you to make a documentary and a film about chess?

I play chess every day, although not at world-class level, and in 2003 I heard rumors here in Oslo about a young boy who was doing incredible things. So I went to see him play. He was unbelievable. I knew his trainer, and asked him to introduce me to the boy and Magnus’s parents. After some discussion we agreed to make a documentary film about Magnus. We started shooting the Prince of Chess, a 50-minute documentary, in 2004. It premiered in 2005 and was distributed internationally on broadcast TV. Then, in early 2013, I began collaborating with a young filmmaker, Benjamin Ree, to produce the feature-length movie Magnus, which is now in cinemas across Europe.

Why did you choose to make a documentary?

I have made both films based on fiction and documentaries. But as Benjamin Ree says, there has never been a better time in the history of the world to make documentaries because there is so much archive material available. I agree with him. People are constantly filming on mobile phones and digital cameras so there is an incredible amount of archive footage available on almost any subject. Sometimes it does require a lot of digging and it can be a challenge to transfer old footage onto modern, digital formats, but the results speak for themselves. By combining archive footage with...

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