OK, I’ve been really excited to launch this new music video! Earlier this spring, I grabbed my camera, my new Atlas Orion anamorphic lenses and boarded the flight to Berlin.
Down in Deutschland, I met up with director Emanuel Danneman and producers Hampus Norlander and Alex Sjödin, who had just left Hannes Bieger’s legendary studio where they had been busy mixing Ramverk’s track Falling, a fantastic piece of soulful techhouse and the very reason for my journey to Berlin. The band consists of Alex Maksic and Hugo Therkelson, both of whom just retired from a professional career as dancers at the Royal Swedish Opera.
While Bieger kept finetuning the mix, Emanuel and I went scouting locations for the following day’s shoot. I adore Berlin, but I still couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the interiors of our main location, Funkhaus, I turned into a puppy on speed.
W h a t a l o c a t i o n ! ! !
We were a small team, no gaffer, no grip, no FAD or SAC, jusy me, my FAC Nelson Smith and stylist Halla Farhat. I operated the Steadicam myself. Since we didn’t have the necessary permits, we shot it guerrilla the whole way through. But we didn’t harm anyone, and we didn’t litter or cut any locks so ethically I think we’re fine, and the only thing we left behind was a confused security guard who asked to see our papers after we had been shooting for a couple of hours inside the Funkhaus.
”But how did you guys get in?”
“Well… The door was open.”
These two days in Berlin were amazing. We had so much fun and being such a small crew made us flexible and open to whatever ideas came to mind. Emanuel edited the footage himself and his sense of rhythm is absolutely spot on, his passion for electronic music really shines through. The grading was made by Rickard Ahlbäck at The Line Stockholm.
I love everyone involved in this project. THANKS for letting me be part of it!
It’s certainly been a while since I updated this page. It’s been a hectic year, with loads of amazing shoots, a big step-up in representation (to ArtOfficial Agency) but most important, I am now a father! But this is not supposed to be a personal blog, so let’s get down to business.
Firstly, let me talk about the shoot I did for Dressmann in Cape Town this winter. I was asked to direct all films, but since my main role is that of DP I also wanted to be in charge of the camera work. The stills were taken by the fantastic Oscar Falk, whom I’ve been working with on numerous occasions before. We shot five films down there, but my heart pounded most for the Travel Suit. With the help of Farm Film, the most professional service company ever, we scouted A LOT of houses, in order to find the architecturally most interesting. Which we did. There was only one problem: The shower wasn’t what we were looking for, so we ended up building a new one outside. Overall, the shoot was carefully planned, which is key in productions with a large crew. I arrived in Cape Town a week ahead of the shoot and spent lots of time going through the details. Once we had our house, I spent an entire day there alone, listening to music in my headphones while exploring the light changes during the day. Same thing with the city shots; I was there on several occasions, for hours at a time, to find the most interesting framings possible.
The team was outstanding (as always in SA) and quite big, which is a necessity to shoot a film like this in just one day. We shot everything with Hawk anamorphic V and V-plus-series, except the zoom shots, which were filmed with the Angenieux Optimo 48-580mm anamorphic.
I haven’t directed for a while and I realized I’ve missed it. Seeing the aesthetic ideas that you’ve been developing and planning for a month finally come to life in the monitor, looking exactly like you visualized them, is a cool feeling!
Dressmann were really great to work with, I hope it happens again, and Farm Film was truly a blessing for me in this production.
Pretty big news for me – I just signed off as a member in the European Film Academy, EFA! This is a consequence of the huge success of the Ingmar Bergman-documentary, that also won the EFA prize for best European documentary in December. From now on I’m part of the jury and I’m also invited to the ceremony every year. This is huge for a little Scandinavian cinematographer like me!
After its world premiere at Cannes Film festival (which was AMAZING) and the subsequent red carpet premiere in Stockholm, the Ingmar Bergman documentary is finally out in Swedish theatres! The day of its Swedish premiere marks exactly 100 years since Mr. Bergman was born and I do hope that he will appreciate this film spiritually, from above or beneath (depending on whether you put your trust in religion or science). It’s been almost three years since director Jane Magnusson and I recorded the first interview with Kenne Fant in southern France, and from there on we continued interviewing some of those friends, relatives, and colleagues of Mr. Bergman that are still alive today, resulting in 56 interviews!
When I was asked to do this job I knew my main focus would be filming the interviews, and I wanted to find a way to give a congruous and consistent look to the film, even though we would be recording all these people in various countries and surroundings. I was aiming for quite an abstract, indistinct background blurred by shallow DoF. Since many of the subjects for our interviews are aged between 70 and 85, the lightning setup was of great importance. With the right light, an experienced (i.e. old) face can be strikingly beautiful – and after the initial tests, I realized I wanted a really soft key light. So I ended up using a LitePanel Astra, mounted in a big DoPchoice softbox with eggcrate. As backlight, I would generally use another one or two LitePanels mounted in softboxes or fitted with a piece of diffusive cloth. No hard lights at all. We filmed everything with a Sony F55 fitted with a Canon 30-105mm CN-E lens, usually set around 90-100mm and T2.8.
The next challenge was making the interviews look different from all other interviews you see on TV and film. I came up with a pretty wild idea and shot a few takes. The director and producers loved it and gave me the go-ahead. The idea was basically to hang eight to ten rectangular panels of transparent plexiglass between the interviewee and the background. I then made these panels rotate slowly, creating a subtle abstraction by casting an array of blurred reflections in the background. I wanted a sense of implied movement, so subtle you could barely notice it and never too obvious since it pulls away the focus from the interviewee. I figured something very abstract would do it.
There was never a budget for this, so I decided to get some cheap disco ball motors that I ended up attaching to a metal frame. The problem, however, was that these motors rotated too fast. I tried lowering the voltage, but in the end this solution proved not only too heavy for transport, but it also created too much noise. Hence, I arrived at the conclusion we all arrive at when we run out of ideas: LEGO!
I had made use of LEGO on a few occasions before, when I needed a cheap solution for a rotating plate for pack shots etc, so I was well aware of how awesome it is. And by using ten sets of LEGO cranes I managed to construct a little device where the rotation speed may be reduced by using gears. But as the final construction stood mounted in front of me, a three-meter-wide metal frame fitted with disco ball motors and plexiglass panels attached to LEGO constructions, I realized… this would be tricky travelling the world with it, having to rig and de-rig it about 50 times! But with the help of my awesome colleagues and a few tubes of superglue we made it! The plexiglass panels were mounted behind every person we interviewed, and quite honestly, it proved to be a good ice-breaker between the director and the interviewee. What was once just a crazy idea had become a reality!
However. A couple of months into production we had a look at some of the footage and felt it was still rotating too fast. And when we started the final editing process I realized that the parts where the interviewee is seen on-screen are very short. I had predicted ten to fifteen seconds, but most parts only last four to five seconds. With longer parts the audience would have gotten used to the subject and framing, and any minor change to the background could have worked. But the way it looked now… it was actually rather irritating. My biggest fear! What was once just a crazy idea had become a reality and it looked like shit!!
So I had to fix it myself. When the editing was done I decided to export every single interview part featured in both the movie and the four episodes made for TV (a total of 521 clips) and import them into After Effects where I masked out the person and changed the background speed some 20-40 %. I then exported everything back into the project. This took me 21 working days, but the result was nothing short of amazing. It looked just as if it had been filmed without any rotating plexiglass in the background!!
Oh, well. As cinematographer you need a lot of ambition and ideas, but you also need the mental strength to deal with the fact that a lot of the effort you put in will never make the final cut. The only thing that counts is the end result. It doesn’t matter how much time or money you have spent on an idea, if it doesn’t work in the editing room, let’s just kill that darling.
And now? Well, at least I’ve got a lot of LEGO for my future children.
Director: Jane Magnusson
Director of Photography: Emil Klang FSF
Editor: Hanna Lejonqvist SFK
Story Editor: Henrik von Sydow
Music: Jonas Beckman and Lars Kumlin
Research: Isabel Andersson, Linnea Vikengren
Editor’s assistant: Johanna Joona, Alicia Lundahl
Koordinator: Erik Galli
PA: Shajan Kozegary
Colorist: Sebastien Guest
Producers: Cecilia Nessen, Fredrik Heinig, Mattias Nohrborg
I’m on the train back to Stockholm, trying to summarize the weekend at the Gothenburg Film Festival 2018. I’ve had the most delightful days, from the opening ceremony and the screening of Gabriella Pishlers Amatörer, to the last film I saw just a couple of hours ago, Jesper Ganslandts heartbreaking Jimmie. I’ve met friends, colleagues and strangers, seen 14 shorts and 7 features from all over the world, I’ve been drinking wine, beer and vodka and I’ve had the most delicious food breaks at 7eleven. Being on a film festival is always intense for me, since I want to see as many films as possible, but still spend a lot of time on the events and parties. There’s so much to do, which always results in me returning to Stockholm with an inspired but very tired mind.
I have honestly seen so much good film that I barely can believe it. The Georgian/Lithuanian Namme (Zaza Khalvashi) was a beautifully shot story about a stream of holy water, known for it’s spiritual qualities, guarded by a dad and his daughter on the Georgian countryside. The Wild boys (Bertrand Mandico) totally blew my mind with its experimental aesthetics (SEE IT!) and Jimmie (Jesper Ganslandt) touched me to the bones with its story about the four-year-old refugee Jimmie, fleeing Sweden. The Bergman revisited section was lots of fun, with the stunning Fettknölen (Jane Magnusson) and the glorious Bergmans reliquarium (Tomas Alfredson). Startsladden was a bunch of really outstanding cool shorts (best Startsladd in years) and the South-African The Wound (John Trengove), a story about homosexuality in a Xhosa community, will be with me for quite some time.
There is so much amazing film out there, I’m so happy that I have the time and ability to go to Gothenburg every year for the festival. By the way, if you can’t travel to the festival, they have a brilliant streaming service called Draken Film.