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The Opposite of a Real Film Director - Interview with Jonas Risvig


Jonas Risvig is a young Danish film director, who broke into the industry of film-making on hard work and dedication. His works are warm, romantic and puts the audience into a state of youthful bliss and excitement. 
Jonas Risvig is also known for his educational initiative; Digital + Social Masterclass, an open format of interviews with creative minds, distributed through social media. 
This interview delves into the process of writing, making yourself heard and daring to dream. 

What sparked the dream of working with film, and what has kept the passion alive?

Since the first day of high school, I have been certain that I wanted to work within the industry of film-making. While everyone I knew were occupied on the football court, I snuck around with my camera. There is a certain fear of ridicule from your peers, when venturing into the creative arts, so I chose to practice and work my craft to the point where I was safe from scrutiny. Throughout my time in high school, I spent countless hours honing my craft, directing and producing music videos and films to put on Youtube. However, after graduation I wanted to develop myself further. I scheduled a meeting with the Danish Film Academy to become clear about the admission requirements of the direction program. I spoke to the former dean, who stated that you must have either suffered parental neglect, abuse or substantial grief in order to even hope to be relevant to an audience. My parents were not even divorced. My peaceful, suburban adolescence was essentially the exact opposite of what a real film director ought to have experienced. These words became the biggest setback to my dream and ambition for a long time. It took years to rebuild an acceptable degree of confidence around my work, and to teach myself to properly shed these negative remarks. Since then, I have followed my instincts. If someone tells me to do something, I just nod and do what I feel is the right thing to do. I learned that the hard way.

What is your perspective on working as a collective vs. an individual?

My ideas always emerge from solitude. Most often when I am in transit – on a plane or rolling through the peaceful scenery of the Danish countryside. Then I quickly involve my team of visual artist, photographers and designers to breathe life into the thoughts. It is important for me and my audience, to let ideas wander. To pass them through as many creative filters as possible, before they reach their destination. Even though I have to endure a beating once in a while, I keep my head up through the process, as I am sure that people will be thankful in the end.

Also, it is no secret that the type of collaborators I work with, are slightly atypical in comparison to other directors. I usually assemble the soundtrack before even starting on the process of writing the script. This is probably a remnant of my musical influence, as well as having a brother blasting a guitar to my face throughout most of my childhood. Besides, working with fashion designers and architects, along with my own friends, makes the process as impulsive and unpredictable as possible.  

Read also: A Curious Case in Culture - Kaspar Basse, Founder of Joe & the Juice

How do you define success?

For me personally, success is simply, when my creative vision is accomplished. However, this is can only happen, if my audience experience my work exactly as I imagined it. I do not carry a deep desire to actualize myself and my thoughts. On the contrary, I attempt to voice the broader public, and I will never shy away from admitting, that my ambition is to be as general and relevant to as many people as possible.

The most important tool to push you project towards a satisfactory result is rewriting. The first draft of everything is almost always horrendous. In other industries, this is comparable to the procedure of preparation, evaluation and editing. Over and over again. Reworking your concept across all phases of the creative process is vital, and if people knew how many times I rewrite every idea that pass through a project, they would understand the complexity of these considerations. The reception of a film is almost always beyond the control of the director. However, for me the journey can never be left up to chance.

Do you always seek to set a certain atmosphere in your films?

Common to all of my work, there is a certain foundation of suburban tranquillity combined with life-altering adventure, love and lots of humour. My girlfriend once told me that my films depict the youth that no one lived, but everyone dreamed of. I am generally very romantically inclined, and that’s probably the reason why my work has a nostalgic feel to it. Why they attain a sort of classic tone. I adore grandiose imagery, summer nights, fireworks and music filled with life. I detest silence, dull piano sounds and dark social-realism. If you try to recall your warmest summer memory from your fifteen-year-old self, where everything was bright and novel, then you understand the emotion of most of my films.

Where do you find your inspiration, and how do you develop your creative process?

My projects are usually initiated through music or my journeys. However, a journey is an abstract concept. It can be the bus ride to the office, as well as a train trip through Europe. What matters is the movement, and the peacefulness of being locked in transit. When I enjoy music, I listen to albums. Every album has a story and can be perceived almost as a film in themselves. I never listen to the lyrics, but let myself immerse into the atmospheres and the variations of the voices. And while sitting there, I picture myself as my protagonists. Through simple questions, I examine my being. Who am I, and why am I here? Who do I love and what are my ambitions? Suddenly you have shaped an entire person, and all you need to do, is to push them towards the horizon.

What are the proudest moments of your career, so far?

Having a large group of young people following my career honours me greatly. It means a lot to me, to see that the youth is interested in my undertakings, even while I am still chasing my first feature film and my first big project.

Naturally, I am also proud of my upcoming television series; Stikker, as well as my DR3 documentary; Da Danmark Blev Suspekt. I do not have the faintest idea about how many people have watched the documentary. However, I see a lot people out there daring to try something similar, because they were made aware that succeeding is possible, even for a self-taught without a budget. It truly delights me to know, that we have inspired and helped to mobilize these sorts of things.

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What would be your moonshot-project?

For the majority of people within my industry, the fantasy would probably be to collaborate with someone like Kanye West. Regardless of his mythical status, we have to remember that the man is ageing, and soon will remind me more of my father. I prefer to look towards the younger generation. To keep an eye out for what they are bringing to the table. Starting my own academy would also be cool. However, it is undoubtedly an incredible amount of work, and immensely complicated, so I will probably leave it at the thought.

As a director, I actually dream about writing a Christmas calendar series for Danish television. Not one those about enchanted beasts, swords and divorces, but a classic tale of mysteries, snow and elves, for the whole family.

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