Bionic People: Jonas Risvig
In his interview Copenhagen based film director Jonas Risvig takes us into his world, and through his own words he gives beautifully engaging answers to our questions. Reading how Jonas has used his life experiences to shape is creative talent is truly uplifting and wonderful inspiration for anyone striving to embrace their own creative talent.
With an exceptional catalogue of work to view on Youtube we really do encourage you to make your favourite drink, settle down into your favourite chair and take a little quality time to experience Jonas’ work.
Links: WEB INSTAGRAM YOUTUBE
Founder: What Era, MXXVIII
Jonas Risvig is an award winning director and photographer born in Denmark, currently living in Copenhagen. He has designed visuals on a variety of media platforms from documentaries to feature films, art direction, music videos, short films and photography. In the last two years he has worked with artists like Pusha T, Suspekt, Jean-Michel Jarre and a wide variety of Danish artists.
What drew you to your passion/interest?
I grew up in a safe home with my little brother and my mom and dad in the countryside of Denmark. We had a cat and she was seriously my best friend because she wasn’t asking me questions all the time.
I actually don’t remember that much except my dreams from my childhood. I was a dreamer and I was always walking around daydreaming by myself. As a kid I was always exploring and wandering around on my own.
I remember myself being scared of a lot of things except doing creative things like painting, building stuff, organizing my room or designing my own types of games for my friends. I was very young when I tried to film for the first time. My grandfather was always filming. Unfortunately he died too early and I didn’t really have the opportunity to get to know him as I always wanted to.
I think it all started with me knowing that my dad loved it when grandad filmed stuff. I think it somehow reminded me of how my grandfather was always doing something and keeping himself moving.
I kind of figured out that I had fun when I did those small art films with my cat in our garden so I guess I just kept moving and learning from that point.
Was there a particular moment in your life that you ‘discovered’ or fell in love with your
I remember growing up in this small city where I’m from and feeling a bit out of place. I mean, I sucked at playing football and I sucked at getting girls. I remember myself sitting at home after school watching Fellini, Bernardo Bertolucci, Sergio Leone and Visconti films because I loved Italy. But every time I went to school, where we were actually learning about film, we were always taught about American films from the 80’s and 90’s and I really hated those films. Not because they are bad I was just really focused on the European art In a very young age. I would listen to Jan Johansson and Maurizio Pollini while I did my homework because I needed to be calm in my head to be able to sleep, and then wake up in the morning to learn stuff at school that I wasn’t really interested in.
One day I stood up and made some funny videos for our school and showed them to everyone after school. I remember people laughing and applauding my work. And even though I was hiding in the toilet waiting for the reaction I remember that I actually felt more comfortable than ever before because of the way the crowd reacted.
This was a huge milestone for me and my way of seeing myself. I wasn’t the odd one out, I was actually able to entertain people just with my camera. And that’s a pretty crazy to experience when you’ve been sitting alone in your room listening to music made by old men.
What is the most interesting moment in your life?
Most of the time I see myself as a kind of random guy who loves his dog called Gilbert. But when I get into my zone I’m a monster and I don’t even know myself. Last year I was nearly forced to quit everything because of a stress condition in my heart. It was caused by too many obstacles and the stressing processes of my work.
One night I found myself crying for no reason with a seriously hard pain in my chest and from that moment I realized that I have to be in mental control to proceed through my ambitions. I actually transformed that pain into a way of focusing to achieve more than I was able to do before.
I had some good folk around me and I surrounded myself with my production crew which helped me through those couple of months. For a long time I thought that those months were my most ineffective months of my life. But after some time I realized that I wrote some of my best screenplays and stories during that time. I actually finished off a TV-series and two short films in the period, so I might run into another depression soon without knowing.
What do you think makes a person interesting?
I think that too many people are trying to make people fascinating. Normally I would consider myself as a person who likes most forms of art. But in the last couple of years I’ve had a really hard time watching social realism about something terrible things, and it’s made me think about my own life.
To be honest, I think that reason why most of my stories are so ordinary, is because that’s what I came from. I came from a small town with simple people and linear lives. I met a guy from the National Film School of Denmark. He was a teacher and told me that he wouldn’t accept any student without a crazy life experience. It could be violent parents or a childhood without any. That was really the biggest set-back in my entire life because I couldn’t relate to that. I had a great childhood and I love my parents and everything they’ve done for me.
A couple of years later my best friend was told that his little sister had cancer. In one second everything around him was on stand-by. But as he stood there trying to help his sister survive, everything moved on. Cars, people and the everyday life just kept on moving. My point is that this seems to be a regular and boring story for most people doing poetic films about stuff we can’t relate to. But for my friend and his sister, this moment is everything.
And that’s really the feeling that I want to tell through my films. I want to give space to the small stories from the people that have been told that they are just some regular and normal people without an interesting life story.
Who are some of the people that fascinate you?
I’ve had the privilege to work with a lot of those people that I really look up to across borders. I travel a lot and I have met a lot of interesting folk that have helped me push myself even more. I hate to network with people that do the exactly the same stuff as myself. Especially because I know that we don’t.
The most inspiring person that I have ever known is a young Danish artist called Signe Høi Jensen. I am so lucky to call her my friend, and for me she is everything that any artist would want to be. I could write a book about her talent but I remember meeting her at a time in my life where I was doing a lot of different projects in a very wide perspective of art forms.
Signe was a bit younger than me and she actually grew up pretty close to me. We just never met. But as we began to work together on a lot of projects it seemed clear to me that we just bonded on a way different level. She is so mentally talented that she barely sleeps because her mind won’t let her.
Mostly when we meet up she is doing something brand new that I never thought of. Like the first time I pitched a short film to her, she already did one and was in the process of writing a feature about Christianity. She makes me run even faster than I can and that inspires me. Do yourself a favor and check her out. She’s the one that I want to use every time I really need to take it to another level.
If you could meet anyone (past or present) who would it be and why?
I would love to host a party for Pablo Picasso, Cristobal Balenciaga and Ottavio Missoni and talk about small things in life while we were sipping old fashioned at a small local café in Alsace. But I’m trying not to go around daydreaming anymore. I did that a lot when I was young and it can be too much. Trust me.
What is the most interesting possession you own?
My friend and partner Frederik Borg. I can’t understand how I’ve managed to keep him for so many years now. We’ve travelled the world together and I’m proud to have established a company together with him and my old friend Asbjørn Dam.
Sometimes I really consider them as my biggest secret to my creative work because no one arounds me knows what we are doing when we are together. People will be talking behind our backs saying that I’m the leader and that I’m the one in the frontline telling the others to do what I want. But you should really come to our office one day.
Those two guys are the craziest people above all the crazy folk I’ve met around my way through the capital cities. They are very valuable to me and therefore I will do anything to make sure that no other company will ever get hands on their two completely different talents.
If you could make one change to your life to make it more interesting, what would it be?
I remember hearing myself telling an old friend of mine that she was too kind to everyone. I remember that It was around Christmas and we had a conversation about how she was trying to do what everyone asked her to do. I told her to say NO and not be kind to everyone all the time.
But now when I think about it I was telling her some straight up bullshit. You can never be too kind man. All we got left when we take away the money, houses, and politics is love. It will always be free and you can always be good to people. I know it’s not a huge life decision but after this interview I might write to her and tell her that I was wrong.
Which brand do you find most interesting, and why is that?
It’s hard to say. If we are talking fashion I would pay a tribute to OFF White. I’ve met Virgil and he is such a huge inspiration for every young person trying to get into the fashion industry. I am not trying to get in there, but a lot of people I have met have experienced him as the most open person you would ever meet.
He literally gave out his phone number to a whole bunch of young boys who were trying to get in contact with him after the last show In Paris in January. On a higher level I just love their visual design and aesthetics. Their creative team is such an inspiration for me and the way I do graphics around my work on every platform.
What is your all-time favourite piece of art, design or fashion?
It really depends on my mood. Today I would say that my favorite art memory is the art exhibition by Gregory Crewdson called Twilight from 2002. He inspired me so much with his pictures that I bought all of his books just to look up his style, and use every time I’m trying to describe how I want the mood of a scene to be.
He is without a doubt the best photographer I’ve ever seen to capture everyday life moments, like my own life and add some magic. It could be a UFO flying over a small deserted playground in the middle of a quiet neighborhood or something even more mystic and weird. I love his style and I love the way that he is telling small stories through his characters.
My favorite piece of music at the moment is Gavin Bryars with Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet. I can’t even explain my emotions about this track because it is too intense for me to handle. That’s why I’m only hearing it when everything around me is completely quiet. I haven’t really seen any new films for a while so I instead of a film I would recommend everyone to go and check out Le Plaisir by Max Ophuls, HER by Spike Jonze or La Strade by Federico Fellini.
Thank you Jonas