Figure 2: Interview with Director Bertil Nilsson
30th May 2019 by Will Stewart
What does it mean to belong? FIGURE 2 tells the story of Sakeema, a young trans dancer, against the stunning backdrop of Cornwall, UK. It’s the second instalment in FIGURES, a new series of portrait films.
Thanks to Bertil Nilsson for sending us his film. We decided to ask him ask him a few questions. If you’d like to see your film on MadeGood.tv, then please feel free to make a submission.
MadeGood – Please give me some background on yourself as a director. A quick glance at your vimeo page suggests you often make films involving performance art. Why’s that?
Bertil – When I started taking photographs seriously I was living in a shared house with 5 circus students, who became obvious subjects for me. That developed into a 5-year photography book project with circus artists, Undisclosed, published in 2011.
There is a lot of cross over between contemporary circus and dance, so it organically expanded to also working with dancers. I love working with dancers and acrobats because they bring so much to the collaboration; they are artists in their own right that speak through their bodies.
When I started making videos and films, it started as an extension of my photography and it made sense on many levels to continue collaborating with dancers and circus artists.
MadeGood – How did you come across Sakeema Crook?
Bertil – I knew Sakeema from my dance network and I’d been interesting to work with her for a while. When we finally met up I actually had another project in mind. Talking to her, it became clear that there was a warm and openness and I immediately became interested in making a portrait. I had only recently filmed what became Figure 1, and only had a seed of a thought of turning it into a on-going series.
At that first meeting I didn’t know really in what direction it would go narratively, I always let the interview guide that.
MadeGood – The physical format of the film is very unusual, but equally as effective I think. It looks really beautiful, I like the abstract imagery and the two screens produce a good effect. What was your thinking behind presenting the film in this way? Were you inspired by other work that you had seen?
Bertil – I’m always drawn to abstract imagery and thinking about visual ways of story telling, it allows me to be inventive and find indirect ways of showing things. It also allows the viewer more room to make their own interpretation and I think that can be very powerful. I’m often surprised the many meanings that people will read into my work.
Me and Sakeema had talked a lot about repetition when coming up with a movement language for this piece, so while we were filming down in Cornwall I started having this idea of wanting to juxtapose the various different scenes on screen.
When me and Joseph, the editor, sat down to cut the film we started experimenting with different ideas and playing around with the footage which is how we came up with offsetting the time of the same footage across two screens. It adds a lot of complexity in the edit to have two channels of footage, but it was a fun challenge once we got the hang of a visual language for the two screens.
Obviously there are many films with split screens or similar effects, but I didn’t have any specific references when working on this.
MadeGood – Please tell me a bit about the working relationship with your team. How hands on are you with the production, or do you generally trust in the skills of the people you’re working with?
Bertil – For this project, it’s a very small team but I always prefer to work very closely with trusted collaborators. I work with them because I know they will bring something creatively to the film that I wouldn’t be able to on my own. However because it’s a small team and limited resources, it’s generally very hands on – which I enjoy – as I’m filling many roles myself.
MadeGood – This is the second in a series of films, are there more to come? And what’s next, after this series is finished?
Bertil – We currently have three more films in production, two in post production and one still being shot. I’m thinking of this as an on-going personal series without any particular end point. It’s an opportunity for me to experiment and make things without pressure in-between other projects that I’m working on.
I’m also developing my second fiction short that I’m planning on shooting towards the end of the summer, as well as some exciting commissions and collaborations.
MadeGood – Thanks Bertil! Can’t wait to see future films in the series