Myasthenia gravis is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects people with differing severity
4th January 2020 by Will Stewart
MadeGood – Please tell me a bit more about the series, and what you set out to achieve when you started making it.
Bertil Nilsson – When I made Finding Your Voice for the Barbican last year – my first foray into short-form documentary – I realised how much I enjoyed doing interviews and mixing that visual storytelling, so I knew it was something I wanted to do more of.
I made another film with my friend Mario following a similar process which became Figure 1. Soon after when I met Sakeema and had the idea to do another portrait, I realised it would be nice and make sense to present the films in an on-going series. It’s nice for me to have a structure for personal and experimental work, so really what Figures is for me. It gives me a few elements that I need to bring together to make a portrait, but it’s loose enough for me to creatively take risks, experiment and learn.
I hope that I can bring fresh and unexpected stories to life through the series, while I continue to grow as both a documentary and visual filmmaker.
MadeGood – How did you find out about Korri, and what made you want to make a film about him? Was it his character that you were initially interested in, or was it his condition?
Bertil Nilsson – I’ve actually known Korri for a while. I have a long-term relationship with the National Centre for Circus Arts (who were also very helpful in the making of this film) where he trained, so I worked with him when he was a student there. We also made a short movement-based film Once And Again a few years back.
He’s an amazingly talented circus artist so we’ve often talked about working on more projects together. When he told me about his condition and all the other things that were going on, I felt that it was a powerful story I wanted to help share. Especially since he had recently started talking public about his condition and found that very helpful in working through it.
MadeGood – A fair few of your short are shot in 4:3. Please tell me a bit about that decision.
Bertil Nilsson – Again Finding Your Voice was the first film I made in 4:3 and I really enjoyed working in that format when making portraits of people. It makes sense when you’re focusing on a single person to have more vertical space in the frame. In my still photography, composing in 4:3 has been go-to for many years now so it’s making sense to bring that into my filmmaking as well.
MadeGood – Korri is comes across as being very resilient. What are your personal impressions of him. Did you learn anything from your time working with him?
Bertil Nilsson – Korri is amazingly resilient, and I’ve always known him as a hard-working but warm and generous person. Actually one of the main reasons I’m drawn to making these portraits is to have an excuse to talk more deeply with people I already know. I’m not exactly a people person in the traditional sense, but I love having one on one conversations so interviews really make sense (also why I prefer to record interviews myself to maintain that intimacy).
Every interview is definitely a learning experience, of course you learn something about someone else but also about yourself by seeing the world through their eyes. I think my conversation with Korri really reinforced for me how important it is to make the best use of time and good health; not to be scared to pursue what we really believe and desire.
MadeGood – What are you working on next?
Bertil Nilsson – I always end up with a couple of things on the go at the same time. Right now I’m developing two very different narrative shorts – one which is scripted, very constructed and all inside and another one which is totally improvised and unpredictable nature. Alongside that I’m editing Figure 4 that I shot earlier in the year and keen to shoot a few more portraits for Figures.