Really Filip! You did have us fooled for a while. We love Håkan Hellström almost as much as your work so do tell us please how you convinced him to become a monkey. What were the initial conversations like?
Håkan Hellström is a very special Swedish artist.
He is by far the biggest artist we have now.
He does very few interviews and PR. A pretty shy guy that wants to hang with this family and do music.
So I had a meeting with him, I pitched an idea for him where I wanted to bring him to Mexico and cast 20 Håkan look-a-likes that he was supposed to meet and play with.
I had everything lined up as my friends at The Lift in Mexico City had done some research on my behalf. Apparently a lot of Mexican ladies look like Håkan.
I thought that was fun. Håkan not so much.
The mood of the meeting was so so. Then I pulled up my ace.
A very simple one page moodboard of Håkan doing a drum duel with a proboscis monkey,
I wanted him to play both roles. He looked at me and said “I love playing the drums and I always felt like a monkey, let’s do it.”
We hugged (this was just before corona closed down the world).
And why did you settle on a proboscis monkey? Were there any other choices in the casting session?
I love that animal so much. It has so much character and it’s very hard to find good footage of it. It’s so mysterious and fun.
So no, there was no other choice. But I can say that this is not the first artist I presented an idea that includes a proboscis monkey.
All refused of course, it took someone like Håkan to go for it. We both love this animal equally.
The fact that Håkan dared to do all motion capture work was actually really cool. For a person like him it’s a big challenge to do something like this.
It’s very revealing to act like a monkey in front of people you don’t know.
Filip Nilsson and Håkan Hellström
We’re assuming Sweden’s lockdown measures albeit not as stringent as elsewhere affected the production?
We shot this just in the “beginning” of corona. So it didn’t affect us at all. But later on we had some issues,
Håkan was supposed to play for 280,000 people.
It affected the release of the video. For the better as my geniuses VFX people at Swiss International got more time to tweak the monkey.
You have been known to edit your own videos sometimes but this feels like a big production with lots of help?
Yes it was a pretty big production for being a Swedish music video. The timing was right so I managed to work with some of the absolutely best filmworkers we have in Sweden.
And without the VFX people at Swiss, this video would not have been possible to do. They did the monkey I dreamed of for years.
Regarding editing, I wish I did have the stamina to edit more. But luckily there are great editors, in this case Emma Backman @ Metal Edit in London who did an amazing job.
And talking of big productions, your video for Major Lazer and Marcus Mumford, Lay Your Head On Me, was an amazing edit of user-generated clips from 1,000 musicians and dancers in 28 countries. What were the main challenges of creating that film?
I love that video, we had so much fun doing it. The biggest task was to make if feel like one video. Not only clips stacked on top of each other.
We really wanted it to feel crafted. Luckily I was in good hands production wise. Dom Thomas, Alex Chamberlain and Tom Driscoll at my production company Object & Animal did an incredible job. We got Ryan Heffington onboard early on to do the choreography. I thought it was a bit too hard to learn at first but once we started receiving casting tapes we knew this would work.
Many of the people in the video were filmed two or three times to get their timing and positions correct. So loooooots of emails and dropboxing to get this right. I worked nonstop for 10 days with my editor Andreas Arvidsson. We struggled for a while to find the structure. But once we nailed it, it was all about fine tuning this to perfection. We received so much good footage, we could probably do a video a day until corona is over… Take a look at these (see footage above).
Seems that you’ve been just as busy as ever during this global crisis! Anything else you’d like to share?
I’m so grateful that I’m busy. I take nothing for granted.
I wish that everyone in this industry (that I love so much) will get back to work as soon as ever possible.