We caught up with filmmaker, creator and many things in between, Ariel Gomar, for a full and frank discussion about his working philosophy, working with artist Timbuktu and plenty more. Read on…
(BTC: Beyond The Crane; AG: Ariel Gomar)
BTC: What is it that you do?
AG: If you ask me what brings home the bread then it’s a job as project managerfor a 3-year culture project financed by Statens Kulturråd/Kreativa platser. I’m out in the field mainly working in the areas, Kroksbäck and Holma, establishing a platform for the creation and visualisation of culture based on the personal experiences and stories of the residents. Apart from that I try to combine fun and utility every day.
BTC: Sounds like quite a commitment!
AG: It’s a massive job, but great fun as well, very meaningful and important! Historically, it’s the biggest investment in culture in the Million Programme ever, which makes it interesting.
BTC: What else are you involved with?
AG: In addition to working as a project manager, I work with various film projects (Ariel worked with film for 17 years before he started working as project manager in March 2017). In the spring I filmed an artist friend who did a job for a big Swedish international company. It may sound stupid but I will not say whom he worked for because it violates my ideals of supporting some big corporate business.
BTC: Are you fundamental about whom you work for?
AG: When I directed films for corporations earlier in my career, my entry requirement has always been that I do not promote alcohol, tobacco, weapons or political advertising; what the artist, which I just mentioned, was working on is one of these things.
BTC: Duly noted! Anything else?
AG: I have some other involvement in the REHAB Arts and Culture Agency and REACH, a diversity initiative for the media industry in southern Sweden, which I started with Marcus McKinley last year. And in parallel with all this I do, I’m most of all with my amazing children, who are 7 and 10 years old.
BTC: How did you start out?
AG: Hmm… When I was a kid, I drew a lot. During my teens, I formed a graffiti crew together with three friends, so shapes and colours has always spoken to me and that’s what eventually led me into movie making. When I went to art school in Stockholm I also did photography and worked in the darkroom for a period, which also strengthened my interest in imagery.
BTC: You are perhaps best known for making music videos. What sparked your interest in film?
AG: If I’m trying to deduce the movie interest into an epoch, I have a very strong memory of the film “Foxes” from 1980, which I saw when I was 11. After seeing it, I just wanted to make movies, and just that movie, for many years. It’s a bit strange when I think of it now as it was a movie for teenage girls during a time when I was a slave under premature and skewed masculinity standards (laughs).
BTC: So how did it progress from loving teen movies to making music videos?
AG: Around the same time my mother had a boyfriend who had one of the first camcorders that came out and we were allowed to shoot with it; that was just magic for a young person back then. I started making my own movies more seriously after studying film at Stockholm University and the Nordic Documentary School, Biskops-Arnö.
Around the same time my friend, Jason Diakité (Timbuktu), became a major artist at the turn of the century and I started making his music videos. Some I did myself, others together with my colleagues Simon Klose and Svante Lodén. We three had a feverish production company, which we called Nimative Form.
BTC: That must have been a very busy and creative time for you…
AG: During the same time, I made some of Promoe´s (LOOPTROOP) first videos. It was a great school because of the fact that “publications” became real and we knew the music videos would start rolling on Z-TV as soon as they were ready. It creates a reality that is almost necessary to get some fire up your ass to get things done, which is a good thing with all the performance anxiety that creation entails. That’s probably how it all started.
BTC: And a solid training ground no doubt.
AG: I am forever grateful for that. The fact that I started with project management was that I was tired of being a freelancer but also that I had a lot of interest in culture in parallel to film because I think it really gives a magic skimmer where things stop being what they are. Some years ago, I took the initiative to Skåne Sound Park, which was a concert club we had for several years at, amongst other venues, Inkonst. I’m also an idea creator of Barnfesten, which has since been run by my ex and my children’s mother, Johanna Olofsson.
BTC: Why do you do what you do?
AG: I think it’s difficult to be concrete when it comes to driving forces, but it is like there is an inherent voice and drive that must be heard to make me feel good; something just has to get out. And in parallel with this, there is a part of the driving force fertilised by a social pathway to change injustices and become part of the counterculture.
BTC: Can you elaborate on that a little?
AG: For example, the movie “Bushdoctor” I did is all about this, as well as my project manager job. There is a voice within me that burns for justice and which, as always, has been there, kind of since I began to think, saying that everyone is benefiting from dividing property, equality and peace. Making a music video for pop music may not be so revolutionary, but by using images to lift up lyrics that is in some why against the current of society is to hit a blow for and be part of the counterculture.
BTC: What does your work process look like?
AG: Another tough question! The processes look different if I make my own movie, a movie for others or work as a project manager on something that’s not a movie or an event. A short answer is that I always assume a deep feeling I have inside. It can also be a picture, and from it comes a plan or a script. Good planning is always first on my list, otherwise I cannot even start working. I’m the type of human who goes shopping with a long and efficient shopping list!
BTC: Fail to prepare, prepare to fail and all that.
AG: When the plan is in place, a research period and collection of material/recording usually begins. Then you make a new plan before entering the next phase, such as editing, etc. A whole lot of planning simply, and a crazy amount of communication! Communicating well is always a proactive act that is worth gold.
BTC: Sounds like you are a multitasker that likes to stay busy
AG: Often, I do several things at the same time and the important thing for me in these processes is to have a clear vision because without it you will lose yourself in the will of others, especially in creative processes. The vision is often the feeling or image that it all started with. You must not forget it, because it will be the mast to hold on to when the storm comes.
BTC: Explain to us your work methodology
AG: The tools I work with are cameras, sounds, lights and editing when I make movies, but every project is so different, so the process and method vary a lot. If I will generalise: strong vision, research/planning, collection/recording, planning again, editing that follows the plan, letting people with good judgement watch your stuff and then possible completion before entering postproduction of images and sound. Accuracy in other words.
And of course last but not least is the “fatness” aka a holy spirit that has to come to life for the work energy to be there at all. It’s about doing real fun stuff in life, such as getting intoxicated and dancing among friends to bass and beats on really juicy volume all night. You have both fun and create a source to charge energy from! It’s amazingly satisfying to be both decent and completely crooked.
BTC: How do you know when a piece is done?
AG: Good question! During recordings, I think it’s crazy important to be really awake, alert and smart because, if you’re not, you’ll get home with bad material from shooting scenes and situations that cannot be recreated and then you’re fried. You simply have to be balanced and alert enough to see the little details on spot to feel that you finish things right. Right now I do not work so much with movies but the hardest thing to learn, when I did editing more often, was to define/decide and make final decisions because a movie can almost always be better or different and you can sit and move clips back and forth forever if you cannot decide.
BTC: So it is a long process?
AG: The boundary from when something good starts to get bad is a freakishly thin line when you’re sitting with the small details. You become blind of the big picture, and it has happened that I’ve been sitting and tinkering on something that’s already good until it was getting bad. To be able to define this thin line and make a firm decision is something that I remember being the hardest part and the main lesson of from the editing process. One method I’ve used is to get up and dance to my music videos to know if it has rhythm. If the dance has flow while I look at the picture, the whole thing has rhythm. And if something is wrong, then you feel it in the dancing.
BTC: How do you get YOU into what you do?
AG: Oh! I don’t think it’s possible to point to any individual thing, but it will be a whole that is pervaded by one because it has passed one. Then you can work with special questions and tricks (camera shooting style, editing techniques, lights, etc.) more or less to influence the result, but it’s rarely something that looks like “Aha, this was done by Ariel.” Not up until now at least! Of course I add in things and elements that is me in everything I do. You always do this in idea-based or creative work. I incorporate myself into what I do by putting my soul and my tears into my work.
BTC: Where do you find your inspiration?
AG: In pictures, language, music, dance and the night. I like and look for things that stand out and break inward expectations and that’s incredibly inspiring. Dance is incredibly dynamic and cumbersome, and I am inspired both by dancing myself and watching when others dance. I am particularly weak for people in groups that haven´t slept for a while, when the babble and cacophony arise and people talk beyond and over each other. When reality is sparkling because communication is completely unpredictable. These moments are amazing, and I can just sit and listen and watch and become completely indulged.
BTC: What else draws inspiration from you?
AG: Art or picture books inspire me a lot and I can remember the relationships between colour, form and feelings that have arisen long after they hit me. They appear in completely different contexts and dictate or provide me with the tools for my interpretations; it may be a picture with beautiful backlight that you want to recreate or a feeling you experienced when you saw someone wearing gold and blue that is just right for me to be able to tell something in the right way.
BTC: And getting out of your comfort zone?
AG: To travel is equally inspiring. When you travel you really don’t have a clue and you are forced to navigate a little awkwardly amongst codes, behaviours, body language and gazes that you don’t know how to interpret. That feeling of being “lost” makes you activate your senses in a way that make us susceptible to tonnes of impressions and feelings.
BTC: How is it to be a creator in Malmö?
AG: I’m not an “art creator” right now, but I can say that I have a creative project manager job. What is good with Malmö is that it is a small town where you can meet with the chairman of the culture committee by having a good idea and writing a sharp email; something that is impossible in a big city like Stockholm.
BTC: So there are pluses and minuses to being a creator in Malmö I take it?
AG: There is the downside that there is little job opportunitys in Malmö especially in the culture and media sector. Additionally, adding that most media companies in this multicultural city are homogeneous, consisting of white men in their 30-50’s, my ability to provide me with creative work shrinks even more.
What, on the other hand, is good is that Malmö is a cheap city to live in and provides a lead room for engagements. As a student you can, for example, engage in ideal culture, music and festival projects in the evenings and free time without stressing that you do not pay and earn money to buy expensive food and pay high rents. You can live on a student stipend or part-time job in Malmö, something that is much harder in Stockholm, for example. This creates a good foundation for creativity.
What is a bit less good is that the city is very divided between strong artists (eastern Malmö) and a driven entrepreneurial class (Western Harbour) where the different strong groups do not cooperate, or at least could cooperate more with each other. A frustrating detail in Malmö, when talking about creativity, is also that the Klondike mentality that the city had towards digital initiatives has caused a shift in the boundaries of what creativity is in the city; and that much entrepreneurship in that shift has become completely misinterpreted as creativity.
BTC: Can you expand on that a little?
AG: I have a firm belief that guy-companies who come up with apps that there´s a demand for and can sell are not part of a creative world. Objectives and goals are crucial to the definition of creativity, and something based on a vision of hard values, such as selling, is definitely in relation to, for example, aesthetics based on emotions. Art and goods simply. Then, everyday objects like a ladle can be creatively thought out and have an aesthetic, but the factory that makes the ladle shouldn´t take a free ride on the creative efforts that the city go in for. Malmö has gotten into that position, according to me, and by that great artists and strong cultures in the city have ended up in the shadow of digital dreams of a “Silicon City”.
BTC: Looking forward: Where are you heading?
AG: Don’t know. Up, forward and sideways. I have been on my way to Österlen for the longest time, because I want to live by the sea, but it has just not happened yet. I’m definitely on my way to nature.
BTC: What is your favourite place in Malmö and why is it?
AG: My favourite place is Norra Grängesberg; the times when cars aren’t allowed to drive there, say 24.00 – 05.00. There, in small and large spaces, in studios and on terraces and up on the ceilings, a fantastic population takes vacation from norms and boring codes and lives out of the song of their soul. Then that nocturnal creak that I love and is inspired by appears. And Kallis (an outdoor sauna complex by the sea in Malmö) of course! If you are well-fed, dance a lot and have occasional good sex, it can actually replace working out. And working out has become this boring forced lifestyle that people stress to get time for…
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