Source: “Swimming with Sharks”

Trygve Allister Diesen is a Norwegian film director. Out of frustration with having his vision for his films compromized by (his words) ‘sharks’ he started a research project as a fellow of the Norwegian Film School. He has published a video essay in six parts documenting this process. Below I will summarize the episodes briefly and then reflect on it in the context of my own research.

Part 1
His question: “How can you maintain your vision in an artform this collaborative and commercial”. The premise of his research is that in filmmaking there are a lot of people influencing the creative process, from writers to actors, cinematographers to casting agents, and the worst: producers.

Part 2
Diesen points out that on ‘Torpedo’ he had what he thought to be full creative control: he initiated the project, approached the producer, chose the cast and cinematographer and had the final decision over the edit. On set there were lots of conflicts eventually leading up to an actual fistfight amongst the crew. He describes his ‘vision’ for the film mostly as style: high pace acting, cinematography and editing.

In this part he describes that because he had a good relationship with the cinematographer, he could focus more on coaching the actors. But the lead actor on ‘Red’ mentions that he rarely gets any useful input from film directors – because they are more interested in their ‘vision’ than in the ‘truth of the moment’.

And then Diesen mentions how his advisor told him that vision could also be more related to how you see the world around you.

Part 3
This is mostly anecdotal.

Part 4
In part 4 he mostly discusses how his decisions about the shooting style (very loose camerawork) compromised the quality of the audio recording – but he thought at least the actors would be happy because of the ‘freedom’. Except that shooting extremely long days for weeks on end took its toll on the actors and all the other crew. But at the same time it is acknowledged that having more time to ‘fix’ things would not necessarily have made the film better.

In the second half of part 4 we have a look on set of another director: Per Fly. The atmosphere on this set seems much more calm and relaxed. On the surface the director seems to exercise much less control.

Part 5
The plot thickens: Diesen accepts to finish an American feature film that was started by another director. It has been a long time goal to land a directing job in Hollywood, but it seems at odds with his research into maintaining his personal vision (even if he’s not clarifying what a vision in this context is, or what his vision is…).

Later on he states his vision for ‘Red’ was: “to take care of the story, and give room for Brian’s performance”.

Part 6
In this last part Diesen is confronted with some strong visions involved with the film other than his own. The producers cut a scene from the film, and the lead actor forces him to shoot a very long scene without backup plan. He realizes that the visions of others can contribute to a film and make it stand out. Make it better. That when you control a work in every detail, you are limited to the boundaries of your own talent.

Reflection:
One of the reasons this project resonates with me is that I really see potential in the form. The narrative of his research really lends itself to this documentary approach. I am seriously considering video as a documentation and publishing tool for my research project.

Another reason is that the question of personal vision in the context of collaborative work is really closely related to my own, and as such forces me to secondguess myself. Interestingly on first viewing I thought Diesen’s conclusion was a bit stating the obvious.  “By harnessing the visions of your collaborators you can make work that extends beyond your own talent and capabilities and can become much stronger” (I’m paraphrasing) is not a very surprising outcome of the research.

But after watching the episodes again and thinking about my own research I realize that in a way my own research question is similarly focussing on the challenge of maintaining my own fingerprint and authorship within the context of a larger team. This is still a valid question, but it seems equally important to allow for the collaborators fingerprint and ‘vision’ to manifest itself in the work.

Watch the series here:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

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