Interview with Johannes Nyholm

Interview with Johannes Nyholm

Swedish filmmaker Johannes Nyholm’s off-the-wall short Las Palmas has charmed audiences across the world, proving that a ‘drunken’ baby and some puppets can be an irresistible combination.

Starring the director’s own daughter as a middle-aged lady misbehaving on holiday, the short met with high acclaim on the festival circuit, raging through over 100 festivals (amongst them Cannes and Sundance), going on to achieve global fame and picking up a number of prizes along the way – including the Encounters 2011 Audience Award.

Crucially, its success also went viral: today the trailer has seen nearly 17 million hits on YouTube and it’s even had a teaser shown on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno – not bad for an independent short film.

Now, in a bold move, Las Palmas has been released in full online, available to download along with a ‘making of’ documentary for a small fee. What with the power of social media today, is this a trend that is likely to catch on? I spoke to Johannes to find out more.

• Why do you think Las Palmas has received the kind of attention it has?
I think it’s something a lot of people can relate to – a story about loneliness and sorrow. It’s the images that are quite striking, since everyone can recognise the situation but it’s twisted, showing an alcoholic from a toddler’s point of view. A lot of YouTube videos that deal with alcohol or babies are quite popular, but this changes the perspective in a way people aren’t used to, combining the two!

• What was your inspiration for the film?
My daughter is 99% of the inspiration for the film. I had the idea in the beginning to make a very low-key documentary about her, filming a day in her life. Then the level of ambition rose a bit and I started to see another story as well, and gradually that turned into Las Palmas.

• What made you opt for the DIY method of distribution?
In principle, I believe in the do-it-yourself attitude. I learn a lot by understanding how things work, and I believe in taking control of your own work, so this method seemed right for me. It’s hard to find people who believe in my project as much as I do! (laughs)

• What has the response been so far to the online sale of the short film?
It’s been pretty good. I’ve sold about 1,000 copies or so, but I haven’t really had much time to do any marketing. I hope to have more time for that in future. I’d love to have a big team of people to help. Sending mail, calling people, spreading the rumour – that’s what it takes to make people know about it.

• Do you think this kind of distribution could work for lesser-known films, given the proliferation of work which is available online for free?
Maybe not right now, but in the future I think so. With the Las Palmas trailer, I show quite a bit of the film, so people know what to expect when they pay for it. That’s usually the problem with short films – no one knows about them until they stumble upon them. I don’t think people will pay for something that they don’t know, but I do think that people working on the marketing side of things will put more effort into making short films better known if they see that you can make money from them.

• What do you think the idea of an online ‘pay-to-view’ system means for the future of filmmaking, particularly short films?
I think the future looks good. In a best-case scenario, it gives more power to the creators, and not the sleazebags higher up in the food chain. It will be better when people get to grips with it more, and when we can lower the price a bit. Right now, Las Palmas is being sold for 2 dollars, but I anticipate that in the future it will be easier to buy things for much cheaper. This will mean it’s available for everyone, and therefore it’ll be more widely accepted.

• What are your plans for future films, and would you consider releasing them online as well?
I have too many plans for my own good! I’m working on 4 feature films right now. But yes, I’d definitely like to release my future films online, even feature-length ones. Times are changing, and I think there could be a real market for online release in the future.

Las Palmas is available to download for $1.99 at http://en-us.laspalmasmovie.com

By Robyn Davies