‘The Forty Story’ dir. Christian Carlsson

This innovative short celebrates forty years of design work by Pentagram. 1972 — 2012.

Director: Christian Carlsson


C8: How did you become involved with ‘The Forty Story’ project?

CC: I was asked by Pentagram partner Naresh as we had completed a project together earlier that year (2012).

C8: Did you work with writers Naresh Ramchandani and Tom Edmonds before you began production?

CC: Yes, the first project I did with Naresh, one of the Pentagram partners, earlier in 2012 was a typographic video installation across three stacked screens displayed in Selfridges front windows. The collaboration was successful and he asked me to direct a film, to celebrate the Pentagram fortieth jubilee.

C8: From start to finish how long did the project take you?

CC: I did a test of the technique/scene first, which took a week or two. It was then fully completed in four to five weeks; a lot of time was spent on digging through the vast archives.

C8: What was the most challenging part of the process?

CC: Deciding on the right concept, look and feel. The film had to celebrate forty years of iconic design heritage, yet look into the future. I felt that there was an opportunity to reach people beyond the traditional forums associated with Pentagram, like print, but also a challenge to get right because of that. It had to ‘feel’ Pentagram, but because they’d never made a self-reflective piece like that before, especially in film, there was nothing to refer to directly.

C8: If you did the whole project again what would you do differently?

CC: I would drink less coffee and get more sleep.

C8: The film was a Vimeo Staff Pick. What did this mean to you in terms of the success of the film?

CC: The Vimeo Staff Pick is a stamp of approval, which ultimately exposes your film to more people. I would like to believe that ‘The Forty Story’ would have had a life on its own even without the pick but it definitely helps a lot. This was my second Staff Pick and both those films have exceeded any others film I put online, in terms of views, by far. I love what the people at Vimeo are doing for the independent film community, so it’s very flattering.

C8: How did you first get involved in filmmaking? What had you done up until this point?

CC: When I was a kid, I borrowed my granddads VHS-camera, and shot stop-motion sequences in camera without knowing what it was. I started shooting/editing on the computer when it went digital, alongside that I got to know the Adobe package and started mixing vinyl. Then I studied technology and maths for a bit and didn’t really think I’d be able to pursue a career in the area of film and design, as I didn’t have many real life influences in small town Sweden. But I moved to London straight after college in 2003, and made friends working in the industry of design and photography. This inspired me to study Art Foundation, and Design for the Moving Image, at Ravensbourne. I then worked at branding agency/gallery Kemistry, before I set up freelance/my own business and started a long time collaboration with Pentagram design.

C8: How would you describe your filmmaking style and how has it evolved since you first started?

CC: My style is Scandinavian in the sense that it’s about functionality, simplicity and bold minimalism. The filmmaking style also evolves with new techniques and technologies, which keeps it exciting but it also depends on the brief. If I have to strip it to its bare bones, I guess it’s a design approach to film with a modernist/Scandinavian design sense, as the running style with a taste for bold typography, expressive motion; well-composed photography and emotive music. Each film may look and feel different but I hope that this approach, of not imposing an explicit, self-defined style, will be a style of longevity, proven in due course.

C8: You’ve worked with names such as the V&A and Selfridges. What goes in to creating films for a diverse range of clients?

CC: Attention to detail and a good, professional network. Also, to be able to spot opportunities and take initiative.

C8: What, in your opinion, is the essence of a good collaboration?

CC: I think good collaboration is underpinned by clear communication and honest expectations of the outcome, before starting a project. A sum is better than its parts when specialist people in their respective fields come together yet still not afraid to having opinions outside their area of specialism. I prefer a relaxed and collaborative, but focused atmosphere.

C8: What’s next for Christian Carlsson? Any projects lined up for the future?

CC: I’m in talks with a respected Swedish journal, with the idea of developing a brand/series of films, to take them beyond print to the screen. I also plan to fulfill a dream I’ve had for a while, to go on a journey in a very different culture, bring my cameras and create something more personal. I’m also, up for suggestions and collaborations, so please get in touch if you want to chat.

You can find out more about Christian Carlsson here.