Still Not There: Interview with Kimmo Koskela
Kimmo Koskela is a director, visual artist and producer. His films blur the borders between documentary and film d’artiste, and demonstrate a very personal world. None of which rules out encounters: The film Still Not There, with Arno Rafael Minkkinen, attests to great creative complicity. Complicity and a relationship with photography that the director addresses for us...
Emmanuel Bacquet: How did this project with Arno Rafael Minkkinen start?
Kimmo Koskela: When I graduated from a photo school in the age of 23 in Finland, I sold my electric guitar and bought a flight ticket to New York to spend the whole summer there and stayed on our family friends sofa. After four weeks I obviously run out of money, so I called Arno, who’s inspiring workshop I had taken in Finland the summer before. I asked him if I could do any assistant work for him. First he said I’m afraid not, but then, he asked me if I knew how to paint a house? I said of course, I can come and paint your house, and I did! It took five weeks instead of three, but that’s how our continuing friendship started. Three years later I had a fashion shoot trip for a Finnish company who wanted stills and video clips shot in New York. Then I proposed Arno, that I could come and shoot also some documentary material on him and his photography during the same trip. Arno visited regularly in Finland, so I continued documenting him in different locations during 6 years including Mediterranean, Paris, New York, North of Finland and so on. With this material I went to Finnish TV and they bought the idea of producing a documentary on Minkkinen. We were able to finance a trip to lapland to shoot material on film, where we transferred his photographic self-portraits to motion picture images; Video Self-Portraits, as called today.
EB: How did you build the film and share the creative work with Arno Rafael Minkkinen?
KK: In the very beginning I did not have a clue what I would do with the material, but working with Arno was easy, productive, rewarding and fun. Slowly it developed to an idea to go to another level from a basic documentation of an artist with talking heads etc. After these years capturing documentary material on him, I proposed Arno that what about if we put a film camera to a spot where he puts his still camera when he makes his self-portraits and film his still photography as motion picture images. I thought it would be a perfect way to express his art in a much deeper, visual way on a documentary on him as an artist, because he is also a subject of his art itself. We obviously had long discussions about this, because it started to cross the thin line where my artistic work as a film maker entered to his art in a way that it had to be discussed and have the same understanding, who’s work it was. I think it was in a sauna after a few Scotch, when we agreed about it to go for this idea. For me there was no question that it was solely Minkkinen´s original work and his creations captured by me to a motion picture form to be used in the documentary. Editing these scenes to the film I shared a lot with Arno. The main question was to show enough to dive in to the soul of creating and making these extraordinary self-portrait images but not to show too much to spoil the magic of, how they are done. Working with Arno was and has been very fruitful especially sharing the same kind of humor, which is very important.
EB: Is nature always so prevalent in your films?
KK: Not really, but Finland is a large country with a small population, so nature is naturally very much present and very close to you. 30 minutes from Helsinki and you can be in the middle of wilderness.
EB: What is your own relation with photography (the one you appreciate, the one you take…)?
KK: I love photography and have been photographing all my life but creating time based art took me to my professional career. My relation in art has always been based on visuals and photography with a twist avant garde. That could be the reason I especially enjoy films that are made from photographers like Stanley Kubrick, Wim Wenders, Agnes Varda, and visual directors like David Lynch, Lars von Trier, Jonas Mekas, Roy Andersson, Alejandro Iñárritu etc.
EB: What is your current project? You also have another film project with Arno Rafael Minkkinen, can you tell us more?
KK: After ”Still Not There” we have been working together in a feature film project which is based on Arno´s screenplay. It has been in development now for ten years, which hits nicely with our documentary title Still Not There. Our aim is to have it in production and on screen in two or three years from now. Right now in fall I will do the Cinematography in another Finnish feature film.
Kimmo Koskela, February 2021