Q&A: Lawrence Dolkart and Mikko Niittymäki – part 2

Q&A: Lawrence Dolkart and Mikko Niittymäki [part 2]

In the second part of our Q&A, the creative duo tells about their views and plans on working at FLIK.

Read the first part of the interview here.

blogi

RIKU PYHÄLÄ

 2018 / 3 / 6
The writer works as a Producer
and Content Ninja in FLIK Helsinki
I think about every little element in the puzzle that I’m given, and how I can manipulate that to create a more dynamic image.

Larry: I know some things don’t have a lot of budget. The client will often ask: “How much does that cost?” I go, “a zero or a hundred thousand”. Just tell me the parameters I can work in – I will make the most of it. I think for ways to do that – there’s a lot of different ways. Not just my ways, it’s more about wanting to look for those ways.

 

You go out and just do these little interviews. Ok, then what? It’s just this, it’s just that – let’s get past the “just this”. Everything is important, to somebody, to your client. At the end of the day, our work ethic is important as it is what says the most about us.

Say, you’re interviewing someone, well for starters think of that as a beautiful portrait. Then you can think about the other elements that are in it, the things you are using. What can I do with this camera to make it look nice? What position is the person standing in? What’s the background? 

I think about every little element in the puzzle that I’m given, and how I can manipulate that to create a more dynamic image. Even if it’s simple, even if it’s just for social media. I try to steer away from the “it’s just for”. Everything I make says something about me, about this company, the way you care about clients.  

We try to prepare ourselves well and do
as much as possible in camera

I really think about it and that becomes a habit. It brings a huge value to the small projects – that’s where you practice the habit. Then you have that when you go to bigger projects. I have a much broader confidence in my ability to execute at all levels.

That’s what I teach: I teach philosophy and theory a lot. Because anybody can have the “I bought this new camera. It’s the best camera. It make best image.” Not really. People make those things. It’s the approach to making the image that makes it better.

Mikko: I think we have a similar way of thinking: we try to prepare ourselves well and try to do as much as possible ready, already inside the camera, not rely too much on the post production side. Not like thinking, “we’ll dump this shit”.

Larry: There is no magic about post.

Mikko: You don’t have to fight in the post if you do it properly already before that.

Larry: Access to the post is easier, and the software is there. I use a lot of software, but it’s all about what’s in the camera.

I want to take it more to professional film storytelling, as much as we can. What’s the story about? I want to serve that story the best. And add more story into stuff that doesn’t have that much story. Even if that comes a bit of a visual cue. Not just random medium shots that are connected.

The best thing Saija [Heikinheimo] said to me, when I came here: what do we do different than the guy next door? The guy next door opened with the drone shot, series of random wandering gimbal medium shots. That’s the go-to-thing. I don’t have a problem with any of those particular tools, we’re going to use a drone on something next week. But is that this project? It’s just some weird template. 

I’m looking forward to stuff that hits emotions. Emotionally touching stories.

Stop the camera sometimes, add some details, you can create these elements, these little scene sequences. You can create little movement, visual cues. They don’t really have a literal story, but they feel like that and they have more emotional impact.

Mikko: I’m looking forward to stuff that hits emotions. Emotionally touching stories.

Larry: More of that. It doesn’t have to be literal, it can be visually cued.

How much did you know about FLIK beforehand?

Mikko: Actually not that much, to be true. I saw somewhere the notice that you are hiring. I just thought “what is this?” Then I found out the last name and then I knew something.

Larry: Actually, I heard of it from Mikko. When Mikko suggested that, I just thought I’ve heard that a lot, “Oh we love your work, we’ll give you a call”. The call that never really comes, like the girlfriend, “Yea I’ll call you”. [laughs]

I felt discouraged, this has been a passion of mine for thirty years. I create images no matter what. If you go look at my Instagram, it’s my photo study with a story that accompanies it. It’s also a discipline, a practice – I’m practicing taking portraits over and over. It just happens to be mannequins in windows. Then I write a story. It’s essentially the same story that shifts over and over, the same elements. I’ve been doing it for eight years or so.

So they’re sort of micro stories…

Larry: They are. That’s also practice, how can I tell the biggest story in the fewest words? As I’m practicing that all the time, it translates into when I actually do write those stories.

When I met with Janne, they seemed most interested in looking to do something different. In a time, when I feel people are doing very much the same.

What made you grab the challenge here at FLIK?

Mikko: The diverse opportunities, and the possibility to take the next step on my career. Interesting things and not only TV and cross media.

Is there something that particularly inspires you?

Mikko: Well, to be straight, I’m more like those guys who say “Let’s do it and jump into next project”. Not the one that likes to spend months and months cutting or working on one project. Just the feeling of being able to go on with my own ideas, producing things and creating stories. I kind of felt already – when I met with Janne – that we synced pretty well. This felt like a nice place.

How do you feel about the challenge of combining new technologies and mediums (360 videos and VR etc.) and content?

Mikko: I’m just waiting to see something really awesome. So far VR things haven’t been that special. There hasn’t been anything that’s shocking my mind, like “Woah this is so cool that I wanna do it”. For future, let’s see… What I’ve experienced myself, I want something that you don’t need to wear a helmet or goggles with.

Larry: That’s why 3D has been coming three times in history. I just don’t see the whole world wearing those goggles all the time. It’s great for education or if you’re a gamer.

Mikko: But like widespread, people using 3D or VR, I don’t see that coming in the future.

Larry: I’ve seen this alternative marketing you’ve done with Toyota – that’s really super alternative and interactive. As far as going to computer, it just might be because I’m a little different generation. When I scroll down my Facebook or any of those feeds, when I see a 360° mouse, you know how many times I actually check that out? Never.

That doesn’t mean it will never work. If you’re selling real estate, 360° is quite cool. It serves its purpose for certain things. But all of a sudden, are general marketing and media switching to those kinds of ads? That I personally don’t see.

I think things like practical application: you wanna wear that headset normally? I avoid going seeing 3D movies – mostly because I don’t wanna wear 3D glasses. I also don’t think the cinematic experience is as beautiful. Those are the things people go to movies for, they like to watch stories. The content doesn’t all of a sudden have to be like “Oh I’m in the real movie”.

Mikko: When you go to 3D movies, they’re more like effects, not stories.

For me, the idea is only as good as the execution. It's all about the final product.

Larry: Yes, I mean that’s cool, a lot of the kids cartoons – some of the kids might think it’s fun. I’m not saying there’s no reason for them – they just don’t appeal to me as much, personally and on artistic level.

I’m an avant gardy artist guy, but I also have this classic sensibility when it comes to approach to art. My background comes from this disrupt-this-status-quo-thing. Also, when I teach – the first question when I hold a workshop – I always ask what’s the most famous painting in the world?

Mona Lisa?

Yes, no-one’s ever gotten that question wrong. It’s a girl standing on a terrace. That’s where I go – why is that so special? A lot of it has to do with the backstory. Something you can add to your own work. Lot of my work has huge amounts of backstory. If you look at my Instagram feed, there’s double or triple entendre’s. Sometimes the messages are more personal: actually to people.

Have you seen the painting?

I haven’t seen the painting in person. I know it’s tiny. And there’s two of them as well cause he’d made two paintings.

When you go there, there’s 20 people in front of you and you’re watching it from 10 metres away.

Larry: Yes, you’re like “Ok that’s enough”. [laughs] But it’s a philosophical approach: you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to make it special. There’s a reason why we tell the same stories over and over throughout the generations.

Also, when you’re trying to reach broader markets, it’s nice to tell things that a lot of people can relate to. People relate to things that are classic and beautiful. You don’t have to explain so much. Sometimes people try too hard, try to be too clever. For me, the idea is only as good as the execution. It’s all about the final product.

How about your expectations for working here?

Mikko: I’m looking forward, generally. There isn’t one thing, there are many things I’m looking forward to. So far, the first couple of weeks have been fun. A lot of new things, a lot of interesting projects – and now it’s about getting your hands on it.

Getting your hands dirty already?

Larry: Yes, we filmed stuff already, made something simple: how do you make a 4:3 room look special? There’s nothing but a couple of pipes.

Yes, been there.

Larry: I know, and it’s just about wanting to. I have a passion for making images. I like that they’re giving me the opportunity to do what I love. I wanna take that level and show – in this market particularly – my vision is: now someone has empowered me to show what I can do in this market.

In general, where is the video industry going?

Mikko: Online, better stories…

Larry: I think it’s already here, it’s everywhere, it’s going where it is. Everything will be video.

Mikko: Going to drones and gimbals. [laughs] Which are bad.

Larry: They’re not bad. They’re just tools. They’re the safe go-to thing. You know, “I’ll go buy us a bag of chips. I like them, they’re not so great for me though. But everybody likes chips, everybody will have some. You have too many bags of chips and it will make you sick.” That’s how I feel about video at the moment. [laughs] And this is not just the old guy talking… I’m actually not the guy that has a problem with youth.

Mikko: You can be old and grumpy.

Larry: That has nothing to do with how I feel about younger generations, like “Oh the millennials”. There’s been a little bit of lack of mentorship with younger generations. I put the blame more on the older generation. We could teach people to think more autonomously, empower them to have some more tools. Not just buy whatever the new gimmick is this week.

The tech side has got us lazy: “Go out and do it quick, we can do a lot in post.” It’s like plastic surgery. The more plastic surgery we get, the more we look alike.

We’re gonna bring the cinematic quality to the content.

Mikko: What I feel like, is broadcasters, companies, they should be giving creativity a bit more freedom.

Larry: Yes, the template approach!

Mikko: And not thinking always like, you know this Mielensäpahoittaja –thing? There are always people who think this is bad or how I felt bad about this. But giving a bit more space and letting people be a bit more crazy with their ideas. And letting people’s ideas and thoughts come out, even the crazier things. I think the world needs that kind of things and thinking outside the box.

Larry: Yes, I never thought inside or outside per se.

Mikko: Everything doesn’t have to be the same. I think diversity is enrichment.

Larry: I like the diversity of this office. That was one thing I noticed when I came in. It is a pretty diverse crowd.

From two weeks of experience, how do you see FLIK in near future?

Mikko: Well I hope they keep growing. I hope we can, with Larry and our new creativity, make the next step. Especially on the branding and B2B stuff, make it more special and the customers more happy.

Larry: We’re gonna bring the cinematic quality to the content. I have a great confidence in being able to do that.

In the near future, I’d like to develop projects in a way that – I always think all things are special, they have to be special – and you have to say something about yourself, about the company. The priority is delivering content that is what it’s intended for, the clients needs and purposes.

That gets lost a lot in creative. A lot of the creative industry is about the creative person, and not really about the client and/or the company. It’s a challenge: how can I make this a beautiful story with beautiful images that also directly serves its purpose?

I wanna bring more of that regimented philosophy approach to creating content to this area. If we start thinking about it on that level, you start caring about it. It has a kind of ripple effect. 

My work gets better when I think about it on that level. I go there, to their thing, what they want to say, and I think: “What if I wanted to express that about myself?” Not like, “I have this idea that makes me look cool”. I don’t care about cool. Other people get to decide that. Once you think you’re cool, or you want to be, you’re automatically not. Plus being cool is not that cool anyway!

Q&A: Lawrence Dolkart and Mikko Niittymäki – part 1

Q&A: Lawrence Dolkart and Mikko Niittymäki [part 1]

In the first part of our Q&A, the new creative force in FLIK's video productions opens up their past and backgrounds.

blogi

RIKU PYHÄLÄ

2018 / 2 / 2

The writer works as a Producer and Content Ninja in FLIK Helsinki

Welcome to FLIK guys! So, who are you, and where are you coming from?

Larry: You wanna go first? [Looks at Mikko] I’m quite chatty… Who am I? That’s a philosophical question [laughs]. My name is Lawrence Dolkart, but only the internet and my mother call me Lawrence. You can call me Larry. Born and raised in Los Angeles, I’ve lived in Helsinki now for nine years. Came here for the obvious reasons anybody comes here: I was married to a Finnish woman. She’s still Finnish but we’re not married. [laughs] I have a son, so I’m staying here. That I love about this country, it’s probably one of the best countries to raise a child. The things that are special about this place far outweigh any seemingly difficult things. So here I am and I’m here to stay.

How about the harsh winter?

Larry: I like the snow and the cold. People love to ask: “How do you feel about the darkness?” I’m like, they are an OK band, not my favorite band. [laughs] I like light and dark, it’s kind of what I am. Both sides of that spectrum are nice as I like the extreme contrasts. The midsummer-thing, I love that, although last summer wasn’t very nice. I’ve never actually lived anywhere outside of Los Angeles before I moved here. Though I’ve travelled a lot for work: I’ve been around, to many different cultural situations and countries – and in a work environment. I’ve always felt fairly comfortable about working with people from different cultures.

Mikko: Me, Mikko, born in Helsinki, lived first couple of years in Tripoli, Libya. After that came back to Finland, and during elementary school lived for two years in Bonn, Germany. Then I lived close to Helsinki until heading to army. Been in TV-related business, for twelve years, doing everything basically from sports to news and drama to reality and lifestyle. Past years, I’ve been on the productions mostly cutting, editing and then shooting something on the side. I guess I’m a storyteller, who really likes to create and go further with my own ideas. Quite a social person, who likes to be around nice people, smiling and throwing out bad jokes. [laughs]

I guess I'm a storyteller, who really likes to create and go further with my own ideas.

What type of projects/companies have you been working on?

Mikko: Before coming here I was working for two years at Yellow Films, as an editor over there. Before that, generally freelancing all over at production companies in Helsinki.

So this isn’t that new environment for you.

Mikko: No no, been quite a while here. I know quite a bit about different productions, big and small, good and bad.

Larry: My background is all film, mostly commercial film. It was where I started as a teenager. And I’m not a teenager anymore. I have literally a 30+ year film career.

Mikko: Yea you’re not a teenager, but your mind is like teenagers.

Larry: I’m not very mature for my age, that’s true. [laughs] I started in commercials, that was my first job, in TV-commercials as a PA. Then I worked myself up from PA. I never finished high school, I don’t have a degree to do anything, but I teach at the Master’s level quite often these days. [laughs] I worked my way up, which is very common back home. You learn along the way. It teaches you how to understand and respect what everybody else does. And I like that.

Over the years I worked for so many, from the RSA to HSI, which are big commercial companies. Some of my great mentors, would probably be a better way to describe my career. Because I did like hundreds of music videos and commercials at different levels, very small to very large, million dollar commercial projects, single commercials, for a week!

So, my two great mentors were… Rolf Kestermann, who did a lot of this beauty lighting stuff. Rolf is my greatest mentor, when it comes to lighting and the philosophy of lighting. I worked probably for every production company in LA at one point. With Rolf I did these fashion models and we did a lot of work with beauty brands and he was and is still considered one of the greatest beauty cinematographers. And I still say, he’s one of my greatest mentors.

Then I had this other mentor, Samuel Bayer, who is most well known probably for the Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit video. I didn’t do that video, but I did most of them, ten years after that one. He inspired me to always shoot from the hip and added a raw edge to my beauty background. 

I came from being PA into doing lighting pretty quickly, and worked my way up in the lighting department with Rolf, where I learned a lot of the theory of lighting and philosophical approaches to lighting. Not “you have to do it this way”, but he inspired me to see that everything can be beautiful. Then I did this other stuff with Sam, these big rock videos, from David Bowie and Sheryl Crow to The Cranberries. That list is super long.

Mikko: Maybe you forgot Tom Jones’ Sex Bomb. That’s what Finnish people love. [both laugh]

What’s your favorite video? Not the best, but favorite.

Larry: It’s up there with the best one’s as well. It’s the song and combo of being this nineties… Some people called me part of the zeitgeist of the nineties music video look – which is a huge complement. The Bullet with Butterfly Wings video by Smashing Pumpkins is quite special to me. They still play that a lot. That’s with Samuel Bayer. It was the first job I started operating the camera on. Very shortly after that I was shooting for him and other directors – as a DP.  I just love the combination on that video: the story, the song and everything kind of came together. It’s based on Salgado Diamond mines photography books. It has like a thousand extras, it seems very simple when you look at it, but quite often it’s the simple stuff that can be quite complicated.

I did the Björk’s It’s Oh So Quiet video with Spike Jonze. Everyone thinks it’s just a girl walking out of a tire store, right? And that’s what it is. You have to go look at it. It’s hugely technical, because the camera, the lights and he music are all slaved to the speed ramp. It takes a lot of light to change the look of exterior day light – in the middle of summer. We had a street row of 3000k worth of lights that are all programmed to the camera speed change. Because it goes into slow motion and it’s still sync all ramp with the music of course. It looks simple, but to do all that, it’s a big set up.

We talked about working outside the box, I thought, “Why don’t we work inside the box and make that much more pretty – let’s make that really good!”

From your past, what are you bringing to the table here in FLIK?

Mikko: I guess from me, it’s my diverse experience, from different kinds of things. And the way I want to push myself onto the next level as well, getting out of the dark room we are in ourselves. Putting together stuff other people have been planning and producing, getting them to that level. Being one of the guys using their brain to create something amazing and nice.

What I want to bring here as well is, working with Larry before, we’ve been doing plenty of projects together. He’s been one of the guys I can certainly say I’ve been learning quite a bit from. It’s always been a pleasure and I’m looking forward to what kind of things we can create together in the future. Looking really forward – he’s a great mentor and always has something to say.

Larry: Yea I do always have something to say. I come from a loud culture, we talk a lot. So culturally it’s a bit different. Hopefully, I bring some disruption to this office. I believe in those kinds of concepts. People get complacent in doing the same things, the same way, all the time.

I don’t necessarily want to change things. I have specific ideas and I can be little bit stubborn in my own ideas, I’d like to be more open to hearing… I might go like “Ohhh this is my art!”, I have that crazy avant garde artist side. But I also have this other side. We talked about working outside the box, I thought, “Why don’t we work inside the box and make that much more pretty – let’s make that really good!” There can be a different perspective inside it, a box has many sides.

What I’m going to bring, is making those things more special. I don’t have a huge agenda, how to make those special – it’s more about inspiring people – that they can be more special, in a simple way.

Continue to read part 2 of the interview.