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.



2017 / 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]

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.

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.

Part 2 of the Q&A will be published soon – stay tuned!