Hannu Nieminen has been working with audio-visual art since 1990's. He first worked with music videos for Finnish bands and later with experimental films and audiovisual installations. He has created more than 100 experimental films or music videos.
With his experimental film "The Pendulum," Hannu Nieminen secured a spot in the Experimental Brasil. In this work, sadness, masochism, violence, and remorse are extensively expressed on a 16mm film reel.
1.What led you down the path of experimental filmmaking, and how do you perceive its role in the broader landscape of cinema?
I started to make films during early 1990’s. I first created music videos for Finnish alternative bands. Music videos were still at that time (at least in Finland) a quite novel thing, and one could experiment with all kinds of ideas. At the same time, I got interested in alternative and experimental filmmaking. Especially experimental films from the early days of cinema and from 60’s/70’s was a source of inspiration for me. That time I used mostly 8mm and 16mm analog film, which I still like to do in addition to working with video and “alternative analog techniques” such as scratching/painting on film and cyanotypes.
What is the role of experimental filmmaking? Cinema audience from 1950’s would consider most of the commercial cinema of today to be highly experimental. Visual ideas and storytelling ideas from experimental films have been spreading into the commercial cinema. Thus, one role of experimental filmmaking is to be the “research department” of cinema. Another role of experimental cinema I see to be the “poetry department” of cinema, where one can totally break free from the limitations of telling simple stories. Experimental cinema is also audiovisual art, often suitable for art exhibitions, and borders between the different forms of art are very hard, and in my mind unnecessary, to draw.
2. Can you provide insight into your creative process, from the initial idea to the final product? When crafting a film, what is your approach to storytelling and how do you balance it with experimentation?
For me, a film starts from a set of visions and ideas. Then these ideas need some kind of form and structure. Sometimes creating the structure is more similar to the process of writing a piece of music. Then it’s not so much about telling a story. Like a piece of music, film then has different meanings and ways to interpret it and is more open to different types of interpretations. Sometimes the ideas naturally turn more towards a story: then the outcome is closer to traditional cinema in the sense that there is a story. However, also in this case it’s important for me that the story remains open for different ways to interpret it and has different meanings for different audiences.
3. How do you view the relationship between your films and the audience, and what techniques do you use to create an immersive experience?
When working on an experimental film, I in fact do not think much about the audience. I try to create something that I find interesting and for some reason important to do. If somebody else also finds it interesting, that’s great of course! Filmmaking and making music are for me very similar processes. Immersivity comes from the inner rhythm of the film and its structure, and how music and audio track syncs to that.
4. What obstacles have you encountered as a filmmaker, and how have you overcome them?
Biggest obstacle is the tendency of the art world to build boxes, categories and limitations. Are experimental films audiovisual art that is shown in galleries? Or are experimental films for cinema theatres? Getting my work into art galleries and exhibitions has been very difficult for, because I lack all formal education in art. I have teamed up with same-minded friends and we have jointly organized exhibitions and events. This has been a good way to get my work shown, although the audiences tend to be rather small. But that’s completely OK for me: small interested audience is so much better than larger not-interested audience.
Luckily, there are great festivals and events for experimental films, organized by enthusiastic friends of experimental films, such as your “Experimental Brasil” festival. These types of festivals are for me very important and rewarding for a for showing my films to good audience.
5. How do you balance the technical aspects of filmmaking with artistic expression in your films?
Especially in experimental films I like to use different kinds of analog techniques and to combine those with the possibilities digital filmmaking enables. Experimenting with different techniques brings in artistic ideas.
6. What guidance would you offer to those seeking to enter the world of filmmaking?
See a lot of films. Read a lot. Look at the world around you with the eyes of a child. Then create a lot of films. Steal inspiration and ideas from others. Do whatever you want in your films. Technically, making films is today easier than ever. Theater quality films can be produced with smartphones. So, technically almost everything is possible, even with very small budgets.
7. How do you define success in your films, and what metrics do you use to measure it?
If I’m happy enough with something I have produced, that’s fine. If somebody else finds it interesting, that’s great.
8. What are some of the recurring themes or topics that you explore in your films, and what motivates you to delve into these subjects?
Since I see experimental films as a kind of poetry, the themes I like to explore are poetic: the concepts of time and change, identity and consciousness and mystalgy (mystical nostalgy).
9. What are your five favorite films and filmmakers?
Hard to name five films, but the first five filmmakers that come to my mind as favorites or sources of inspiration are Andrei Tarkovsky, Stan Brakhage, Bill Viola, Denis Villeneuve and Hayao Miyazaki.