VR Proximity flight!
Feel like you're really flying down Tianmen Moutain
Name: Johannes Bergfors
Freefall/tunnel time: 3,300 jumps, a couple of hundred hours of tunnel
Home: Soon Bovec, Slovenia, but generally spend more time on the road than at home.
Cameras: Sony AX53, Sony a6000, Gopro 4
This edition of “In focus” is published soon after the release of Johannes' latest documentary film “Work” and the film itself will be discussed throughout the interview.
So here is the film in its entirety so that you may watch it before reading the interview itself; enjoy :)
So i'm so excited to be doing this together with the release of “Work”, it's an amazing movie and a huge congratulations on getting it made.
Thank you, I’m happy it’s out as well.
How long did it take to make from concept to completion?
About one year ago in November 2015, Will Penny from the freestyle team Flynamik, asked me if I could come and film them while they train. Some preparations were made between then and June 2016 when I went to Empuriabrava in Spain for a week. After that I spent hundreds of hours doing research about how to edit a documentary and watching all the footage I filmed several times - of which most has not been used. Then I begin editing, working with my sound post-production guy Jonatan Thomasson, re-editing, searching for music, e-mailing publishers for music rights, finding stock footage by inspirations to Flynamik, watching again, changing again many times and then doing final finalisations and text titles.
All the effort put into it really shows in the attention to details and quality of the movie.
When you went to film, how much of what would become the movie was storyboarded or at least present in your mind and how much was just rolling the camera and improvising?
Nothing was on a story board. It was not possible, since I had no idea what was in store for me when I arrived in Empuriabrava. I knew already, that I was going to be a pain in the ass for them and that my goal was to push myself into trying to get the real story - pretty or not. I don’t think that Will expected me to make such a big deal about it. I just tried to stay in the background, let them do their thing and get them used to me being there with a camera in their face.
With any documentary there is always the question of how much your presence there changes what you get to see, how did you approach that problem?
First of all, I believe that my presence for sure changed some things, unevitely. I tried minimizing it by early in the week telling them that I was going to be annoying. I tried to get them to drink wine to relax but they have a no drinking policy while training. Sometimes I’d just put the camera on a tripod, leave it running and then leave the room while they interacted.
Haha sneaky, so tell me about the title “Work”; what made you choose that?
Because of what I saw. After I filmed it and sat down to watch it all again, I had the preconception that I’d create a film with this big dramatisation with an antagonist and trouble, defeat and victory to portray. But in the end I couldn’t find it in myself to make an artificial sensationalist story. The true story is that when this team train they just keep grinding, like any factory worker. They are relentless about working very hard to achieve that tiny little extra that hardly no one will ever notice but themselves.
Was the movie always supposed to be only about the training or was the idea discussed that you would follow them to the mondial as well?
That was never the plan. For a while I had the idea to release the video on the same day as they would do their first competition jump at the mondial, but first of all the movie was not ready, second the team asked me to not do it since it could possibly affect the judging of the competition.
So now that it's done and released, are there any further plans for it? Are you going to take it to some festivals and show it to a non-skydiving audience?
I hope a lot of skydivers and non-skydivers see it so they get an understanding of the work behind the 45 seconds of freestyle performance they see. Festivals, maybe. It’s the first time I worked with interviewing on camera, doing sound for myself, editing a documentary, working properly with music licenses and so on, so my goal with this project was to challenge myself and progress as a filmmaker. I learned very much about documentary filmmaking doing this project, let alone flying and what it takes to be a successful team.
Amazing. So let's talk a little about you.
When did you start doing camera?
As soon as I was allowed by Swedish skydiving regulations - after 200 jumps, autumn 2008.
And did you ever spend time doing tandem camera or were you always about the freefly camera?
I did about 800-900 tandem video jumps and still love it to death. It’s a great gift to take part in someone’s first skydive, and it helped me a lot in my freeflying because I was carving around and doing transitions while filming the tandems. Tandems are a great reference for low speed training.
And when did you start working in the tunnel?
I started in April 2014.
Did you notice a big difference in your camera work after you started being more proficient in tunnel flying? Did it translate much?
I didn’t think so initially. I could already fly the way I wanted before I started in the tunnel. What I didn’t know was the way I would be flying after all the tunnel. After a while I just started imagining more difficult lines to fly around groups and was able to visualize and be more accurate about what I could achieve.
Slow is Fast is a video by Johannes Bergfors
For me at least your breakout video was “Slow is Fast” (2013). It still stands out as a very long but amazing skydiving video. What was it like tackling a video of that quality and length as your first major project?
I had done many skydiving videos before that, but didn’t really have access to the quality content that I then was able to obtain to myself. I was considering making it into several shorter videos, which it kinda is anyway with its three chapters, and then one day I just said ‘fuck it, I’ll make it a big one’. It’s a step away from being commercial for sure. If I was looking for amount of clicks then it’s more efficient to make 15 one minute videos instead of one 15 minute video.
Talk to me about the ‘Past Sins’ series, was that just footage you had lying around not being used that you just decided to revisit?
Exactly. I figured, just like when I first started making skydiving videos, that what’s the point of having all this material if I’m just going to keep it on a hard drive. For me I see them as entries in a diary of my skydiving life. And there were some jumps that I thought, maybe someone else will enjoy seeing this - because I have always enjoyed seeing other people's’ jumps.
So in this series we've talked a lot about inspiration and previous or current cameramen who inspire your work; who were some of yours?
Håvard Flaat, Martin Kristensen and Norman Kent were the ones I looked up to at first. The Nordic Meet videos and concept were amazing. Later on also Alex Aimard, Richie Scheurich and Keith Creedy.
I remember you talking to me about the “perfect shot” from a Håvard video, what was that?
The last jump in the video Nordic Sequentials 2012. It was me and Alex Aimard filming the event but Håvard went in for one or two jumps like a boss and just nailed it both times.
Nordic Sequentials by Alex Aimard – the 'perfect shot' begins at 8:06
So I know you, and plenty of others know you, as “Heffie”. Where did that nickname come from?
In 2008 I was participating at Flaj Flaj and would wear my normal knitted cardigan and pyjama pants with “I <3 NY” pattern on. My friend Timothy said I looked like Hugh Hefner.
And it stuck. I also like Johannes though.
You seem to focus more on video work; I know you do stills too, but is that something you think you're going to explore more in the future or will your focus stay more on the video side of things?
I’m pretty close to being able to film whatever I want to film while freeflying. But I’m very far from being able to be at a good level with photography, so for sure at some point I’ll want to explore that too. But a photo can be taken out of context, where as a video tells the true story and that appeals to me.
You stand out as someone who does a lot of camera work, but also a lot of load organising.
From an organiser's perspective, what does it take to create a jump that will end up looking amazing on camera?
Just like a piece of classical music requires all musicians to have a good day at the same time and not play any errors, the same is the key for a well orchestrated jump - everyone needs to do their part, not play louder or quieter, or the wrong notes. Doubtlessly an easy plan, well orchestrated, will look more appealing to the eye than an difficult plan that is flown unsynchronized. It takes a skilled organizer to plan a skydive with 8 people that is not too easy but still plausible to perform.
And how do you find the balance between video, organising, tunnel coaching and also working in the tunnel? Do you just go “ok now I need to do a video” or do you just go with the flow?
A mix of both is the best for me, but after quite a lot of filming last year I’m now focusing on coaching and organizing. For a while, before “Work” I had felt with myself the need to do a big creative project that wasn’t a repetition of anything that I’d done before. I try to renew myself and never stagnate and it was something new for me to do a documentary.
That's very interesting; is there anything on the cards? Any ideas floating in your head?
There are some shots that I have in my mind that show what I want to portray. Things that put what we do in perspective. The big picture. I’d also like to be part of developing a source for tunnel and skydiving students where they can find information about how to improve their learning process and flying progression themselves, with world leading flyers and coaches as authors. I feel the wheel is constantly being reinvented.
Well I hope you find both to make some amazing stuff in the future.
It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you today, I hope we get to see much more of your work in the coming years.
Thank you very much!
Are there any sponsors or thank yous or shoutouts you wanna do before we sign off?
Tonfly, UPT, Larsen & Brusgaard, NZ Aerosports for believing in me, and to everyone who let me jump with them way back, although I’d cork and fuck up their jump.