Filmmaker Feature: Jonathan Wilhelmsson

by Jan 25, 2022Cinema Life Featured Filmmakers0 comments



Name: Jonathan Wilhelmsson

Discipline: Writer / Director / Producer/ Cinematographer / Editor

Production Company: Spoon Agency / Film i Dalarna

Film: Untitled Earth Sim 64

Logline: A woman is faced with an existential crisis after learning that her universe is an untitled simulation.

Festival(s): Georgia Shorts Film Festival 2021 (Official Selection) and Atlanta Comedy Film Festival 2021 (Best Cinematography Award)

Country you’re based in: Sweden

Short Bio: Jonathan Wilhelmsson is a Swedish director, cinematographer, and editor. He has studied at the Sydney Film School where he made his thesis film Waltzing Tilda (2017), a post-apocalyptic comedy about the last woman on earth. Since then, he has worked in everything, from commercials and documentary series, to continue working with short films as well as feature films.


Social Media Links: IG @jonathan.wilhelmsson

Favorite Quote: “Pain is temporary, film is forever.”

Interests/ Hobbies: Film definitely takes up the majority of my waking life as I do it for work and it’s also what I do for fun when I get home, working on my own projects as well as just watching films and listening to interviews, commentaries, and podcasts. I also like ice hockey, traveling, and playing video games. My favorite game lately is Night in the Woods.


How did you get started in the Film Industry?

I’ve loved storytelling for as long as I can remember. I made little comics from the time I could draw, and when I started school I wrote long stories about pirates and monsters and things like that. When I was 14 years old my father got a home-video camera and I started playing around with filmmaking, and I just thought it was the most amazing thing. The possibilities seemed endless and I started experimenting with every form of filmmaking I could think of, from stop-motion and hand-drawn animation to comedy sketches, short films, and even some incredibly bad 3d animation.

It was the most enjoyable thing I knew but it wasn’t until I was around 17 or 18 that I started considering that it could become a career. I think it was a mix of the fact that I had never met anyone else who was a filmmaker and that in my mind jobs were something boring that you had to do, so it didn’t seem possible that the thing I did for fun could be a job. But luckily, I wisened up and a month after high school I moved to Australia to attend the Sydney Film School, which became my introduction to the real filmmaking industry.

What are your upcoming and active projects?
I’m editing a project for a friend at the moment, and I’m writing a feature film. I’ve also written a short film that we were meant to shoot in Hong Kong before the pandemic started. Hopefully, we’ll manage to make that sometime in the future!

What type of stories interest you and why?

I’d say I’m particularly interested in stories that balance comedy and sadness because it seems true to life. One moment it’s fun and silly and the next it’s incredibly sad and terrifying.

What is your genre of choice?
As an audience member, I’m into basically everything. As a filmmaker, I especially enjoy making comedies and comedy-dramas. Making someone laugh is the best feeling there is for me, and I also think that comedy is quite often the best way to explore serious or dark topics.

How are you creating a path for yourself in this industry?

I’m trying to become adept at creating films with very limited resources. I love taking the types of films or scenes usually reserved for big-budget productions and recreating them on a minimal or nonexistent budget. My goal is to make a feature film this way.


What inspires you as a storyteller?

Lots of things inspire me. It might be a conversation I’ve had, a song I’ve listened to, or a photo I saw, but the biggest source of inspiration is from other films. The amazing thing about being a filmmaker is that it’s extremely rare that I will watch a film and not be happy to have seen it. Even a particularly bad film can have great moments and lessons to learn from.

How do you prep for a film, from writing to being on set?

The biggest change I’ve done in prepping in recent years is a new and much more involved approach to the storyboarding process. Instead of the crude drawings I used to make, I make simple composites based on real photographs, taken at the actual locations when possible. This allows me to form very accurate ideas about shots, compositions, and lens choices well before the shoot.

I put it together into what’s almost a weird comic book version of the film, with all the dialogue and necessary descriptions. It also means that I essentially do a first cut of the film before filming even begins, as all the intended cuts are represented.

It’s been received very favorably by my crew as they’ve gotten a much clearer idea of what I’m going for compared to my old hand-drawn storyboards. It has actually ended up becoming a better representation of the film than the screenplay itself, so as a result, it’s the only document we use on set.

What is the first thing you do when you get a script?
The majority of the time I write the screenplay myself, and then the first thing I do is to storyboard. When I direct someone else’s screenplay the first thing I do is usually to retype it all in my own words, not necessarily to change or improve on it or to replace the original. It just helps me to understand it and take it all in. It’s a way of doing my homework. 

What are a few lessons you’ve learned from your recent project(s)?
That time is the secret superpower of low-budget filmmaking. I really think that it’s an incredibly valuable resource we have as low-budget filmmakers that isn’t as readily available for bigger productions.

When you’re renting tons of expensive equipment and have hundreds of crew members on the payroll each day, there’s a massive pressure to do everything as quickly as possible. That’s true for low-budget films as well, but not to the same extent.

It isn’t as big of a deal to add an extra shooting day, and quite often having the time to do an extra take, playing around with the scene, and spending more time with the actors is worth more than any equipment you could think of.

On Untitled Earth Sim 64 the biggest way I utilized time as a resource was in post-production. It’s quite a visual-effects-heavy film (67 of its 73 shots are effects shots), so it could have become quite an expensive affair. I didn’t have the budget to afford a VFX crew. I didn’t have the budget to afford any post-production crew, in fact, but what I did have was time.

Over a period of about five months, I finished the entire post-production on my own on my laptop. It was certainly a challenge, especially as I have my day job and mostly had to work nights and weekends, but it was a lot of fun, and I think it’s a good example of how accessible filmmaking has become.

More money would have made it possible to finish the film faster, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it would have been better. I think this is the way that certain genre films and effects-heavy projects that in the past would have been a no-go for low-budget will become more and more achievable, using time as a resource.

What practical tips do you have for indie filmmakers (budgeting, marketing, directing)?
Make as many films as you can and don’t be worried about failing because with every project you’ll be learning. Don’t compare yourself to others because everyone’s journey is so different and there’s no one set way how to make a film. Finally, don’t worry if you don’t have a big budget or a huge crew because filmmaking is so accessible nowadays that there’s so much you can do on your own if you’re just willing to put in the time.



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