Andrew Nisinson Premieres 'Spirit of Autumn'
Filmmaker Andrew Nisinson is something of a mystic, made all the more evident by his new project ‘The Spirit of Autumn,’ a mysteriously intriguing yet beautifully lush film that demonstrates Nisinson’s highly specific sensibility for the camera and his subjects, as well as love for the eponymous season of autumn. The film is making it’s world premiere on Milk Made, so we enlisted the websites own Jake Boyer to speak with Nisinson about this film, as well as some of the director’s creative inspirations and his apparent belief in magic.
So tell us a little about your upcoming work ‘The Spirit of Autumn’. You thought of this project while on a drive?
Yes. One of my favorite things to do when the seasons change is just get out of the city and go on road trips with friends. I’ll create a few playlists that can be like a movie soundtrack to my journey. It’s really nice for letting your brain get into that conceptual space, floating off into imagery and abstraction. While on this journey I was listening to some Native American inspired music from Ken Burns’ The West. I began to think of a woman who represents the season of autumn, who can change the color of the leaves with a simple touch.
When looking at your other films, it seems that beauty and nature are very present themes in a great deal of your work. Would you say that is what inspires you?
Nature has always inspired me, kind of funny for a kid who grew up in New York City. But I grew up around fine art — everyone in my family is a trained painter or artist, and my father’s an art dealer who dealt with a lot of old masters when I was young. So my early associations with classical art and Barbizon paintings still affect me a lot. I also grew up reading lots of fantasy books and Shakespeare. Magic is a big part of my creative self, and nothing evokes magic more than nature. I try to include something fantastical and wondrous in everything I do, whether it’s a fashion film or hip hop video. Bas’ video for Building Blocks sort of takes place outside of reality. We created a vivid landscape based around the ethos of Bas’ crew Fiends Or my piece Madame X — it’s based on a painting by John Singer Sargent and between the light and the environments, happens more in a dreamscape than in reality.
Did you begin your affair with the camera as a photographer or a filmmaker? Does one come easier for you than the other?
The roots of my camera work are mostly in art; framing for me came from drawing and photography, and as a child my father took me to great museums. By the time I regularly had a camera in my hands in college, it was like meeting someone you didn’t realize you’d known all your life. Photography isn’t easier, but it certainly presents fewer logistical and technical challenges. Filmmaking is about telling a story, making statements through action, whereas photography is presentational. Films made by photographers are often without action or story and end up being a series of moving photographs cut to a song. Photographs taken by filmmakers usually look like stills from a film. I have had to divide my brain and divorce these crafts from each other.
You’re quite the Renaissance man, with documentaries, fashion films, beauty films, and music videos under your belt. Are there distinct differences between these projects or is it easy to bridge the gap between them?
Every project differs and presents its own challenges, but it’s all storytelling — even abstract conceptual pieces. What attracts me to projects is a sense of fantasy. Anything that can create a heightened reality, a reality in which magic is real and mythology sets the rules. That’s what really interests me and is the link, what I’d like to continue to explore with my work. If I’m inspired and get that hunger, I’ll take on anything. Production is crazy, so you have to really be behind what you’re doing to see it through. When you’re sitting in your room coming up with ideas, that’s the best time, because anything is possible and all your ideas seem brilliant. It’s when you have to get down to business and execute, when you think, “I will gnaw and bite and scratch and claw, do whatever I have to so that we can all survive this crazy thing” that nothing is more gratifying because nothing takes over your life quite so much.
When did you first have the urge to pick up a camera?
I had the urge to do it long before I did. I think in high school before I had ever actually made anything of my own, I was referring to myself as a filmmaker. I put the cart before the horse, and then in college I finally learned how to ride.
Is there a particular film or filmmaker that inspires you?
So many films inspire me, and for different reasons. For writing, Network or pretty much anything by Woody Allen or the Coen Brothers. I’m obsessed with the movie Coraline, because the visual world it creates is unparalleled, and I love the writer of the book, Neil Gaiman. Few writers create other worlds as vividly as Neil.
What’s the most important thing you learned from film school?
Collaboration. Classes were fine, Los Angeles is warm, but the bonds of collaboration that were forged during that time will last my entire life.
If you were to describe your feelings about filmmaking in one sentence, what would it be?
Nothing good can ever be made cynically; sincerity is the soul of wit and meaning.