Director and visual artist Joanna Nordahl has a CV that anyone would envy - working on a vast array of creative projects and receiving some pretty impressive awards (including a Swedish Grammy for her work directing Say Lou Lou’s ‘Nothing But a Heartbeat’ video). The Swedish/Brazilian talent has been known to delve into a range of categories, from documentaries and short films to creative performance pieces. Splitting her time between Stockholm and London, we were lucky enough to take a moment of Joanna’s time to chat about where she gets her inspiration and the duality of her film and performance work.

Can you tell us a bit about what you do?

I’m a director and visual artist working mainly with film and live performances. I try not to restrict myself creatively so I tend to sway between short films, commercial projects, music videos, documentaries and more experimental work - all sorts of stuff really. I have faith that when people look close enough they will see that there's a connection between all the work I do. I'd like to explore longer formats too.

How and when did you decide you wanted to work in film?

The urge to be creative has always been in me for as long as I can remember. I can’t really explain where it came from but I do remember ”directing” performances with my friends as a really young kid and finding it a very natural thing to do. When I was a teenager I was very into acting and directing theatre, but I would always get very nostalgic and sad as soon as a production was over. It was from that feeling that I was drawn to making films - they could be watched over and over. Perhaps it stems from some kind of existential anxiety? It was also something I had lots of fun doing and decided to explore further. I’ve always been obsessed with cinema, and the thought of directing films seemed very romantic and thrilling.

It’s such a different experience to share a moment live with an audience, compared to counting how many views you get on a video online.
Nowadays I can’t really imagine life without filmmaking, even though it’s hard work and most of the time not actually romantic at all. The payoff comes when you get to see everything come together on set though - that’s the best feeling. For a long time, I thought that I was the most at peace when having time off, but I’ve slowly realised that it is when I am in a near obsessive creative flow that I am actually the most fulfilled. I've learned the hard way that I need space and time away from the hustle to appreciate it. At the end of the day, I guess it’s all about balance. I’m still figuring that one out. Maybe I’ll get it tattooed somewhere on my face so that I’m reminded of it every time I look in the mirror.

Tell us a bit about your interests outside of film.

I'm a bit obsessed with dance, so I try to use choreography as an element in most projects. A few years ago I did a TV series about young hip-hop dancers, and currently, I'm focusing more on contemporary stuff. I try to compliment my film work with creating visuals for performances and contemporary dance shows. I usually collaborate with my dear friend Ludvig Daae, who’s an amazing choreographer from Norway. In our joint projects, I use my own body and voice on the stage as a performer. It’s such a different experience to share a moment live with an audience, compared to counting how many views you get on a video online. I love the internet so much, but I think a lot of online interactions are stripped off of real emotions, so you can end up feeling quite empty and lonely when the main platform for showing your work is online - or at least I do. The work and long-term research that Ludvig and I do focuses a lot on questions about just that - what the point or value is with the concept of ”live” in a world where our lives are becoming more and more digitalised. Our last project "Hyperfruit" was about intimate relationships that take place online, and our upcoming project "High Onlife" (working title) researches what social media does to our worldview and the view of ourselves. It’s a bit terrifying to be in the vulnerable position of performing in front of an audience but it also makes you feel very much alive and aware of your physical presence. I think and hope that the kind of work we do probably helps me to stay motivated and grounded in all my work, not just the performance stuff.

Outside of work I'm currently on a mission to learn new things. This year I got my first skateboard, which has been amazing but so difficult! I’m really excited about the concept of having hobbies again. I honestly forgot about hobbies when I started working with my hobby ten years ago and just kept busy - but I've just realised that they are so good for you. I also have some new challenges planned for next year - I can't wait.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I try to pay attention to the world around me, there really is inspiration to be found all over the place. These days I try to look a bit more inside of myself to access memories and personal experiences and use them in my work. I used to be really scared of opening that door, but I'm digging into it more now. I'd say my main thing is music. Listening to music has always been like an intense experience for me, images just start flowing through my head and I try to follow my initial reaction as much as possible and write down what I imagine. I also gather my energy and creative fuel when out dancing. Usually, things seem to fall into place when I’m on a crazy loud dance floor somewhere in the world, moving around freely with sweaty bangs stuck to my forehead and heavy bass thuds vibrating under my shoes. I really think dancing in a room full of other dancing people is a pretty a moving experience, and I tend to feel inspired and grateful in those moments as well as more ”in the present” than I usually do.

What is it that you love about Stockholm and London?

What I love about Stockholm when it comes to work is that I have a crew of incredible people around me that I’ve known for many years and trust with all my heart. Those relationships are truly priceless. I think it takes a long time to get to know someone properly and work out how to communicate and collaborate in the best way - while keeping things fun at the same time. Those relationships allow you to take risks and grow creatively together. I also feel that in Sweden you can make more on a small budget, compared to other places. London excites me in a completely different way. I love the diversity that the city offers and that there’s just so much to be inspired by - the people, the art, the nightlife, super particular subcultures that I would never see or be part of in Sweden. I think huge cities like London open my eyes both on a personal level and with my work, they force me to think outside of the tiny bubble I know so well. I really appreciate that and generally think it's so important to travel, explore and challenge yourself as much as possible.

Usually, things seem to fall into place when I’m on a crazy loud dance floor somewhere in the world, moving around freely with sweaty bangs stuck to my forehead and heavy bass thuds vibrating under my shoes.

Can you tell us a bit about any upcoming projects you’ve been working on?

I've just finished working on a new condom campaign for RFSU - a Scandinavian organisation for body rights and sexual health. It's been a long road but I am excited about it. I think the work turned out really nice and I love RFSU and everything they represent. The goal of the project is to get young people comfortable with using condoms and get better at handling any "awkwardness" that bringing up a condom might create. It’s an issue that we Scandinavians are statistically very bad at - both of those things. I think it's quite rare to do get to do a more or less commercial project and actually love the product or company you're promoting, so I am very grateful to be a part of this.

Where can we learn more about you and your projects?

RFSU film:

instagram: @joannanordahl

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