Interviews

Down the Rabbit Hole:
An Interview with Kristofer Kiggs Carlsson

13 September 2015

IN ENGLISH | PÅ SVENSKA

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Kristofer Kiggs Carlsson has known he wanted to be a filmmaker since the first time he watched Jurassic Park. Now he is right in the middle of his most extensive, challenging and exciting film project so far, where ideas and characters that have been growing with him since he was a kid are finally brought to life.

We are in the mid 90s, at a preschool in the Gothenburg district of Fiskebäck, and the rain is lashing down. As the courtyard is shaken by another clap of thunder, Kiggs spots a tiny baby rabbit hiding underneath the edge of a sandbox.

‘I wanted to take it home with me, but my teacher said I couldn’t touch it. And I don’t think she used these exact words but she said something like: It was abandoned, just like you were by your parents. And ever since, I’ve just thought rabbits are damn cool animals.’

When I meet Kiggs in Växjö twenty years later, he has recently wrapped up the shooting of his first short film, Spiritus Lepus, a magical story where mysterious rabbit spirits dwell in the forests. Right now, he is editing the film, while planning a new three-hour course for Moderskeppet, a Swedish online course platform, as well as finalizing five advertising films and two dance show shootings.

‘It’s a matter of prioritizing,’ he says, when I ask how he finds the time for everything. ‘I’m not out roaming about all night. I get up in the morning and work until I go to bed, and I enjoy it. It’s creative and soothing.’

Over the past year, Kiggs and the rest of the crew behind Spiritus Lepus have shot test footage, found sponsors, run a successful crowdfunding campaign (the goal of 40 000 SEK was reached within 48 hours), made costumes, masks and props by hand, released a series of vlogs and shot the film during ten intense days at the beginning of July. They spent the first five days in the deepest parts of the Kleva Mine outside of Vetlanda in the south of Sweden, breathing clouds into the freezing dark as the edge between day and night faded.

In a world of fables

The idea behind the short film was growing in the back of Kiggs’ mind long before the characters came to life in front of the camera. In fact, we can rewind all the way back to that thunderous preschool day, because back then, when baby rabbits and dinosaurs were the best things ever and his mother’s flat became a jungle with prehistoric footprints on the floor and raptor heads in flower pots, was when it all began.

kiggsquote1One day, Kiggs’ babysitter rented Jurassic Park, saying: ‘You’re not really supposed to watch this one, but your mum doesn’t have to know about it, does she?’ That night, a terrified but euphoric Kiggs knew he wanted to make films.

‘It was the worst thing and the best thing I’d ever seen. I couldn’t put it into words back then, but I knew this was something I had to be a part of.’

He started filming using his father’s video camera, editing in the camera as he went by rewinding and pausing where he wanted a new shot. At seven, he made his first music video by alternating shots of himself with shots from Godzilla filmed right off the TV screen, and showed it along with a song by Roxette.

Then came the fables. Bedtime stories slipping into his dreams, stirring musings that lingered and multiplied as the years went by. Musings about the fascinating creatures you could find in Swedish and Nordic mythology books, but so rarely on screen, about whether this mysticism could be updated and about how these creatures might have developed in the shadow of the modern world.

‘One day it just hit me. The penny dropped and I had this amazing idea,’ Kiggs says.

But he didn’t put his thoughts on paper until high school, and that is also when he got to work with proper film editing software for the first time.

‘When I started using iMovie, I thought: “Where has this been all my life? This is what I’m supposed to be doing!” Then I learnt how to use other software and now I’m doing things I would never have imagined.’

Positive paranoia

We are sitting on a bench in the Linnaeus Park, just short of a mile from the high school where we spent three years in the same class. While I was so shy I hardly even spoke to most of my classmates, I have always perceived Kiggs as very socially confident. That is why I am surprised to hear that his greatest fear as a sixteen-year-old was speaking in public.

‘But I learnt how I needed to think about it to get through it,’ he says. ‘And now I’ve led a team of thirty people.’

kiggsquote2I am curious to know what it felt like to involve that many people in a project he had been building on his own for such a long time.

‘It’s encouraging,’ Kiggs responds without a moment’s hesitation. ‘Going from being bullied in Gothenburg and spending every recess alone and hating your life to having friends who support you is immensely encouraging. I thought I had no chance of a future, but suddenly I’ve pulled this whole thing together. Today, there are thirty of us involved in this project and everyone is doing it non-profit, because we are a group of people who wouldn’t make it on our own, but when we work together as a group, we can create something amazing.’

Of course, working with so many people means there are many pieces that need to fall into place for everything to work out. This, Kiggs points out, requires a huge amount of planning and a pinch of paranoia.

‘It sounds stupid, but the most important thing I have learnt is not to trust anyone. You always need a backup plan. When you notice people are not doing what they have promised to do, even when you give them chance after chance, you have to organize a backup alternative even if it feels like you’re going behind their back. Be paranoid, but in a good way.’

Despite the successful Kickstarter campaign and many positive reactions to the project, Kiggs has faced both criticism and ridicule, even from some of his closest friends.

‘It feels like a cliché to say “believe in yourself”, but really, it’s true,’ he says. ‘No one else will do it for you. Even if the people around you say they believe in you, it has no significance until you believe in yourself. There were moments during the shooting when I woke up in the morning, thinking: “What am I doing?” Staying motivated is difficult. It’s a constant struggle for me. But then I step into the canteen for breakfast and my twenty-four teammates are having a blast in there. That gives me energy. You can’t do it all alone, but you have to get along with yourself.’

Following your dream

One of the goals behind Spiritus Lepus, which will be released online for free and is estimated for a release next summer, is to evoke more questions than answers. It will only show a fragment of Kiggs’ story, and his hope is to be able to turn it into a full-length feature film in the future. But what happens then, I wonder, when a project that you have planned and developed for so many years suddenly has been carried through?

kiggsquote3‘I don’t know,’ Kiggs says. ‘And that’s what’s so frightening. I have to get a job so I can get a proper income, but I don’t want to become a zombie, just hating my life, taking my money, living for the weekend and getting pissed. It makes me sick to meet so many people who are just accepting that life is what it is.’

But a few months ago, Kiggs started his first company. He has already taken the name Atomic Rabbit Productions, and a first step towards his dream of being the head of a motion-picture studio. However, he emphasizes that Oscars and red carpets have never been the goal of his filmmaking – he does it because making films makes him happy.

‘I know that if I can’t work in film right now, I will be unhappy and waste years of my life. I hope I will dare to follow my dream, but if I were to find out I’d rather be welding in ten years, or tomorrow, well, then I suppose that’s what I’ll do. As long as I’m happy.’

Let’s conclude by fast-forwarding even further, from sandboxes and plastic dinosaurs, past mines and rabbit humanoids, past film festivals and studio crews, to a university campus somewhere in the world. Maybe there is thunder again. Maybe a baby rabbit is hiding from the rain underneath a bench and spots Kiggs, scurrying across the courtyard on his way to a lecture, camera bag over his shoulder and briefcase over his head as a shield from the rain.

‘I love teaching,’ he says. ‘And one day I would like to be this old film teacher. But first, I want to live it up.’ icon-dot-circle-o


Find Kiggs online:

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Find Spiritus Lepus online:

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