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Traktor: “We’re Still Curious Kids Who Love to Be at the Crafting Table”


The iconic filmmaking collective tells LBB how they took their inspiration from Swedish Cinema ads, and why some shoots will always work best in-person

Traktor: “We’re Still Curious Kids Who Love to Be at the Crafting Table”

Production Service Network, the one-stop-shop for worldwide film and photo shoot support, is proud to support creativity across the planet. As part of that mission, we’ve teamed up with LBB to celebrate the past, present and future of the big creative idea. Over the course of this upcoming interview series, we’ll speak to producers who’ve breathed life into creativity and, quite simply, been the driving force that made incredible things happen. 

Today, we speak to Traktor, the filmmaking collective comprising directors Sam Larsson, Pontus Löwenhielm, Patrik von Krusenstjerna, Ole Sanders, Mats Lindberg and producer Richard Ulfvengren. Twice named as the most award-winning directors in the world, a tour through their past will show precisely why. From the wonderful ‘It's A Tide Ad’ starring David Harbour to the wonderfully weird music video for Basement Jaxx’s ‘Where’s Your Head At’ back in 2001, the name Traktor has long been synonymous with a gold-standard of creative quality. 

Here, the collective reflect on the early influences in their career, why remote filming can’t work for every kind of project, and how they find their ‘inner peace’ outside of the industry… 

LBB> I read in a previous interview with Traktor that you guys had to go to the cinema in order to watch ads growing up, as there weren't any on TV. Do you think that might subtly have always given your work more of a ‘cinematic’ flavour?

Traktor> Yes, Scandinavia was funny in that way. Sweden was one of the last countries to get commercials on TV, just before Albania. China had ads two decades before Sweden. But the tradition of ads in cinemas is over 100 years old now. Cinema commercials tended to be comedic and longer, more entertaining stories - not products of research or marketing departments fearing for their jobs. So yes, they probably inspired us a bit. Really, we were all curious kids and still we are just that - kids. Early Super8 and VHS film makers who loved telling stories.

And we always felt that comedy doesn't need to look "boring", so we've tried to find the right look for each job. Plus, it's a great excuse to call up an Oscar-winning cinematographer and ask them to work with us.

LBB> Looking back on your work for HSBC with PSN - Lemon Grove - the locations in that ad are absolutely beautiful. How much of a challenge was finding those places, and what was the thinking behind choosing them?

Traktor> It’s funny you should say that, as it was a build. We found a flat area in an old cricket field surrounded by the tea terraces, and then built our Lemon Grove and the ‘factory’ there. Each tree you see is handmade. 

Even the scene in Paris is built next to the catering truck! They used real stone to pave the plaza, and each stone was delivered via many many Tata trucks up the mountain. It was quite an adventure.

Above: The beautiful set for Traktor’s work on HSBC’s ‘Lemon Grove’ campaign was purpose-made.

LBB> And how did the casting process work in India - did you have any ideas of who you would be working with before you arrived?

Traktor> India is very sophisticated as a film country, and we worked with our partner Bang Bang who we have worked with before. Bang Bang (PSN India Partner) has well-oiled machinery, and the casting process was totally smooth. The American girl and dad came from LA. We love travelling to India, especially to shoot on-location.

LBB> That ad hit screens back in 2013. Do you think a spot like that would have still been possible to make remotely, or amidst the other challenges of the pandemic?

Traktor> Having shot all over the world, we are very used to prepping jobs remotely. But, not all projects can be shot remotely. If the HSBC job had come in a remote situation, we would have attacked in a different way. This project was one of those that you need to attend and be on-location. 

But on the other hand, we have done a fully remote shoot in India a long time before the Pandemic and it worked really well.

LBB> Traktor have made some brilliant comedy ads over the years (It’s a Tide Ad being one highly-celebrated example). Do you think that there are certain genres which are more adaptable to remote filming, or is there an equal challenge no matter what?

Traktor> Thanks for the kind words. We think most films can be shot remotely - the last couple of years has proven that - but we also love to be on set and nibble from the craft service table. 

Less technical shoots tend to be ‘easier’ to shoot remotely, or those which are very controlled. It also depends on the relationship with the cinematographer and first assistant director. It helps a lot, also, if the directors and the key crew have a really good collaboration from the start. It is of course important on all shoots, but even more so on remote shoots.

LBB> Looking beyond the pandemic, are there any trends which are exciting you in the world of production at the moment? If so, how do you see them shaping the industry into the future?

Traktor> Well, we are really bad when it comes to predicting the future. But after these rather stressful and boring years of masks and lockdowns, we see an even greater need

for giving people something to smile and laugh about - whilst promoting a service or a product. And we love doing that!

LBB> Finally, the past two years have been a huge challenge for so many. Throughout it all, how have you been keeping inspired and motivated?  

Traktor> As has always been the case, it is important to get your inspiration from outside our industry. This global pause has probably brought many people to seek their inner peace,

and pick up on things neglected while being in ‘the hamster wheel’. If nothing else, that might be one positive side of the pandemic.

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Production Service Network PSN, Fri, 11 Feb 2022 08:26:00 GMT