Interview with Award-Winning Filmmaker Sven Dreesbach

by Sean Lawrence February 10, 2016

It’s been a crazy year for Sven, and it’s only February. With all of the hype and excitement from his last three videos, This Moment, Dark Waves and the award-winning Willow Creek - shot on the iPhone 6S Plus and iPhone 5S, respectively - he’s been a busy man, catching the eye of huge publications like Mashable and Resource Magazine. Knowing him previously from his music videos, like California Dreamin’, we were determined to find out why he chose to use an iPhone for his latest videos and what his thoughts are on gear, storytelling, advice and the craft and future of filmmaking.


How did you first get into filmmaking?

I started as an animator at a Berlin based company after high school, but really got into filmmaking when I was in film school. My focus back then was in animation and visual effects, and I was tempted to start a career in this craft abroad. As luck would have it, I got hired by Digital Domain in Venice, CA. The following 10+ years in Los Angeles I went through the grind, working in post-production for feature films and TV commercials. During that time, I met and worked with some of the most talented artists, directors and film makers in the industry. Even though I became a digital artist, I never let go of the camera entirely, even if I just shot a few stills. About two years ago, I started working freelance and made sure I would devote some of my spare time to my own filmmaking again.

What inspired you to shoot with a smartphone [instead of using your usual gear]?

When I heard about the availability of 120fps in full HD resolution on the iPhone [for clear slow motion shots], I was tempted to use it right away, since I knew that I had a project coming up that would require flexibility without blowing up the small budget that I had available. Thanks to some planning, I ended up with two standalone projects, This Moment and Dark Waves, a music video for a befriended music producer from Berlin, Robert Koch - aka Robot Koch. 

What advice would you give to a new filmmaker, i.e. someone young and inspired, looking to get started and experiment? Also what advice to your younger self [in regards to filmmaking]?

Too often - and this is what I learned in film school, dragging a trail of sweat and tears behind me - you become too ambitious in the scale of your projects and you forget to focus on learning this artistry step-by-step [instead of all at once]. This was the case for me at film school, where in hindsight one of the most important things I learned was, “Hold your horses!” Nothing's more discouraging than seeing your valuable energy go up in flames when you realize a project become heavier than expected and eventually too heavy to handle.

Besides that, never forget that there will always be a lot more to learn about the craft of filmmaking. Many of the people who are reading this are still standing at the start of their race track, including me.

Sven Dreesbach (pictured left) with fellow filmmaker Steven Holleran

Where did the idea/story of this video come from? What story did you want to tell?

The idea came during the pre-production of Dark Waves. I already knew that we would end up with some extra footage and that if we spent a few extra hours at each of the different locations, we would be able to shoot some extra scenes with an entirely different angle on the ocean and surfing, compared to what we showed in Dark Waves. For This Moment, the idea was to dedicate something more poetic to the world of surfing, contrary to the highlight reels that we usually see in the media.

For me, This Moment was a way to unite surfing with the beauty of nature in a different way. Because that's what surfing is all about, becoming one with nature. It sounds cliché, I know, but it's very true. I just can't find a better way to describe the intimate moment when a person plays with the forces of nature the way a surfer does.

What do you think the future of filmmaking will look like?

There is some sort of a democratization in progress. With the help of the internet and the other technological progress and affordability surrounding us, things are changing a lot. All you need in order to shoot an entire feature [film] these days is right there in the palm of your hand, right now! A smartphone is really all you need to shoot a film these days and you happen to own it already.

Of course, this suggestion is a little exaggerated in respect to cast, crew, camera technology, etc., which obviously make a huge difference in how your film will turn out in the end,  but you already have the tools to start experimenting. And nowadays, more people are experimenting than ever! I’m certain as technology develops further, there will be a massive impact on how and who we will see succeed in the future of the industry. Today, everybody can find a way to contribute with their own unique ideas and even find a global audience through platforms like YouTube or Vimeo - it's a very interesting process.

Still image from the Dark Waves music video

Still image from This Moment

For the latest news and updates on Sven Dreesbach, visit his website here. Also follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Vimeo.

Here’s a list of the gear he used on the Dark Waves and This Moment videos:

An iPhone 6S PlusBeastgrip Pro smartphone lens adapter and camera rigDOF/SLR Adapter (with a Canon 70-200mm F2.8 IS Mk I lens) and Extreme Wide Angle lensWatershot waterproof case, Olloclip clip-on lensphoneography app FiLMic Pro and Davinci production software.


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Sean Lawrence
Sean Lawrence


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