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Agusta Yr’s Boundary-Transcending Filmmaking


Pulse director Agusta Yr on her dual upbringing between the US and Iceland, using herself as a subject of her photography and the role of humour in her films, writes LBB’s Zoe Antonov

Agusta Yr’s Boundary-Transcending Filmmaking

Agusta Yr is an Icelandic film director, creative director and artist repped by Pulse Films. Since studying photography and video at The School of Visual Arts in New York City and graduating in 2017, she had gathered extensive experience working with world-renowned brands, publications, and artists, such as Vogue, Paper Magazine, LOVE Magazine, Gucci, Moschino, Michael Kors, Converse, Free People, Nordstrom & ASOS, The 1975, Remi Wolf, Leyla Blue and Yang Li.

Agusta’s impressive industry honours, including recognition on the British Fashion Council’s ‘New Wave: Creatives 2020’ list of innovative creators and Dazed Media’s ‘Dazed 100’ list of innovative creators from the fields of fashion, art, and media, further cement her acclaim and standing in the field as a game changer.

Her experience has honed her creative style as a film and art director, and has helped her arrive at her ground-breaking three-dimensional and virtual reality artworks, which often address contemporary social topics. These are themes Augusta explores throughout her portfolio of artistic work and span body and beauty standards and the ever more digital world that we inhabit, in a highly compelling, humorous, and visually striking way, that has become her signature. 

Left: Still from Sudan Archives - NBPQ (Topless) music video; Right: Still from Remi Lewis - No Escape music video

LBB> Firstly, tell me about your childhood and upbringing and how they influenced your creative style today.

Agusta> Well, I grew up between Reykjavik Iceland and Miami, Florida, which are complete opposites in almost every single way. However in both places I was sort of the odd one out in a sense. In Miami I was the Icelandic kid and in Iceland I was the American kid, even though I’m born and fully Icelandic in terms of my ancestry. When that feeling struck, I was always able to step outside of my reality, in a bubble and was also able to entertain myself for hours on end, which really helped nurture my creativity and creative style. 

Because this helped me so much, I’ve always been into world building and transporting the viewer out of their own reality even if it is just for a mere 15 seconds which comes inherently from the zoning out that I personally often got scolded for. 

LBB> You also went to university in New York. Tell me more about the culture shift you experienced when moving between America and Iceland and how it affected you and your early work.

Agusta> Well as I touched on, I lived in Miami when I was a child, so the culture shift wasn’t as drastic or noticeable for me as one would think. When my family and I moved back to Iceland when I was 12, I remember saying to my parents, as soon as I can go back to the US, I am. It happened so that university was that first opportunity.  

I had also spent all my summers from 12-18 in New York with my aunt, uncle and their kids. Being in New York in general did inform my early work a lot. I was surrounded by some of the most amazing art, artists and dare I say all over amazing vibes. I learned so much about artistry and got to know some incredible people that I still look to for inspiration to this day. Not to mention being around peers who were equally as passionate about something - that was really exciting. 

LBB> Did you always know you would be on set doing what you do today, or did that happen out of the blue? What is the story behind it?

Agusta> No, not always actually. When I was younger I dreamed of being a pop star that was also an elementary school teacher. But as I got older I honed some of my skills and eventually concluded that I wanted to be a photographer. 

I started going on set with my aunt and uncle, who are photographers, when I was about 13.  It really opened my eyes up to a whole new world. I was enamoured by the creative and collaborative nature of being on set. Seeing everyone come together with the same goal of making something amazing. The chaotic, organised and fun energy is always the best. 

LBB> How does your early work compare to your work today and what informed these changes in theme and creative direction?

Agusta> Well, I studied photography and spent a lot of time looking at friends and family through that creative prism, especially my younger sister and cousins. There was something so beautiful and natural in how free they were from the restrictions and rules we gain as we get older. After some time in school I had a teacher blatantly tell me to switch it up and it was the fire I needed to change something. So, I started to look at myself as the subject. 

Nearly all of my work in school consisted of various ways of looking at myself, experimenting and playing with my appearance. After growing a little tired of still images I started to fall in love with moving image and video. I’ve always loved to challenge myself and really attempted to do so by trying all forms of media and finally landing on 3D, which was the most challenging to date because there is so much to learn. 

From there it all sort of took off into these fantastical otherworlds, which was and still is such an amazing journey, where you basically start with a completely blank slate. All of my experimenting and trials and errors inform me to this day. I will say a common theme that has stayed with me all these years is humour – it’s something I think I always strive for whether it’s subtle or in your face. Now I’m trying to get into building these worlds and fantasies in real life, which is a whole new challenge for me but I’m loving every second of it. 

LBB> How does making music videos compare to working with brands, and which came first for you? Which do you enjoy most?

Agusta> I am not sure the two are so different from each other at all, I think both have their limitations, but I do enjoy music videos more. I usually have more creative freedom with them. 

LBB> Tell me about your most challenging project to date and what you learned from it? How did you overcome these challenges?

Agusta> Oh my, I feel like there’s been lots of challenging projects. I’m not sure I can pinpoint one specifically but I do think one of my jobs as a director is problem solving and coming up with solutions to problems faced in every project. A lot of my projects have kept me on my toes with new twists and turns every day. 

A big challenge I faced during my director’s journey though was becoming married to my computer. I’ve gradually been learning the importance of having a work/life balance - which is extremely hard in this industry, especially when it comes to digital work, there’s always more work to be done, a tweak here and there, but learning to tell myself to step away was super hard especially when we were literally in a lockdown and not being able to celebrate any of these accomplishments made them not feel as real in a sense. 

LBB> What was the moment of success that changed your career and took it to the next level?

Agusta> I had a number of big projects come out during covid, which really helped take me to the next level, including Remi Wolf - Photo ID, The 1975 - There Because She Goes, A Vogue x Gucci video. It was a great year for people who possessed any 3D skills and I guess my unconventional, imperfect 3D models really spoke to people. 

LBB> What are some important aspects of your work that you always pay attention to e.g. colour or a particular message? Why are they important?

Agusta> Humour and silliness are pretty important to me in general as a person and I feel that reflects in my work. I think a lot of people nowadays take themselves way too seriously when in reality when it all boils down to does it really matter, let’s have some fun? Within my personal work I love to address social topics mainly about being a woman in today’s world by utilising technology like 3D and VR to get those points across in a new way. 

LBB> If you had to describe your artistic style in three words, what would they be and why?

Agusta> Colourful, whacky and transcending 

LBB> You’ve worked with some incredible brands, especially in the fashion world - how do you manage to tap into their distinctive looks while still keeping your style intact? Is that a difficult process?

Agusta> It is difficult but I also think many brands that I have worked with have a history of embracing young artists and bringing us in to work together to make magic. In the end though it’s all about compromise and working together cohesively to make something we both love. 

LBB> And finally, what is your best advice to other young directors out there starting now? 

Agusta> Everyone has their own journey, as cheesy as that sounds, so take your time, experiment, hustle and have fun.

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Pulse Films, Wed, 24 May 2023 15:34:40 GMT