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The Directors: Gustaf Lindstrom


The Somesense director opens up on dialogue driven comedy, communication and improvisation in directing

The Directors: Gustaf Lindstrom

Gustaf Lindström is a Swedish-born filmmaker, animator and CG artist. His debut short film Plankton has won multiple awards, including Best Animation at InterFilm Berlin, which qualified it for the 2019 Academy Awards. The short was later developed into the comedy short series Drifters for FX Networks. Black Death, his second short series for FX and Hulu, is currently awaiting release.

By combining ambitious art direction with laid back, conversational comedy, Gustaf creates visually spectacular and strange worlds that somehow still feel relatable and down-to-earth. He finds his inspiration in anything from nature documentaries to medieval manuscripts, and is unafraid of spear-heading new and interesting animation techniques.

Name: Gustaf Lindstrom

Location: London

Repped by/in: Somesense

Awards: Best Animation (Interfilm Berlin), Audience Award (Cinemare), Best Experimental Film (Paris Short Film Festival)

What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?

I like dialogue-driven comedy that allows for an opportunity to go nuts with the Visuals.

How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?

I like finding reference and inspiration in unusual places and using it in a comedy context—like recreating old styles using the latest technology and turning it into something modern and relatable.

If the script is for a brand that you're not familiar with/don’t have a big affinity with or a market you're new to, how important is it for you to do research and understand that strategic and contextual side of the ad? If it’s important to you, how do you do it?

Yes, I believe there’s inspiration to be found in any brand’s profile. It’s about communicating with your client and getting an idea of what excites them about their brand and what they think sets them apart.

For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?

To me, it would be the artists and talent. If the people in the production feel like they’re having fun and have a hand in shaping the advert, I believe that’s how you get the best outcome.

What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?

Yeah, I tend to lean towards comedy, especially of the dry and tragicomical kind.

What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?

People often think my recorded dialogue is completely improvised, but it’s following a script much closer than you’d think. I like to have my characters deliver their lines in a naturalistic way; it’s very disarming and easily becomes very funny.

What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?

The biggest catastrophe for an animator is losing data. And boy, have I lost data! Laptops stolen, hard disks giving up—you name it. Sometimes the only solution is to just take a deep breath and redo it. I’m now always making sure there’s a backup, but I’ve learned the hard way.

How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?

Communication is key. Talking is great, but sometimes sharing a drawing, mood board, or reference can make it really clear for everyone what the common goal is.

What are your thoughts on opening up the production world to a more diverse pool of talent? Are you open to mentoring and apprenticeships on set?

In recent projects, I have been making a greater effort to include characters from diverse backgrounds. That way, we can draw on the immense talents of female comedians and actors of colour. Because I encourage improvisation in my directing, I find it helpful to work with people who can tap into their lived experiences to make the storytelling as vivid and authentic as possible. The fact that everyone is working from home now has also presented new opportunities for diverse hiring practices. In my last project, for instance, I hired both local and international animators, and we achieved a brilliant result.

How do you feel the pandemic is going to influence the way you work into the longer term? Have you picked up new habits that you feel will stick around for a long time?

As an animation director, I’ve found working during the pandemic has been easier than I thought it would be. As long as there are good solutions for sharing files and communication, it’s really not that big of an obstacle. Health is what’s most important!

Your work is now presented in so many different formats - to what extent do you keep each in mind while you're working (and, equally, to what degree is it possible to do so)?

It’s important to keep all the different formats in mind early on in the development. You need to see how it looks in different formats as you go.

What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work?

These things interest me. My first commercial directing gig was All Star Party, which was one of the first animated VR-shows ever made.

Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why? 


This was my first short film, and it’s very dear to my heart. My background is as a CG Artist, and I think it really showcases my love for the craft.


I was happy to work with Waffle on one of the first-ever VR animation shows. To see this in its full 360 degree glory, you should check out the Oculus website!


Drifters is basically a serialised version of Plankton that I did for FX Networks. Here I really pushed it to the next level with mixed media CG animation, and I love the naturalistic and dialogue-driven comedy style.


This is from another series I did for FX Networks. Just researching medieval marginalia when developing the art style was incredibly fun, and this showcases a more dark and satirical kind of humour.

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Somesense, Mon, 22 Feb 2021 12:04:23 GMT