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The Work That Made Me: Henrik Rostrup


Represented in North America by DOMO, the international director spotlights inspirations of the past, and visions of the future

The Work That Made Me: Henrik Rostrup

Grounded in a decades-long passion for adventure and competitive sports, Henrik Rostrup's work consistently balances universal emotion within a specific narrative. The director is represented by DOMO in North America.

Raised in Norway and currently based in Sweden, Henrik skipped film school and jumped into Scandinavian competition sports cinema from a young age, capturing professional skiers, snowboarders, and mountain bikers. Athleticism and worldwide travel served as the catalyst for what eventually became a multifaceted professional career: as an agency creative, as founder of production company Atlas, and ultimately as a director. He has since led high-profile campaigns for premium brands like Vodaphone, Montblanc, Reebok and many more.

The ad/music video from my childhood that stays with me…

Jonathan Glazer’s Wrangler spot from the early 2000s definitely stays with me. As a kid I grew up on a steady diet of documentaries, 90s music videos and cinema. I travelled around for 10 years or so shooting 16mm film and seeing this spot got my blood pumping. It’s just so cool and makes me want to travel, shoot film and learn about life. A well worn word like ‘timeless’ doesn’t really do this spot justice. So good.

The ad/music video/game/web platform that made me want to get into the industry…

I can’t say there ever was one specific piece of film that made me want to get into the industry, but there was a movement in the late 90s/early 2000s where a lot of action sports videos were created.

Anything that Spike Jonze did in the Girls Skateboarding era was a huge influence because watching these videos gave me instant access to music, creativity and movement where anything seemed possible. So in that way, these early action sports videos became like a Master Class in DIY filmmaking and ultimately advertising, because the goal was to always entertain the audience and stay true to the market. There’s so much power in raw performances, whether it’s from an actor or an athlete, and from an early age I was highly motivated by watching people perform and trying to capture that in the best way possible. This type of instinctive filmmaking has always been a key inspiration to me and is what still defines my interest and passion.

Later on, I would eventually see some of these filmmakers from the action sports scene make the transition from their own videos into advertising or cinema. As an example, Norwegian director Joachim Trier, who also came from a skateboarding background, made his beautiful ‘Oslo 31st of August’ in the early 2000s, and that film was a huge influence on me. Not just because he made a great film about my hometown in Norway, but because of his trajectory coming from a similar background. I think for someone who didn’t go to film school like myself, some of these filmmakers became a tangible reference to me, and ultimately made me want to further my career in filmmaking.

Of all the beautiful spots out there from all the talented filmmakers and cinematographers, Johnny Green’s Hennessey spot with boxer Manny Pacquiao definitely struck a chord with me early on too. A huge visual influence. There’s just so much intense emotions and deep character in this spot. I love that balance where it doesn’t go too far, yet is very visually striking and has that natural raw tone. Linus Sandgren’s cinematography feels very real and I love that. 

The creative work that I keep revisiting…

I can watch the final 10 minutes of 'The Last of the Mohicans' a billion times. From the faint rumbling of the drums to the thrilling last chase scene, it’s just one of those classic pieces of cinema that you see emulated time and time again. Perfect pacing, perfect drama. There are so many examples of the great artists at the peak of their game, and reading all the backstory about what all the people involved gave into their performances (both on-screen and behind) is sometimes as thrilling as the visuals themselves.

Honourable mentions would be the winning streak sequence from “Moneyball.” It’s less epic in scope when paired with the above example, but I just love this film. The score flows perfectly and the way the edit moves in the montage is really stunning. I think there is so much character and story that shoots across the screen, and it’s so wonderfully executed. I can just imagine that they must have shot so much variety to be able to control all these emotions in the edit … which is why you should always push to shoot as much as possible on every project.

My first professional project…

I did a very small spot for GORE-TEX where the original pitch was to document amateur climbers doing a big climb on a mountain in Switzerland. Originally I think the agency and client just wanted some event coverage, but we put a little spin on it and offered to find an original character within all the people who had entered into this competition. I love creating realistic moments, especially when we’re living through an experience on a shoot. So in using that approach in our casting, we found this wonderful lady from Holland with basically zero outdoor experience. On the shoot we followed all of her preparation and ultimately climbed to the top of the mountain with all our crew and gear. It ended up being pretty gnarly, especially since a few weeks prior I had torn my bicep and was fresh from surgery. I think the whole process became very enjoyable because we worked really close with our talent, managed to turn the creative into an interesting story and ended up having this adventure together with all parties involved. I think moments like that have taught me a lot about diving deep into projects, following the story and script, no matter the size of the budget. 

The piece of work that still makes me jealous…

I don’t ever get jealous, but I try to put myself into the space of something that I like. I read ferociously into all the details of all the blood and sweat that went into making something I vibe with. Trying to see how I would do it, or if I could do it, or if I can learn something.

This has nothing to do with being jealous, but Frederic Planchon’s 'Mumsnet' is so incredible. No big production, just bare bones filmmaking with an important message. You can inject these emotions to any piece of film with any type of camera, but the fact that they do it in this spot is really stunning. I think he shot supporting footage himself as well? Maybe it’s because I’m also a parent that this spot touches me deeply, but I can’t imagine what better purpose when you have talented people coming together working on something like this. I hope we all get to do that in our careers, and it makes me happy to think about continually trying.

The creative project that changed my career…

Montblanc 'Spirit of Exploration.' I think this spot tied together nicely a lot of things that I’ve done leading up to this project. There was pressure to get it done in some pretty nasty conditions with a lot of people high up in the alpine of Telluride, Colorado. It felt like it was a final test piece to be able to string together a lot of ideas, locations, production and big talent. To me, filmmaking is very physical and reactionary. It’s such a dynamic process and in order to create these realistic moments, forming deep collaborations is really important to me. Being open about the process is not just done by talking on the phone or sending emails about what you’ve done, it’s getting people involved as a team. And on a shoot day…anything is possible. It was so wonderful to see everyone join forces on this one. We had a lot of fun. Career changing fun!

The work that I’m proudest of…

“Be Ahead” for Vodafone. Such a wonderful job where we really got to dive into a sports story set as a period piece in the late 70s. With a great group of producers (Tempomedia), a brilliant DP (Paul Meyers), and an amazing team in Slovenia (Sindikat), we poured everything into this story of a young boy training for a big ski jumping competition. I have to give an extra warm shout out to agency Jung Von Matt & Jens Pfau for being so collaborative and making this an unforgettable experience. We wrote the script together and really developed this story as a team. On location we filmed mostly in-camera with amazing athletes and ski jumpers performing with the highest calibre of precision. Goran Joksimović did a fantastic job with the set design and made everything so realistic. I can’t under-estimate how cool it is to be able to dive into something that we can research the way we did and execute with the greatest focus on every detail. Plus adding to the fact that we were facing pressure to perform all stunts in-camera, but with my background, I thrive on that and can really lean into those aspects of filmmaking. Lastly, we got super lucky and found a really brilliant actor in Tom Morley. A wonderfully talented actor who understood the character and brought him to life.

The recent project I was involved in that excited me the most…

I have a spot with Lionel Messi finishing soon. It’s been a rollercoaster as they say, but a great shoot with truly wonderful people on all sides. Like Montblanc with Hugh Jackman, it’s a similar journey for me as a director where I can work in a way that’s grounded, figuring out story, locations and production with a close team. I have to give props to my long time collaborators and agency Nicholas Berglund who’ve tirelessly put me up for projects like this. On a storytelling level, let’s say it’s a joy to be able to bring a human story together with one of the greatest sports stars in the world. Can’t wait to share!

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DOMO, Thu, 29 Sep 2022 10:12:58 GMT