Nico and Mark
"You are insanely creative, amazing storytellers and great collaborate with."
How did they react?
This is a written one, but I have told them parts of it. Their reaction was a happy smile and a "thank you!" at all times.
How did I feel?
1. “You are insanely creative.”
Do you remember the last brainwave you learned about? No, not the "Let's get wasted and jump off the Oberbaum bridge"- kind of idea. Neither the "I think I should go and become a popstar at 86" one (though both these can be amazing, depending on who puts them forward in which context). I am talking the "I just figured out how the world works!"- moment, the "What if our planet spins around the sun, not the other way around?" flash of insight; Or, in Nico's and Mark's case the "I think I found an idea for a film" statement. A brainstorm. Think back. Got one? Alright. Now here is my question: Did you grasp its greatness straight away? My guess: No. Not because I doubt your intellectual capabilities but because that's what I have been experiencing. Whenever someone trumps with a genius idea I don't see all there is to it on the spot. I start out nodding, maybe I say, "I like it. This could work." I have a feeling. A wild guess, that there is potential. But it is not my idea so I can't immerse in it the way I do when I give birth to a thought myself. I stand and watch. Then slowly, moment by moment, I start to get it. That's one characteristic of someone else's inspiration: Once it has entered your head it haunts you. You see parts of it everywhere. Until you give in and turn that nod from the beginning into a full on dance to the idea's beat. That beat can frame a thousand different rhythms. As time passes you realize all those rhythms there are to the idea, countless layers, meanings and aspects. Great ideas are simple enough to contain crazy complexity: They frame breaks, riffs and licks, all of which rain down on you.
Now you are hooked. You want to enlighten everyone around you. Spark that feeling your ears tickle with after immersing in the beat, “This is genius!”, and turn the music into everyone’s favorite tune. The reaction you get to your sharing: A lot of vague nods. Just like yours in the beginning…
In four years of knowing Nico and Mark I have gone through that process several times with them. They burst with brainwaves. The beats they have inspired me to dance to fill several albums. The tracks differ. Some of them are creative ideas and results, such as Mark's audio play. Some of them are analyses, like Nico’s outlook on Detroit. Most of them live in countless moments. It is the dinner party at which Nico gives a spontaneous speech on how “Gourmet is the new organic! It’s the next big thing, I’m telling you,” he says, and shares some adventures from his last grocery shopping. You watch his time at the store like a movie as he directs scene after scene in front of your inner eye, making zombie customers, high tech food products and scary employees come to life. It is the day you enter Mark’s apartment for the first time and see all the aliens he has painted on his walls. You stare at them and gasp at the crazy details and the devotion he has put into crafting them. It is Nico’s and Mark’s conversation on a regular Thursday afternoon in which they come up with a thousand new interpretations to films, graphic novels and series. “Man, have you ever noticed that one guy standing in the background in Taxi Driver, in that scene where-...” And off they go. They season their observations with jokes and finish them off with “What if…?”: What if one created a whole new paradigm out of this one hidden twist they just discovered? What if this detail was a quote from another classic? What if there was a whole back story to that?
It is not just films. Nico and Mark find greatness everywhere. Take a walk in your neighborhood with them and they will point out ten subtleties you never noticed before. The window covered with a decades old poster. The tag on the bottom of your house. The hidden choreography in the car’s movement in front of your building. They celebrate them, then start braiding stories from their finds. Or images. Or beats- or all of those at once.
It is one thing to compose a beat. Knowing how to play it live is another. You can have as many brainstorms as you want, if you don’t know how to share them with others you will stand in your inspiration rain alone. Nico and Mark don’t just produce ideas non-stop, they know how to turn them into words and gestures, too. Their eyes become flashlights and illuminate the room when they talk about a flash of insight that has hit them.
I will never forget one party I attended with Nico. A few hours into it I saw him sitting on a beer case, a small crowd in front of him. He talked, they hung on his every word. I joined and followed Nico’s tipsy brainstorm on hands. That’s right: Five minutes all about the cultural meaning of hands and their omnipresence in our world. It was more of a freestyle oration than an academic approach, but 100% Nico. “It’s all about hands, guys, I swear, it all comes down to hands.” He picked up a friend’s hand, and rotated it in the air. Took a close look, pulled some fingers, smelled the palm. Then he waved with it and caressed another friend’s cheek. At first I grinned, shook my head and said, “yeah, right, Nico..”. But then I saw the excitement in his eye. One day later at the store I watched the register lady’s hands as she checked me out. And suddenly I heard that voice, “It’s all about hands…” I started reflecting on how our culture would not have become what it is today without hands. Every tool, every instrument, every gesture functions through hands. I wondered what our world would look like if hands did not exist. Nico’s party talk had been so alive it stuck with me. And I had to agree: It is all about hands.
The eccentric artist is a thing. There are whizzes all over the planet whose lives are one giant brainstorm. They live in constant inspiration, they know how to bring it into a form that speaks to other people; Yet they shut everyone out. You can be a creative genius, a storyteller and completely lost when it comes to collaborating with others. Mark and Nico are not. They are team players.
Yesterday we shot a film together, trying to bring one of their brainwaves to life. This was the first time I worked with them. Their amazing personalities did not come as a surprise since I had known them before; But seeing how they implemented their strength in character in their work was stunning. The shoot included my skin being exposed to freezing air, rain and passer-bys glances while doing yoga poses. In theory: A borderline experience. In practice: A fun day. Whenever I felt uncomfortable I looked at Nico’s smile. Lifting the corners of his mouth he puts his heart on his face. When he grins at you it is like he is giving you the warmest hug. Or I listened to Mark’s jokes. They lightened up the grayest Berlin day. I drank from the herbal tea he had brought to our set, made faces with the two of them or giggled about comments we got. If I went for something they did not approve of I did not get criticism. Instead they asked questions: “Hey Rosa, do you think you could stop talking while we’re shooting you doing Yoga?”. The carefulness was in all their words. “I feel like.. I think we should... Guys, here is a thought. What would you say if we..” No orders, no fights. Working with Mark and Nico means mutual appreciation. They look for the way together by being clear about what they want and stepping aside when necessary. It is the project that counts at every moment, not their ego. They are professionals. Nowhere near thirty years old they are able to tell you on the spot whether something can work or not. Be it an image, a cut, or an overall idea or time frame. They know. Plus they have learned to trust their gut. Valuing and communicating their intuitions in the process turns any project into a living, breathing thing: They feel when to stick to a plan- and when to let go. Towards the end of the day they suggested to postpone shooting day number two to a warmer month. At first I was worried we were going to lose track of the film and it was going to end up unfinished in some folder. But I decided to trust them and said yes. Now I am convinced it was the best choice we could have made. I learned that the weather is everything. Not just for light, for the plants in the background, too, for the general mood and, obviously, for outdoor yoga.
After ten hours of videotaping in the rain we sat in the car, about to say goodbye. Suddenly the sky opened up and the sun appeared. I punched the front seat and swore. Then we laughed. While they looked at the sun I am sure Mark and Nico started brainstorming about ways of integrating its rays in the film. Sun paradigms in films that are undreamed of. I can't wait to find out if I am right: A few months from now, when we get back together to shoot the rest. With sunlight, Nico's and Mark's creativity and the awesome people they are. It will be a blast.