Cherry Cobra Films is a directing duo made up by Johanna Nyberg and Nathalie Hallman, both recent graduates from Beckmans College of Design. The pair creates stories based on their love for cinema, wacky characters and bad-ass women, all with a clear passion for retro-nostalgia. Radar met up with them to talk about divergent aesthetics and the magic of film making!
Tell us about Cherry Cobra Films.
N: We are a directing duo that found each other through our love for the same kind of aesthetics. Americana, maximalist expressions, kitsch and saturated colours – we have a very un-Swedish way of making films!
What does the name mean? How did you come up with it?
J: We both love sleazy, white trash kind of settings, and we wanted a name that represented that. We went online and did tests like “What is your stripper name?” and researched professional wrestling names. After some brainstorming, we decided on Cherry Cobra.
How did the two of you end up working together?
N: We have known each other since we took a preparatory art class a couple of years back, but it wasn’t until we both were at Beckmans that we really started hanging out.
J: We were working together on a music video that Nathalie was directing this spring, and I was assisting her with styling and scenography while I was doing my degree project. We had known that we shared a passion for the same kind of storytelling and aesthetics, but it was first when working together that we realized just how alike our visions are. We realized that there was no way that we couldn’t work together.
How did your years at Beckmans affect your artistry?
J: We both attended the Bachelor program in Visual Communication, and during our studies we got to explore many different fields within communication. I think that both of us always wanted to make films, but didn’t see it as a choice of career, but more as a hobby. When we made films at Beckmans, we were involved in every step of the film making process. It opened our minds and made us take a directorial approach.
N: Since none of us have a background from traditional film schools, I think we have a great advantage in the industry. We are originally designers/art directors, and the visual knowledge and touch which that entail, is shown in everything that we do. The both of us have consumed huge amounts of film since a very young age, which has resulted in a wide frame of reference and a great understanding of the art of storytelling.
You have a clear surrealistic theme in your work so far – will that continue, and if so, where does the line go for what can and cannot be done in fiction?
N: We don’t really have any barriers. I would love to do a porno, but in an unconventional way. I think that’s one of our strong suits; we try to mix references like horror, humor and melodramatic expressions.
J: I believe that all of our movies will have some kind of darkness to them. We want to depict the dark sides of people, but also get away from the Swedish style of “kitchen counter realism” (swe: diskbänksrealism).
What does “bad-ass women” mean to you? And why do you love them?
J: To us, bad-ass women are independent women who own their own sexuality, who are sharp and in charge of their own lives. Why are women not allowed to be portrayed as funny, vulgar or gross? We think female characters in film making today are still very limited and stereotyped, and we would like to address this issue in our work.
N: Our film making will always have a feminist outset. We have a very retro visual expression, and we happen to love a style that belongs to a time when women were portrayed with certain – not very empowering – traits. We want to use these aesthetics, but put them in a modern context. Instead of dismissing it, we want to understand and reflect on what’s interesting about it.
On your website, you write that you strive to do a 180° in Swedish film making. Why?
N: Most of what is produced in Swedish film, and particularly in advertising, has a very generic look. We see a real need for something different. We have a very maximalist style, and what we love is the complete opposite of the usual settings that are used by Swedish filmmakers today. We’re tired of seeing pine trees with backlight in a Swedish forest!
N: The magic of filmmaking lies in its ability to make you feel like you’re in a different world. We work a lot with surrealism and nostalgia in our directing. Nostalgia creates a sense of safety – no matter if it’s hate or fascination, it feels familiar. It creates a reaction within the viewer, and that is something that we want to work with.
What do you look forward to the most in your collaboration?
J: We are really close friends, and we have so much fun. We’re looking forward to working together and to create stories that the both of us truly love. Even though we may have the same frame of reference, we complement each other and inspire one another to come up with new ideas.
What is your dream project?
N: A feature film! But we want to do all kinds of films. Commercials, shorts, art films, music videos – we love them all. We are both really into popular culture and music, so it would be amazing to do a music video for someone with our kind of aesthetics, like Lana Del Rey.
In what kind of settings will your films be shot in?
N: We both love a setting that speaks for itself and tells a story just by its mere presence. Like a worn down diner, an amazing heirloom flat, or museums with old taxidermy animals.
What next for Cherry Cobra Films?
J: We were actually signed by a production company earlier this week! It feels amazing and a bit surreal. Most directors have to work for years before getting signed, yet we have been signed as a directing duo with focus on commercial work. If nothing else, it feels like proof of people believing in our artistry.
Thank you Lilys Burger for having us!
Photos by Beata Cervin