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'Don't move to Sweden just looking for a job, move for the whole experience'

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'Don't move to Sweden just looking for a job, move for the whole experience'
Filmmakers Mia Salazar and Georg Bungard in Stockholm. Photo: Personal
06:59 CEST+02:00
Not many people can say that their time in Sweden started with being in the same room as Paul Simon, First Aid Kit, Yo-Yo Ma and Swedish royalty, but that's exactly how Georg Bungard's move to the Nordic nation got under way, with his now wife Mia Salazar eventually following.

Originally from Cologne and Barcelona respectively, Bungard and Salazar have the dream jobs of producing videos for a living. Yet neither were in that industry when they first met in the Catalan capital, where the German had befriended some Swedish filmmakers. It sparked a chain of events that would eventually lead to music royalty, real royalty, and Stockholm.

"My friend who had moved back to Stockholm called and asked me to come and film something with him here, behind the scenes at the Polar Music Prize. I said sure, booked a flight for a week, and in my second day in Stockholm in 2012 I ended up at Marie Ledin’s house – the daughter of Abba manager Stig Anderson – with Yo-Yo Ma and Paul Simon," he laughs.

"We got to be backstage at Konserthuset, the King and Queen were there. It was a very idyllic, intense experience. Amazing. We also got to know First Aid Kit, I was sitting with my camera somewhere at the top of the Konserthuset filming their performance and got goosebumps, I’ll never forget it."

After returning home, he excitedly told Salazar that he wanted to move to Sweden. She wasn't so keen to abandon her beloved Barcelona at the drop of a hat, however.

"He told me Sweden was amazing, he got to know it in the summer, and with all that stuff happening he thought it was the best place ever, so he decided he wanted to move here. Which I campaigned against because I love Barcelona," she recalls.

"Then I came to visit in the summer and thought ‘OK, this is nice’. When I finally moved it was winter here of course, which was horrible."

Salazar was previously a musician in the Catalan city, but wanted something new in life, and ultimately the move to Stockholm proved to be the right option:

"I had quit music in Barcelona and needed a change. I decided to change my life radically, move to Sweden and start working in film and challenge myself."

In Stockholm, the duo soon got involved in forming filmmaking collective Nuet, which led to the completely different challenge of renovating a new work space – finding an office isn't easy in Sweden's capital, where space comes at a premium.

"We had been working together in different projects as freelancers and we found this crazy big warehouse space in Örnsberg. It was a run-down building from the 1960s in this area that’s being gentrified, and one of the last rough buildings there. We decided to renovate it. We spent four months on that," Bungard details.

"We literally tore everything down and turned it into a new place. We built a dark room, a sound studio, a place for painting, photography. It was such a nice place. A lot of people tell us they miss it so much," his partner adds.


Bungard flying a drone in Norway. Photo: Personal

"Nuet was the place where we started to feel like real locals, that we’re from Sweden now. It was multicultural but everyone became Swedish too, I started to feel like a part of Sweden and began working with beautiful people," she continues.

The collective eventually grew, so they decided to move on and leave the space, with Salazar and Bungard now going it on their own through new company Bungard Film, but the members still work together occasionally on different projects. Nuet helped them a great deal in their growth as filmmakers, they believe, as well as though the challenging first couple of years in the Swedish capital.

"It's definitely tricky to get in the door at the beginning. You meet a lot of people wanting to get into film here, and it’s hard for everyone. In the first two years we managed to get investment, and after those two years we started to see a return. But it was a risk," Bungard notes.

"We basically said yes to any job that came our way. That included events, business videos. I even filmed a training video at a prison once!" he adds.

The spirit of collaboration also continues in the way the duo work on their projects: jobs are alternated depending on the budget and needs. So for example, while one person edits one project, they may also direct a different one.

"I'm usually involved in the creative part, but according to the production budget we balance things. So in Cuba for example four of us got to do a little bit of everything here and there," Salazar explains, referring to a new documentary on Cuba, directed by Maceo Forst, that they are particularly excited about.

Then there is another documentary, this time on Norway, which they’re also desperate to show the world.

"That's about a musician from a well known band in Spain called La Habitación Roja. One of the guys lives in Norway leading this double life – he tours during the summer in Spain, and spends the winter in Norway working in a hospital where people go to die. We’ll publish that documentary in a couple of months," she reveals.

As for Bungard, one project he remembers fondly was working on Eurovision in 2016:

"We made postcard films, travelling to eight different countries like Slovenia, Belarus, Croatia, Bosnia. That was so cool."

Looking to the future, Salazar has recently been given the title of creative assistant to director Pablo Maestres, who is based back in her home city of Barcelona.

"He makes these incredible music videos, and I write treatments with him. I help him with the writing of treatments for adds, music videos, he’s a genius. Anything he makes is gold and I’m so happy to be involved," she beams.


Not quite Barcelona weather. Photo: Personal

She and her husband also have the goal of making more films together, in particular on social issues:

"We want to do more work together with just the two of us. We're both very interested in politics for example, are constantly reading and taking in information, we really want to make a political film. Hopefully we can do that".

The plan is to stay in Sweden for the time being, but when asked if they would recommend aspiring filmmakers come to the Nordic nation to pursue their dream, Bungard points out that it’s no walk in the park.

"I've seen people fail here before, it’s really tough. I wouldn’t recommend it to everybody, you have to be very hungry. You can't just send e-mails, you have to turn up at different places and advertise yourselves. Swedish people like to speak in person, but if you write e-mails it doesn't work. Freelance filmmakers here really work their ass off."

"I wouldn't recommend people to move here just looking for a job. I’d recommend you move here for the whole experience, to challenge yourself. Move here if you’re ready to take on what it takes to do it," Salazar concludes.

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