Gabe: I always like to start with the basics. Who are you? Where are you from and what do you do?
Kaspar: I'm Kaspar Astrup SchrÃ¶der. Film director and artist from Copenhagen, Denmark. Directed the just released film, MY PLAYGROUND. Before that I directed the film THE INVENTION OF DR. NAKAMATS.
Gabe: You are a multi-talented person, making films, music, and graphic art. Do you like any particular style more than the other?
The recent years I'm been definitely focusing mainly on directing documentary films. However I really enjoy working with many different form of media, 'cause I feel the genres and different types of media can encourage each other and especially my inspiration when going from one media to another. If I like more than another. Then I'd have to say directing docs is my favourite. But I wouldn't do without the other...
Gabe: How did you first learn about Parkour and Freerunning? What drew you into the world of urban acrobats?
Kaspar: People that are thinking "out of the box" and going against the "normal standards" have always intrigued me. I am an old skater myself, and when I first heard about Freerunning, I thought it was "just" skateboarding without a skateboard and wanted to find out more. And boy, was I wrong. I found out that these guys are top level gymnasts and strong as hell!
Gabe: Are you a practitioner yourself? Have you ever tried it? (Or do you maybe find yourself moving in a particular way just to get good shots?)
Kaspar: No I'm not. I've tried it, but to me it's not something you can just do like skateboarding. You really have to warm up, practice and practice. And for that I just don't have the time, hence the camera. However I must say that I do find myself moving in another way, after documenting these guys for a few years. I've definitely taken something with me in regards to how to normally move about the city.
Gabe: You have three films dedicated to the disciplines so far, City Surfers, Day of Few Spoken Words, and the upcoming My Playground. City Surfers, your first, won a Danish film award in 2007. What was it like the first time you started filming? How was it the same or different from working with other people or subjects?
Kaspar: I've been making loads of small films for years. My approach is always the same, no matter what the subject is about. I like to approach my subject with some ignorance. Kinda like pretend I don't know much (even though I have done my research) and then let the subjects unfold themselves or let them unfold the story. I try to manipulate the subjects as little as possible and I am never a part of my films myself. With my film THE INVENTION OF DR. NAKAMATS, my main subject, Dr. NakaMats was always engaging my camera in the scenes and I went along with that, because it suited his character and his story very well, but mostly I try to let my camera be ignorant and naive. Besides directing I've been editing a lot of both fiction and documentary films. I've been doing that for about 8 years, and what I've learned throughout the years is that there is really no way to predict the outcome of a film. However planned and fixed your script or shooting might be you can never know what the end result will be. At least not with the way I'm working. I'm always open for new and unforeseen things in the process of making a film. And I think I've taken that with me in the way I approach my filmmaking. I kinda go with the natural flow of a situation and see where it might take me. So a great, no a huge part of the film is gonna be told in the way it's being edited.
I thought it was "just" skateboarding without a skateboard and wanted to find out more. And boy, was I wrong. I found out that these guys are top level gymnasts and strong as hell!"
Gabe: Your second PKFR work, Day of Few Spoken Words, is a personal favorite of mine. Care to describe what it was like working with Parkour Tokyo? Are there any plans to work with them in the future, are you still in contact?
Kaspar: Yeah we are still in contact. Actually Hajime, the teams manager, is here in Denmark for the premiere of MY PLAYGROUND. These guys hadn't been training for very long, but were very graceful in their movements. None of the participants in the film spoke english and it was difficult communicating with them. That's where the name of the short came from. However I was with them for one day and was very much just a fly on the way. They are really nice and humble guys and I don't know, maybe I'll shoot them again. They are called PKTK, which means Parkour Tokyo... I think they are really growing fast and may be a very big group now.
Gabe: Your latest work, My Playground, has a wider scope than before, touching on not just the disciplines but how we as people interact with the urban world. What was the inspiration for it? How is this going to be different than films you've done before or ones that other people have done?
I like to approach my subject with some ignorance."
Kaspar: MY PLAYGROUND is very much a film about architecture, as it is about freerunning and parkour. My girlfriend and a lot of friends are architects, so I've always been into that. And talking with some of my friends about parkour and freerunning I found that they (the architects) were very much fascinated by the way the traceurs perceive and communicate the space they are in. The interaction between the traceurs and the space they move within was so radical and interesting, that I wanted to really bring the architects and the traceurs together.
It was also something I hadn't seen before. In terms of architecture films, there are many. But most times the way that buildings and space is exposed is in still-images. Even though the camera may be moving within that space or building it's still. Still life. With freerunners and traceurs the buildings and spaces are really exposed and shown in a completely fresh perspective and this I found very intriguing.
And then when I was shooting these amazing guys running and jumping all over the place, the project gradually evolved and took us to new places and countries, that at first wasn't intended, but it kind of fed of itself and became something bigger.
Gabe: Are there plans for anything Parkour related in the future?
Kaspar:Not as of now. I'll do some small work with Team JiYo, 'cause we've become friends.
Gabe: Denmark is home to two large-scale, outdoor Parkour parks now, the only ones of their kind in the world. (That we know of.) Why do you think the Danish people are so open to what we do? What can other peoples and countries learn from your example?
Kaspar: Recently there has really been a focus on getting the kids outside and play. Both from the governments, but also the parents. Denmark is very small and has a lot of social resources, and because we are such a small country, then when something becomes popular, everybody is suddenly doing it. Through commercials and movies, parkour and freerunning very rapidly got popular and then suddenly every kid wanted to be one of the freerunners they'd seen on tv, the local sport- and gymnast clubs saw this, and then with a lot of perseverance and hard work you can get funding from the government to have a parkour park made. It's definitely not easy and takes a lot of hard work. But when it comes to building sport facilities that aren't extremely big ot expensive your chances are pretty good, here in Denmark. I'm not an expert on this, but that's how I experience it.
Gabe: If you know, how did the idea for these parks start out? What kind of steps were taken to complete such a big project? (Or will we have to watch the movie and find out?)
Kaspar: I could give you my take on an answer, but I really think you should interview Team JiYo about this, since they are the guys that made it happen along with the investors. It wasn't easy, I can tell and took some years. I wasn't there throughout the whole process, so you should really ask them. Here is one of the guys email: email@example.com
Gabe: Are there plans for any new parks, structures, or groups in Denmark? Perhaps companies looking to build such parks in other places?
Kaspar: Yeah, I've heard of new projects and parks, that might emerge and I know Team JiYo is working hard to getting parkour and freerunning out, even broader, but again, you should talk to them about it.
Gabe: What are your personal feelings on the Parkour community as a whole? As in, its current state, its future, any opinions at all you might have.
I do find myself moving in another way, after documenting these guys for a few years. I've definitely taken something with me in regards to how to normally move about the city."
Kaspar: It's fascinating to see how this sport has evolved these last few years. From being something no one could really define, and possible still is very hard to define, it's interesting to see how competitions now are emerging. It wouldn't surprise me if it would appear in the x-games in a few years. I know there is a lot of conflict within the community. Some are really only leaning on the french parkour, while other are more into the british more freerunning approach, but I always think it's like that for new sports. People get very emotional and personal about "their thing" and want to "keep it pure". But it's inevitable that this will evolve even more and into things we possible can't imagine, and that's something I really like. Parkour may be the simplest form of extreme sport, because there is really only you and yourself. No skateboard, bicycle, rope or whatever. You really just have to be creative with what the city presents and I find that really interesting and am looking forward to see where it will go. There is always precautions to take especially when you move within spaces that are intended for something else, but I find it really appealing to see how the traceurs and freerunners respect the space they move within. They are real gentlemen (at least the ones I've filmed) and that kinda falls out of the usual xtreme-sport stereotype. Okay, as vague as I might be, it probably still is difficult to define this... whatever it is, but I like it!
Gabe: Do you have any other comments you'd like to make? Any questions or thoughts you'd like to give to anyone reading this interview?
Kaspar: Not really. The film is available to purchase at: http://release.kasparworks.com :-) With loads of bonus scenes. Both on the freerunners and on the architects.