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We're continuing our feature in which we ask some of the most prominent members of the creative advertising industry from the last 30 years [it's our 30th birthday, in case you didn't already know] to converse with a person of their choosing.

So far, those conversations have generally been between a recognised industry icon and a talented, up-and-coming member of the business. However, in this instance, we get a two-for-one, as multi-award-winning Biscuit Filmworks director Andreas Nilsson chats with the equally auspicious editing supremo Ben Campbell of The Quarry.

We'd be lying if we said that the correspondence between the two friends and long-time collaborators was a straightforward one. It takes in hair loss, cologne comparisons and breakdance moves, as well as more traditional topics such as creative inspirations and quiet, sometimes wavering, confidence. However, despite the often odd nature of their email exchange, it's definitely a conversation you want to be party to.

Above: Ambergris, "a rare whale poop developed inside the intestines of sperm whales" and used in the creation of perfume and cologne.


BC: Andreas, if you were a cologne can you describe to me the packaging, the bottle, the smell, and what market you’d be aimed at?

AN: Thanks for asking, Ben. Let’s start with the soul of the cologne, the elixir inside the bottle. As you probably know, the most wonderful high-end fragrances are made out of ambergris. Ambergris is a rare whale poop that is developed inside the intestines of sperm whales. It’s actually not poop, it just looks like it. Plus, another thing that makes one think its poop is the fact that it comes out of the butthole of the whale. But the matter of fact is that it’s actually a clump of squid beaks bound by a fatty secretion. I’d say my cologne would be 50% ambergris.

Another thing that makes one think its poop is the fact that it comes out of the butthole of the whale.

Then the other 50% would be made out of camel piss. Why? Because I can relate to that. It’s the smell of my childhood. When I was a kid we used to go to the fairground and buy fartbombs. A little glass-capsule that you threw to the ground so it smashed and spread a nasty smell. That smell has given me a lot of joy in my life. The rumour was that the liquid inside came from the bladder of a camel. 

The packaging would look like Marcel Duchamps’ glass vessel for his sculpture Air de Paris. It would probably aim for a global market, but likely do best in certain parts of Brazil. Like Rio Grande do Norte and Santa Catarina.

You know the expression, if you love something set it free... Well that’s how I feel about my hair.

I’ve noticed, Ben, you’ve lost a lot of hair over the years, making you look more and more like a Southern rockhopper penguin, and I think it’s beautiful. My question to you is where is the hair you used to have on your head now?

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Reebok – Nails

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Rekorderlig – Silver Skates

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Montblanc – Pioneering Since 1906

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OVO Energy – It's Time To Power Your Life Differently

Above: Nilsson and Campbell have worked together on a series of award-winning spots.


BC: Ahh, the penguin. Little guy, oh why is it that you cannot fly? But my oh my, how well you swim and hop. I admire you so. Penguin, the only Welsh word in the English language. From Pen meaning head, and Gwyn meaning crap at flying but bloody good at swimming. 

Thank you for the compliment. It is indeed thinning, but it doesn’t concern me at all. I have often admired bald men; Larry David, LL Cool J, Mini Me and my father, too. You know the expression, if you love something set it free... Well that’s how I feel about my hair. It has had its’s time, chatting with my ears, nestling up to the scalp, now it’s off, bit by bit. 

I have often admired bald men; Larry David, LL Cool J, Mini Me and my father, too.

Each hair flies away on gusts of wind and in mid-flight, it’s plucked up by a variety of sea birds; Gulls, Shags, Arctic Terns and such. These birds then fuck off south to sell the hair for a pretty fair price to some of the blue collar Rockhoppers. So, maybe that’s why you think I look a bit like them, or maybe it’s more about their solemn demeanour and plodding walk?

Anyway, I have another probing question for you… You’re a pretty solid actor from what I’ve seen, you have a stillness that I could never muster. Do you have any desire to pursue that more, or are there any other things in the arts or creative world, or other worlds you’d like to do in the next few years? Any immediate fantasies?

AN: On most jobs I shoot a pre-vis of the ad. The actors in those films are often me, the producer, the production designer and a runner. I guess it’s those performances you are referring to? But did you know I’ve actually appeared as an actor in two movies? One Norwegian feature film called DRIB [below], where I played a translator at an agency meeting. 

Above: Nilsson featured in Norwegian film, Drib. 


I’ve also done the voice of a rabbit in an animated film called Bath House by Niki Lindroth von Bahr. She is a great Swedish animator. You should look her up. Both those performances I would describe as below average. I appreciate your kind words though. 

Your voice is a goldmine. I prefer to close my eyes and just listen when you speak.

But we’ve used your voice several times as voice over and sound effect in jobs we’ve done. I think you are the one that should get an agent. Your voice is a goldmine. As you know, I prefer to close my eyes and just listen when you speak. The reason is I don’t want to free myself from any visual stimuli when I experience your voice live. 

Tell me more about your voice Ben…

Above: Ben Campbell [left] and Andreas Nilsson [right], each drawn by the other.


BC: My voice often sends people to sleep, either that or makes them wonder if there is an off switch. I had some voice coaching beaten into me when I was in the Clwyd Youth Theatre and I am happy to do the working voice over for the spots I work on. Sometimes I do temp ADR for the characters if a line needs changing, or sing a song, or do some Michael Winslow SFX to help with the mix, or whatever else might be needed. Plus, of course, the guide VO, so I always have the mic near my lips when I cut. Hit record and BANG, I’m there. It makes my job much more fun. Editing is picture and sound, with a dial that slides between the two in its weight. 

I always have the mic near my lips when I cut. Hit record and BANG, I’m there. It makes my job much more fun.

Sometimes they say, “hey I think that weird English VO doesn’t sound too much like a hippo farting, we’ll slap it on the real version and pay him in pistachios”. To which I always say under my breath, “Hell yes!” Then run off with my big bag of nuts to go eat them somewhere behind a tree or something.

Andreas, I know you paint, act and design, amongst many other things, and the last time we spoke you played me some of your new music, which I loved and look forward to playing to calm the happy piglet. Do you feel yourself becoming freer as time goes by to make whatever you feel like making? Do you have any future fantasy projects, outside the film and commercial sphere that you’d like to share with me?

Squarespace – Storytellers

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Above: A Squarespace spot, directed by Nilsson and edited by - and featuring the voice over work of - Ben Campbell.


AN: Last year I directed a concert at the Royal Opera in Stockholm. Enjoyed that a lot. It’s more and more important to mix things up and not go from one commercial to another. I need to keep a bit of distance to advertising in order to do a good job with it. 

How about yourself? How do you keep yourself happy and inspired in the edit suite?

It sounded like Hendrix’s band if they’d all been beaten over the head with a brick, but it was fun.

BC: Apart from having pistachio eating contests with my able assistant Hutchings, I like to write little stories about odd characters, like a list of bad characteristics I wish I didn’t have. I mostly keep them to myself, but every now and then I have to blurt them out loud, mostly to Hutchings, who is kind and shows decent acting skills on showing his appreciation.

When I was in Wardour Street [in London's Soho] all those years I had my old drum kit set up, and if I was working late or popping in at the weekends, I could make some terrible noises to help take my mind off the edit for a sec. Sometimes someone might join me on the guitar. It sounded like Hendrix’s band if they’d all been beaten over the head with a brick, but it was fun. It’s inspiring to be in an atmosphere where everyone involved is relaxed and happy. Firstly, that means the job must be going well, then we can all be free to exchange edamame beans freely, talk crap, eat well, and listen to music. All the good stuff.

You mainly live in three cities right? Please tell me about your favourite haunts in Barcelona, Los Angeles and Malmö.

Above: Campbell has been inspired by art that is like "huge one-shot scenes from a movie", such as William Hogarth's The March to Finchley.


AN: Yes. LA for work. Malmö for family. And Barcelona because that is where we want to live. But during this pandemic I stayed in Malmö and it’s been a bit of a revelation. I have lived in Malmö for 15 years but never stayed there for as long as I did during this pandemic. So, in many ways, I have discovered it properly for the first time. Been skinny dipping in the cold baths and breakdancing in the squares. 

What’s your favourite breakdance move and why? 

If [the snake is] done right you can look great on the dance floor at your in-laws’ farm, but if you fail it’s a real eye waterer.

BC: I like the snake the best, where you dive forwards into the air and land in a fluid body wave. It’s a daring move and takes a lot of commitment. If it’s done right you can look great on the dance floor at your in-laws’ farm, but if you fail it’s a real eye waterer. You can accidentally roll over your Dachshund and have to snake off to the piggy pens to get your confidence back. I like it because it’s risky and looks super stylish.

Aside from a lot of dance training, I’ve been reading a bit about Hogarth recently, those big lithographs like The March to Finchley look like huge one-shot scenes from a movie, where the camera moves through a long staged action, picking up snippets of stories as it travels. Is there an artist or painter that’s on your mind at the moment?

AN: Hogarth! I didn’t know about this man until recently when I bumped into his work at Sir John Soanes museum. And you’re right. Historical paintings have a lot of movement and heavy focus on storytelling. I always get excited when contemporary artists tell stories. It feels like that has been looked down on for many years. But some of my favourite artists are true storytellers. Francis Alys, Jonathan Borofsky, Jim Shaw, Öyvind Fahlström. But artists that I probably owe the most to when it comes to my own work, and that are constantly a reference for me, are Crumb, Charles Burns, Peter Bagge, Jim Woodring and Daniel Clowes.   

Ben, you and Meire just had a baby. The boy, I understand, will be named Andreas Nilsson Jr. What advice do you have to give to Andreas Nilsson Jr about editing? You like the process of selecting, and can select forever before you cut. And then, when you finally start cutting it, you’re faster than a cobra on speed who is late for a Jethro Tull gig. Is there a wisdom in that approach that you would like to pass on to ANJr?

Some of my favourite artists are true storytellers. Francis Alys, Jonathan Borofsky, Jim Shaw, Öyvind Fahlström.

BC: Ahh, the new boy. He’s just like you in many ways; small, strawberry blond with beautiful socks on little feet. If he wanted to be an editor, and I am sure he’ll have a lot of time hanging off my chest watching reels of footage over the coming years, I think he might just pick it up in bits as we go along.

But I am sure I’ll bore him with all sorts of bits and tips. An easy one is being completely organised, like having all your footage laid out like a master carpenter’s tools on the wall, then you can cut more and look about for what you need less. Selection is so important for so many reasons. It familiarises you with the footage so you become the absolute expert on what’s been shot. You get to see where everyone’s heads were at as the shoot progressed. It gives you the chance to organise every little bit into order so you can get to it fast.

At each stage of selection, from the first wider pass to the cut downs of those sequences, you get a better idea about what the soul of the film is and its limitations. It takes a lot of sitting and analysing, but this works very well for me. Oh, and get the best chair you can possibly afford. Your back and your butt cheeks will thank you for it down the line. 

You know that illness where all your muscles turn to bone... it’s called Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva. Would you choose to be in a seated position (bent at angles) or upright (standing/lying) for the rest of your life?

Above: Grace Jones on the cover of Island Life.


AN: If I had a choice, I would prefer to get Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva while in the same position as Grace Jones on the cover of the album Island Life.

What’s happening to Cut+Run now since you moved out of your old house? We’ve talked about getting a hairdresser on staff so we who are sitting on the couch can sometimes leave the room and get a haircut and come back with a new perspective on the edit. Will you hire a hairdresser? 

It’s cool to have not only Mr [Steve] Gandolfi, but also Mr [Paul] Watts on your speed dial.

BC: Cinema House is now in the past and we are looking forward to a savage future with the wonderful guys over at The Quarry. We already have a great working relationship with them, and our US partners, so now we move into the new era with one of the best rosters of talent on this goodly earth! It’s cool to have not only Mr [Steve] Gandolfi, but also Mr [Paul] Watts on your speed dial. Not to forget all the other incredible editors producers and support staff. I have a lot of love for them all right now.

Regarding hair cutting, it’s something I will be offering up to my new partners once again, but Toby [Abbott] keeps saying “does it make any money mate?” Then I say... “Oh money money, it’s all you guys ever talk about”. It goes quiet and then they move on to the next subject. 

I had a haircut once when I was cutting a pilot in Shepherds Bush. The hairdressers were smoking fags outside the suite, so we asked them, and they said HELL yeah. It was difficult to concentrate with all that hair falling down on the desk, but it looked pretty fine in the end and we had a good old drink after. If the partners say ‘yes’ we could call it; Hair by Andreas or maybe Muff’s. 

I’m not sure you’re aware, Andreas, but you look a bit like a badger to me, I see them often on Welsh country roads giving advice to the hedgehogs; senior, measured, quietly confident. Do you always feel confident in life or are there some things that you find tough?

My self-confidence ranges from excellent to terrible every 30 minutes.

AN: Thank you. I grew up in a small town in Sweden called Derstinkingsburg. We had a lot of problems with badgers. They attacked us and loved to bite our legs until they produced a cracking sound.

But recently a guy in the village, Gördur Hermansson, developed an app that you should use in case of an event like this. It’s quite simple. It’s just an app with a play button that plays a cracking sound. When those stupid badgers hear the sound, they think their work is done and they dart off. So, I’m not sure how wise they actually are. Regarding my self-confidence I’d say it ranges from excellent to terrible every 30 minutes.

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