an interview with director Simon Klose
Netizens of the world, unite!
Five years after the “The Pirate Bay trial”, director Simon Klose had a full house of audience in the world premiere of his documentary TPB AFK: THE PIRATE BAY AWAY FROM KEYBOARD in the 63rd Berlinale on 8th, February, 2013. His producers, editor, family and friends joined him in this highly-anticipated grand opening.
The Pirate Bay, a thorn in the eyes of those who thrive upon IPR protection and lawsuits, is a young force to accelerate information flow, to crash the great wall of knowledge, and to democratize the right to access and spread data as fast as possible by our age’s digital anarchists: Gottfrid Svartholm, Peter Sunde, and Fredrik Neij. Their ideas are simple: resources should be shared by the people and for the people. Hollywood tycoons and music industry bosses obviously were not so convinced and started a lawsuit against TPB in 2008 and they went so far as to put pressure on the Swedish government in the hope of shutting the site down. After the much-disputed trial, The Pirate Party (Piratpartiet), a political party founded in 2006 in Sweden, won two seats in the European Parliament: this updates any future interference with TPB a political censorship.
The film does not try to portray the TPB Prometheus as martyrs or saints, just a bunch of young quick minds who do things they feel cool. It directly addresses their values, habits and wits. They have been sentenced to jail and now with no possibility for further appeal. Are they really guilty? Gunilla Klose, the director’s mother, said after the premiere: Think about what Gutenberg did several hundred years ago; these kids are just doing the same thing.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Access to Information. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Question = Ninja (me); Answer = Simon Klose (Director of TPB AFK).
How big is the budget?
It’s around 5.2 million Swedish Krona.
Isn’t a bit too much for an independent documentary?
Maybe. It took me four years to make it. The big part of the budget is just to get me a salary for four years. We had an editor, we had an original score; we had a great graphic designer that did all the graphic designs. There was a lot of traveling.
How big is the crew?
The crew: I’m the cameraman; I’m the director, the producer. I also have a fantastic editor, Per K. Kirkegaard; Ola Fløttum, the Norwegian composer, who did the original soundtrack; and then Morten Groth Brandt, who did the sound design; and Finsta, a Swedish street artist, that did all graphics and the logo. So the main creative crew, I would say five people. And then I got four production companies: my own company Nonami, and three Co-Production Companies: Anagram in Sweden, and my Swedish producer Martin Persson; and we had another co-producer, called Final Cut for Real, Signe Byrge Sørensen and Anne Köhncke, fantastic Danish ladies; and a Norwegian production company called Piraya Film. So all in all, we had five creative people and four producers.
What would you say was the most difficult part during the filmmaking? Any interference from the government or the Hollywood sharks?
No. Not really. I was just not able to do all the interviews that I wanted to do ‘cause they perceived me biased, as a pirate. A lot of them said no and didn’t want me to interview them. But nobody has actively interfered.
But yeah, for example, Jim Keyzer, who was the police officer that was in charge of the investigation and he was the person who interrogated Peter, Fredik and Gottfrid. The Jim Keyzer story was very short in the film but what happened was, he basically started working for Warner Brothers just after The Pirate Bay investigation was finished: he started working for one of the companies that were actually the plaintiffs in the case. So all of The Pirate Bay guys said: This is wrong. They filed a police report that how can the police officer that just investigated us now work for a plaintiff, that means he was dealing with negotiations while he was still on the case. So Jim Keyzer never wanted to speak with me.
What would you say about the tension among the three TPB guys?
They come from very different places and social backgrounds, so what makes them friends is the Internet. They meet in IRC channels, chat rooms and start to really hang out. Sometimes you meet people online and I think human relationships start online where can see your partners. I think that can be very prejudice-less. I don’t know if Ninja is Swedish or British, or French, or Japanese. I don’t have a clue whether she’s from the South of China, or North of China. Does she love Chicago Bulls or does she hate Ramen noodles. I don’t know. I just communicate with the person via the Internet when I like this person’s thoughts.
It’s a very cool way to communicate. Online, nobody knows you are a dog or whatever. Nobody cares. You just communicate free thoughts. And it’s a wonderful place meet people that you would never have met in your own subculture or society, AFK, right? Offline. At the same time, when you meet this people, you might end up meeting some people that have no sense at all. So that’s the paradox of meeting people online. From one point of view, it’s great, ‘cause you never meet those people that you’re gonna meet anywhere else. As a result of that, maybe you’d come to know people that share the basic values. Maybe Wiki Leaks is an organization that totally split up anonymously with its loose organization and the fight in-between. And The Pirate Bay, their problems of dealing with each other, is also, a microcosmic that is a result of online relationships. You could meet people from anywhere online. I find that very interesting. Maybe the drama isn’t that big; I make it up a bit.
Right. Students in Stockholm could hardly imagine how life would be like without Skype, SoundCloud or Spotify. And of course The Pirate Bay! Students can actually download a film within 10 minutes. Can you comment on this: I guess there is no other country than Sweden can nurture such a geeky culture? On one hand, it seems conservative; on the other hand, it’s boundless, so liberating.
Well, you know. I think Sweden has really good social technology. There were political decisions in the late 1990s giving this computer reform that every Swede should have a cheap computer and later on, we also had great decisions to give all Swedes superfast fiber so we got brand new fibers all over Sweden. We got the fastest internet before the rest of the world. Also, socially, Swedish people were used to taking to the street and demonstrate when they thought something was wrong. Swedish people are used to social issues, social welfare, culture; care about other people, want to share stuff that we strongly believe: you shouldn’t have access to stuff just because you have particular economic background. Technological and social aspects came together what internet has built up.
That SoundCloud, Kazaa, Skype and The Pirate Bay, these platforms all came out of Sweden, is sort of a mix between great technology and social sharing. I think Sweden has this culture of taking to the streets and social sharing. I don’t want to sound too patriotic, but yeah, we believe that stuff should be shared and everybody has the right to free dentists, free schools, free universities, free medical care, and why shouldn’t people share stuff, regardless of economic background: people should have access to education, culture, and stuff like that.
OK. You started as a law student and then you moved to Tokyo and shot a documentary?
I had actually been in Japan before I started doing law. First I went to Nagoya, Japan as an exchange student when I was 17. I had school uniform and lived in a Japanese family when I was in high school. And then I started law school in Sweden, first in Lund University and then Stockholm University for my master’s degree. And then I went to South Africa. You know, if you haven’t been to Africa, you haven’t been able to have a real life. So I lived there for two years. I wrote my master thesis in law in Jo’burg, South Africa and wanted to start filming so I shot my first film about car thieves in 2000, and it took me six years to finish the film. So in 2006, Sweet Memories Garden Centre was released. Later on, I put it on The Pirate Bay. And then I made a film about him: Jason Timbuktu (was sitting next to Simon) – he is one of Sweden’s most famous musicians. He’s a superstar.
So what brought you to South Africa?
I’ve always loved Africa and South Africa was the easiest to find a scholarship. When I was studying law in Stockholm University, it was kind of easy for me to go. And I love the music there so South Africa was like a good point to start, at 25.
Well, back to the budget. Five million krona is a large amount of money, when it comes to a documentary. Where has all the money come from and what was the most consuming part?
Well, they are six international broadcasters, three film institutes, one crowd funding campaign and two original funds, so it’s like a hybrid-financed product. The main money came from the Swedish, Danish and Norwegian Film Institute. And then some money came from BBC, ZDF/ARTE, SVT, NRK, VPRO and DR. And then we also got $ 51,000 Kickstarter in a crowd funding campaign. Swedish Film Institute put the biggest chunk. The biggest part goes to giving me a salary for four years, for me, working so long, in a four-year project and after that maybe the editor and maybe after that the composer and the sound designers. Post production is a big chunk.
Afterword: I have been expecting this film for quite a while. The old order has decayed. We are ushered into this new era of digital communism in which means of production are no longer a privilege to those on the top of the pyramid, but opened to all. Creativity needs raw materials and ideas are worth spreading. Thank you, modern Vikings. Survive on!
Three hours after I published this interview, I saw Peter Sunde’s view about this film. Well. I begin to re-think about the power of editing.