We had the good fortune of connecting with Niko Sonnberger and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Niko, how do you think about risk?
Any long term creative endeavor is a hardcore risk. Intellectually, I would much rather just sit back and watch the clouds pass by… but emotionally, creating art is this little scab I will forever pick. Also, I’m a slight masochist, so I purposefully push myself to do things which frighten me as a mental experiment, seeing how far I can push my own circle of comfort. When you are pushed out of the circle, this is where all the good shit happens. In psychology I learned anxiety and excitement are the same aroused emotion in your brain, the only difference is what you perceive to be the outcome. When you start looking at risks and the nerves behind it lighting up your brain the same way as excitement does, it gives you a sort of buttery ease. Risk taking stems from all artist’s desire to be immortal, for them to live on in via their work.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Film + Filmmaking are my first and true loves. Then comes writing + photography, which are symptoms of filmmaking. Everything I create stems from some unquenchable obsession, it could be a poem I read, a feeling I recall from a dream I can’t map, an old postcard, an unsent letter, the history of a poisonous flower, the way outer-space smells, invisible dimensions coiled without or own universe. I don’t have a brand, but I like to tell stories of forgotten ephemera, stories grounded in reality with surreal elements melted in. My most recent photography can be seen in SOVO Magazine, where I mainly shoot 35mm photography. And I have a new photo series called Vista Mirage Drive, which you are seeing in this article. It’s about the lonely and derelict spaces of the deserts of California. In the realms of film, I’ve spent ten years directing music videos and only in the past two years started to seep into short films & soon feature films. I directed my first short, Grey Among Silver, which is on hold for a release date because Covid-19 happened just as I was submitting to film festivals. And I’m currently in pre-production for my next film, Failed Fetish, which is very ambitious & out there. It’s about a woman, born fully colorblind, who finds out she can see color when she accidentally electrocutes herself…she develops this deep infatuation with electricity. Lessons to future filmmakers: fuck film school, save some money and make a short film. You can learn everything online. Film school is just glorified & expensive networking. Also, don’t fall into the cycle of “I’ll make this film when I’m ready”, just do it now, because you will never feel ready.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Stuffing food in the face is most important way to understand a city. The unearthly delight of sushi in LA is Hama in Little Tokyo. I am an atheist and the ikura and red snapper made me see god. And you can’t experience LA without eating a ton of tacos, it’s the sacred language of the city. My two favorite taco spots are in DTLA: the glorious Cochinita Pibil at Guisados followed by a Carmelo with chorizo from Sonoratown. Also Ramen must be slurped up, and for this I recommend Daikokuya or Shin Sen Gumi. I lived in DTLA for 11+ years, so I’m still pretty obsessed with all the amazing spots down there. The Last Bookstore is a must for bibliophiles and the Bradbury Building is a beauteous marvel of architecture. I think I cried the first time I saw the interior. Obviously LACMA, MOCA and The Broad are just wonderful museums, but The Museum of Jurassic Technology is definitely an obscure & bizarre must visit…I don’t want to say too much about it, but it’s a treasure. The derelict Salton Sea is one of my favorite places/ LA day trips, it’s a two hour drive. And Joshua Tree when you take mushrooms is unspeakable magic. LA is so diverse, there are so many glorious hidden nooks of the city in which to perambulate. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have so many friends and creative collaborators who are wildly talented and I wouldn’t exist as an artist without them. Diana Lopez is a film editor I work with on almost all my projects. She has a fierce eye and sees things others can’t see, she creates these unique connections with shots & story. Another collaborator is Brad Fischer, who is an amazing composer and musician. I also work with SOVO Magazine doing 35mm photography, everyone who is involved with them is endlessly inspirational. This list could be infinite.
All photos by Niko Sonnberger www.nikosonnberger.com