Vita Brevis Films | Buzz Blog

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Vita Brevis Films

Posted By on September 16, 2014, 12:00 PM

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As we make our way into the fall, all eyes are starting to set on Park City, which in about four months will be the center of cinematic chaos with two festivals and a ton of events happening. Even though the festivals have become a showcase for big-budget indie films, we tend to forget that a lot of other production companies that aren't too high on the food chain make an appearance as well. One such case is Vita Brevis Films, which entered into Sundance in 2011 with a short film titled Professional, and walked away with one of the higher awards. Today we chat with VBF founder Skylar Nielsen about his career in film, forming the company and some of his accomplishments, as well as a few other topics. (All photos courtesy of VBF's Facebook.)

Skylar Nielsen

Gavin: Hey Skylar, what first got you interested in photography and what were some early influences on you?

Skylar: While riding the school bus to my grandma’s house one day, I saw a horse that had been hit by a semi truck in the middle of the road. I stuck my head out the window to get a better look and was mesmerized by the beauty of the light on the horse and the surreal scene as the bus slowly went by – in my head I thought “self, get a camera and take pictures of that scene – no one will ever believe you unless you take a picture." Thus, grandma gave me the camera, some little 35mm compact point and shoot; and off to take pictures of the dead horse on the road we went. After that, I would pour over every magazine on the rack at the local Smith’s Food King – GQ, ELLE, Thrasher, Lowrider, 4x4, Interior Design – they all seemed to intrigue me in some fashion. After moving to Salt Lake City when I was 18, I furthered my photography and art inspirations at the local library – keep in mind this was before the world-wide Internets.

Gavin: Did you seek out any professional training or education, or are you mainly self-taught?

Skylar: I took a few key courses at SLCC from Terry Martin. This taught me the fundamentals and technicalities, along with allowing me the potential explore the process further. It was at SLCC where I met Ben Fonnesbeck, who asked if I want to assist for a photographer (Erik Ostling). I said yes, and thus was the beginning of my assisting career in still photography. I assisted for more than five years, working for many talented and skilled photographers.

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Gavin: What was it like for you breaking into the business and shooting professionally?

Skylar: I drove taxi, poured concrete, tended bar, repaired roofs, fixed toilets, painted... you get it. It took a long time and I always had to do something else to help pay the rent.

Gavin: What kind of equipment do you shoot with today and why?

Skylar: For still photography I use Canon for picture quality and familiarity. For video I use RED, picture quality and time invested.


Gavin: After already being established as a photographer, what made you decide to branch into film?

Skylar: Eight years ago, I was asked to shoot a video for a website, and I obliged. I was torn because it was so different from shooting stills, but it seemed like one day the Internet would catch up and we could conveniently watch video via the web... And thus it happened.

Gavin: What was it like setting up Vita Brevis and where does the name come from?

Skylar: Officially setting up Vita Brevis came with the first official VBF team mate Ian Rigby, a name had to be chosen for this new entity and, God knows, I didn’t want it to be “Skylar Nielsen films” – gross. The name is on the front door of the studio, it’s a long story but the short is the magical Dan Christopherson designed the holy shrine above the door and embedded in the shrine is “Vita Brevis Ars Longa.” Latin for "short life create forever."

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Gavin: As a professional photographer, how much of a transition was it for you to start working with digital cinema?

Skylar: My first digital camera was Canon D60 in 2002. it was a pain in the ass of course, but it was a necessary evil as an industry standard.

Gavin: As a filmmaker, what are your favorite subjects to capture and why?

Skylar: As cliche as it sounds, the beauty is the diversity of subjects, from race cars to cornflakes. As a filmmaker, the goal for me is to find what is intriguing in each subject ... everything has a story, it just depends on if you can find it.

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Gavin: You've actually been pretty active around the country and outside the United States. What made you want to become more of a globe-trotting company?

Skylar: Traveling always yields to inspiration. Like they say, “You're not shit, until you are big in Japan.” One day we’ll be big in Japan, too!

Gavin: In 2011, you snagged a Sundance award for the short film Professional. What was it like coming up with the concept and filming that particular piece?

Skylar: The idea for the Professional piece came after shooting back to back for months on corporate client jobs, the need to shoot something that actually meant something was necessary. The idea was to shoot something for ourselves and tell a short story. Enter: Neil Youngberg. He was someone who I had known for years and had a sincere story of a self made man making a living doing his craft and doing it well, every piece that comes out of his shop, he has touched. He is a self made no bullshit man, he continues persistently everyday doing his craft with passion and excellence – something I respect and hope to achieve. We gave Neil chance to tell his story.


Gavin: How was it for you entering the festival and being one of the few to walk out with an award?

Skylar: Entering was an application and a fee. The award, it was great, but it's what you do after that really proves your talent.

Gavin: With all the opportunities in front of you, you've kept the company in Utah. What made you decide to keep it locally based rather than head for a coast?

Skylar: There was a time and place where you had to live on a coast to prove that you were capable, and times have changed.

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Gavin: What are you currently working on at this time?

Skylar: Several advertising commercials, most have NDA’s attached. Stay tuned and we will plan our next adventure- they seem to be the best spots anyhow.

Gavin: What can we expect from both you and Vita Brevis over the rest of the year?

Skylar: Bomb dropping excitement! Hell, I don’t know. Something worth watching, I hope.

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