Pelle Nilsson: Founder & CEO, BRF

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Bio:

Pelle Nilsson is Founder and CEO of global production company BRF. Ever since opening the company’s doors in 1995, Pelle has been dedicated to pushing all kinds of filmmaking, whether it’s a commercial or a feature film, and has always been inspired by new ways of storytelling and trying new formats on behalf of clients. Nearly two decades later, this still rings true. In the last year, the shop, which rebranded from B-Reel Films to BRF in January, has produced more than 100 commercials, branded content and long form entertainment projects, including an international feature film, with Pelle at the helm. Most recently, BRF announced that it’s expanding its entertainment division by bringing on the company’s first Head of Original Content in the U.S. Not to mention, BRF has a number of high-profile entertainment projects and theatrical premieres in the works including “Euphoria,” a feature film starring Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, Jason Bourne), Eva Green (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, 300: Rise of an Empire) and Charlotte Rampling (Dexter, The Forbidden Room), which will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. Additionally, BRF is in pre-production on “Midsummer,” a psychological horror film, written and directed by Ari Aster; the second season of “Before We Die,” a record-breaking Scandi Noir TV series; and features from fast-rising and acclaimed directors such as Anna Odell and Peter Grōnlund. Other projects include documentaries on professional snowboarder Shaun White and the author behind the “Millennium Trilogy,” which includes “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” Stieg Larsson.

How did you get into the industry?

I started as a runner at the Swedish music TV-channel ZTV (equivalent of MTV) straight after school. After working weekends, vacations and after-hours, begging every producer I could find to work for them, I got the chance to produce my first TV-show when I was 20. I loved it, and after one year, I was producing five shows.

Any emerging industry trends?

A trend we’re seeing, like in the world, the middle class is also disappearing in the production space. In the commercial and entertainment industry, it’s either high-end, top of the class productions or quick, DIY, Instagram productions. The ones that are in the middle will unfortunately soon be gone.

I love all forms of immersive tech, but I still don’t think we’ve seen revolutionary uses in Entertainment or Advertising. At the moment, it’s too clumsy and not as user friendly as simply watching a film in the theatre or on your iPad. But, I’m sure we’ll soon see a breakthrough project that will change everything. Remember, that neither the iPod or the iPad were first with the technology. Apple just made it more convenient to use and then the revolution came.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

There’s enormous opportunities at the moment  for anyone that has a story to tell and to get paid for it -- from being a 12-year old talking about your everyday life on Instagram to the most expensive TV-series.

The demand for content from all of the tech giants (Netflix, Amazon, Apple, soon Spotify, etc.) plus social media is creating a golden age for content makers.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

We started B-Reel (which then became B-Reel and B-Reel Films) in 1999. This was a time when the dot-com bubble was at it’s peak. The web was a really boring place with mostly text and a lot of static images. We believed that with the use of storytelling and film that there was a chance to make something much more entertaining and emotional. Our vision was “storytelling through technology.” There really were only a few handful of companies that were doing it, so being one of the first in the market made us pretty unique and led to us opening six offices around the world in six years.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

We recently expanded our entertainment division and hired BRF’s first Head of Original Content in the U.S. by bringing on Hollywood producer Philip Westgren. He’s going to drive expansion of our English language slate in addition to the many film projects in production and development.

We have a number of high-profile entertainment projects and theatrical premieres in the works. Our feature film "Euphoria," will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. The movie stars Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, Jason Bourne), Eva Green (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, 300: Rise of an Empire) and Charlotte Rampling (Dexter, The Forbidden Room).

We’re also in pre-production on "Midsummer," a psychological horror film, written and directed by Ari Aster; the second season of "Before We Die," a record-breaking Scandi Noir TV series; and features from fast-rising and acclaimed directors such as Anna Odell and Peter Grōnlund. A few other projects we have in the works are documentaries on professional snowboarder Shaun White and the author behind the "Millennium Trilogy," which includes "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," Stieg Larsson.

And that’s just on the Entertainment side. We’re also producing commercials, branded content and music videos in our four offices around the world. As you can see, we’re busy!Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

We’ve been around for more than 20 years, which is pretty unusual for a production company. For us, it’s about embracing the constant evolution in storytelling –  pushing new ways to tell a narrative by combining beautiful storytelling and looking at distribution as new platforms and channels have emerged that are as valuable as TV networks.

Like I said, I think the industry is more exciting than ever. There’s never been more opportunities for storytellers.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

Since we’ve been doing this for such a long time, we’ve had many difficult moments. We’ve always tried to push the industry and when you want to be the first and innovate, it comes with a price.

Because you’re a bit more stressed and emotional in a difficult moment, it’s extremely important to set up super clear goals and have a tight schedule in a crisis. You need to work fast and be clearer than ever. You and the company almost always (if you survive :) ) come out better at the other end after a crisis.

How do you motivate others?

I like to let people get the space to build confidence. Listen a lot and try to make them make the right decision through conversation and not finger pointing. For creativity, you need to let people know it’s okay to fail and that we all do that. We have to fail to learn and advance, and to come up with the next big idea.

Being an international business, you also have to understand different cultures and adapt to them. Motivating people in the U.S compared to Germany is very different.

Career advice to those in your industry?

You have to show that you really want something and you have to go for it. When you see the opportunity, take it and never look back. If you want to work with something that you’re really passionate about, it doesn’t feel like a job and that’s when you know you’re on the right path.

As a director and producer you have to always be curious. It’s hard and almost impossible to follow all trends, but if you’re passionate and curious, it will come naturally. Continuously try to find new ways of storytelling, learn about new technologies, distributions and platforms. This diversity will not only elevate your portfolio, but also create opportunities for you to thrive.  

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