Christian Baumgartner interrupts the emotions working in production design
Passion and quirkiness are praised in the arts and creative industries, sometimes they also celebrate 'the troubled creative' or 'tortured artist' cliche that fashions figures like Sylvia Plath and Vincent Van Gogh. Both industries embrace extravagant personalities as opposed to suppressing them, but discussing mental health and stress remain somewhat of a taboo. Filmmaker and artist Christian Baumgartner explores emotions of stress, fragility, and anxiety that are overlooked in his field through his audiovisual 'angst.'
The stress and anxiety of working on a grueling production design brief triggered Christian to create this project. The film is a documentation of a broken work environment where deadlines, long-drawn processes, and temperamental personas create a feeling of delicacy, danger, and anxiety.
Christian is a Madrid-based filmmaker, photographer, and sound artist who previously worked at Fragmento Universo and has also created work for the likes of eBay, Vogue, and IKEA. He's endured working lengthy and stressful projects. After five years of working as a filmmaker in a production company, demotivation and uncertainty drove Christian into developing 'angst.' Taking advantage of the ruptured feelings he previously experienced, he wanted to create something that gives the viewer an uneasy understanding of working in this environment.
Turning artistic ambitions or passions into a profession is a feat in itself. Working in an environment where you are encouraged to express yourself through over like-minded people should be living in a rose garden. As the Confucius saying goes, "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." But this 'feat' fosters feelings that you should be grateful to be immersed in this environment, which can lead to individuals feeling awkward about addressing the prickling topic of mental health, anxiety, and stress.
A taboo for generations, little transparency or research exists around mental health in the creative industries. Last year an Australian study by Never Not Creative, UnLtd, and Everymind found that 20% more creative participants showed symptoms of depression, and 29% more showing symptoms of anxiety compared to the national average. Another study reported people working in Northern Ireland's creative industries are three times more likely to experience mental health problems than the national average.
Clients wanting things right the first time, work intensity, and lack of communication are attributes giving rise to these health problems. There's an accepted narrative that being artistic or creative comes with an element of craziness, which strengths the taboo of discussing mental health and stress.
With 'angst,' he tries to show stress and mimic the sounds of anxiety that one might experience in this intense working environment. The "anxiety/stress symphony" is what he calls it. An intuitive mix of still life, shapes, crashing and extinction intertwined intended to convey stress and nervousness.
"The fragility of everyday objects and the end awaiting remind us of the lightness of being, the unease to reach an end of whom we are all aware of (but no human would like to admit) and of whom no one will be able to escape," Christian explains to us.
The project began when the team at New Folder asked Christian if he wanted to collaborate. Their intention was to create a piece of work that showed "different steps" and "basic foundations of a production company."
When the edit was finished, it was without a temp-track and Christian "couldn’t figure out the potential of the piece without the audio." It wasn't until he created the music that the film transformed darker with a slower pace.
To instill danger and anxiety, high-velocity cameras were used. Keeping the audience's attention throughout at this pace is a difficult task, he says, "the piece is slow and carries you away with the actions happening in front of your eyes." The pace magnifies living every day in slow-motion, and how we are trying to avoid reaching the end.