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Exclusive Interview: Tomas Koolhaas & His Documentary REM; A Film About His Father and Internati

Tomas Koolhaas

In this exclusive DesignBloc interview, we are excited to team up with filmmaker, Tomas Koolhaas (name sound familiar?), to discuss his passions, personal interests, and his current project, 'REM', a documentary about his father, Dutch Architect of OMA, Rem Koolhaas.

[Get excited!]

Recently, we reached out to our readers & followers across the globe, to be a part of this interview by submitting their personalized questions to Tomas. It was truly difficult to narrow the questions down, but after days of deliberation, endless games of rock-paper-scissors, and many sleepless nights, The DesignBloc team was able to make our choices! We would have picked all if we could have... Thanks to everyone who submitted! Here we go!



Give us a brief overview of 'REM'. (The DesignBloc)

I think it's the first architecture documentary to focus expansively on the experiences of both the architect and users of buildings, rather than just the architect.

What are 3 words that best describe the film, 'REM'? (The DesignBloc)

Different, non-linear and experiential.

Click Below For The Official Trailer: 'REM' - The Documentary

Director- Tomas Koolhaas

Free runner- Chris Lodge

Camera- Chris Arata.

Music- Philip Glass, Music in Twelve Parts (Remix)

Location - Fransisco Moura

Video Content: Tomas Koolhaas. All Rights Reserved.

What are the similarities that you have noticed between film/cinematography and architecture? (Alberto, San Francisco)

I think there are many similarities. One that I noticed first hand is about transitions. For example in film you have various transitions that you use to create a certain psychological effect on the viewer. I think the same is true in architecture. For example in the Seattle library the slow spiral reminds me of a slow cross-fade where the transition from one floor/room/condition to the next is barely noticeable and very gradual. Then you have the casa de Musica where the steel corridor gives way abruptly to a room covered with green rubber spikes which is more like a hard-cut in film.

What type of filming equipment is your favorite to film with? (Sarah, Orlando)

It changes faster and faster these days because of the rate of development of new systems seems to be increasing. I tend to like filming with a very minimal camera package and basically no crew so that the psychological impact on the subject is minimized. I tend to like using a DSLR camera for that same reason. I also really am excited about drones. It used to be super expensive to include aerial footage in your film and now it isn't, which is really useful for a filmmaker like me.

What are some things you learned/discovered about your father, Rem Koolhaas, while filming 'REM'?

One thing I discovered by following him around filming him is how unique his schedule is in terms of travel. He literally travels non-stop between the most varied conditions on earth; bustling urban cities, deserts, tropical climates, ancient deserted cities etc I think that explains why he has the expansive perspective that he does.

Image Credit: Tomas Koolhaas. All Rights Reserved.

What is your favorite building by Rem Koolhaas/OMA and why? (Alejandro, Caracas)

I think for filming the casa de Musica and Seattle Library but personally the Maison Bordeaux is one of my favorites because the design is so intimately and obviously connected to the specific needs of the inhabitants.

The concept of place is an on-going theme in architecture, how do you represent this through film or even allow it to become a character? (Sarah, Orlando)

In my case it's not so much about making it a character as showing how people relate to/interact with it. I did it in various ways, depending on the building. In casa de Musica I filmed a free runner physically interacting with the space, in other places I interviewed people that lived in the spaces. Each time I wanted to give the viewer a first hand feeling of what it's like to use the space from a human perspective, rather than having it explained to them intellectually.

When is the expected completion/premiere date? (Xia, Bejing)

We are currently finishing up the original score and then will schedule screenings etc.

How will we be able to find the film, REM, once it's completed? (The DesignBloc)

That depends on the distribution deal I agree upon once it's complete. It's very important to me that as many people have access to the film as much as possible, so having it be accessible over various mediums/formats and many countries will be a key component of that.

Still shot from the film 'REM' by Tomas Koolhaas

Image Credit: Tomas Koolhaas. All Rights Reserved.



How did you get into film-making and what has been your career path so far? (The DesignBloc)

I've worked many different jobs, some of which may seem surprising but as a film maker (or storyteller of any kind) the more different "worlds" or paradigms you've immersed yourself in the more you have to draw from in your work. I've worked in construction, I've worked as a bouncer at a nightclub, I've worked assisting a photographer for a high fashion magazine, I worked at MTV UK. some of these jobs were more physical and some more creative/intellectual but I think of all of them were almost equally important in terms having learnt something that I apply to filmmaking everyday. After these jobs I went to LA and studied at film school and upon graduating worked for 12 years as a cinematographer, in which time I shot projects of every type: art films, music videos, docs, narrative features etc..

Did you ever want to become an architect? Why, or why not? (The DesignBloc)

No. I get asked that a lot and I'm not really sure how to answer, except to say it's the same reason as I didn't decide to do any number of other potential professions - I just never felt any innate desire to do it.

What is your favorite type/genre of film to make? (James, London)

It's hard to compare them because they are so different. Making a documentary is the most rewarding on a human level because of the people you meet and human stories you get to experience but in terms of pure cinematographic freedom something like a music video is interesting because it allows you to make almost any image you can think up.

What is your favorite movie(s)? (Alan, New York)

I really like experimental documentaries, ones that have very little or no dialogue/narration. Buraka and Samsara are perfect examples of that which I think include some of the most powerful images ever filmed.

I like to know what people read...What are your inspirations, if any, from books? (Sarah, Orlando)

I think it's very telling what a person reads, for me it's a long and very varied list. In terms of fiction Cormac McCarthy is probably the writer who has directly influenced me the most creatively. I don't think that's surprising because his style is very cinematic. I never just read one book at a time, usually I'm reading one fiction book, then some kind of historical account (Xenophon/Plutarch or similar) and then always one philosophy book (Nietzsche, Arendt, Socrates, Heidegger, Sartre etc.)

If you could be doing anything else other than film-making, what would you be doing? (Shaun, New York)

That's a good question. I think I would be writing. I've studied novel writing and have written a few texts but because of the massive amount of time that novel-writing takes and that filmmaking takes its hard to do both simultaneously. I think at some point in the future I might alternate between the two, but will always keep making films.

Describe your perfect Saturday. (Alex, San Francisco)

Every Saturday is perfect, regardless of what I'm doing.

[Sidenote: The guy is positive! You're awesome Tomas! Nuff said.]


To find out more about Tomas Koolhaas and his film, check out his website, REM - The Documentary. Also check out The DesignBloc for more posts about Tomas Koolhaas in the future, and the release of his film. Thanks to all for your participation on this global interview!

-The DesignBloc Team

Images and Video Property of Tomas Koolhaas. All Rights Reserved.

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