Mikki Kunttu, the award-winning lighting, set and content designer, will give a keynote speech on the opening day of Prolight + Sound. In his 30-year career, the Finn has already realised countless productions and projects in the fields of dance, music, opera, television and design. One of the highlights at this year’s fair will be an insight into his working methods and highlights of his creative work. In a preliminary interview, the lighting designer reveals what he will be talking about at his keynote speech and gives a personal insight into a cold hobby.
1. You will give a keynote speech at the opening of Prolight + Sound. Can you give us a small foretaste?
I’ve been invited to deliver my Swan Lake keynote. This keynote I talk about a production of Swan Lake that was created for the Royal Danish Ballet in 2015. My role was scenic, projection and lighting designer. I also did all the programming and pre-programming of the production.
Other than SL I will give an insight to my thoughts about working in general and sort of my vision of how this freelancer life has played out so far. Something like that!
2. What is in your opinion your most important work?
I think for this question I have multiple answers! Firstly what I think has been very important was all the variety of different fields of performing arts I was lucky to be involved in at a young age. This is everything from opera to rock’n roll to contemporary dance to art exhibitions and eaven corporate events.
On more designer perspective clearly the most important collaboration for me has been with Finnish choreographer Tero Saarinen, with whom I really found my own way of working with stage through a very open dialogue. Out of specific productions I believe the most remarkable for me would be exactly Swan Lake and a number of productions with Saarinen – such as Borrowed Light, Hunt and Morphed.
On a more “commercial front” there are of course the three Eurovision Song Contest productions I’ve had the pleasure of working with. The thruline of all the years has always been this underlaying will to find one’s own expression and also to be able to communicate it out to the world. I would believe this is something all artist share and work towards.
3. For what would you like to design a light show? With whom would you like to work on a project?
Again, this is a question that I can look at in a few different ways. I would say at this point in my life I appreciate a good working atmosphere where each collaborator can find their own place and display their strengths, where creation flows and there is a sense of togetherness.
I’m very lucky to have collaborated with so many amazing artists from all around the world over the years. This is one of the most amazing things about this career that it takes me to all these places from Soul to Los Angeles and from Cirque du Soleil to Finnish National Opera.
Having now lived almost 2 years in Canada there is still much to learn here and so many inspiring people and companies that I’d love to collaborate with.
Since a few years I’ve been interested in collaborating with classical orchestras, which is a field I’ve yet not covered so much in terms of concert situations. I think this kind of concept would be amazingly challenging and therefore it has a lot of appeal, you know.
What is also very interesting is the whole concert and touring scene in Northern America.
4. What was your most difficult project? What challenges did you have to face?
I think the most challenging situations would always be how to connect the visions with the reality! In other words this means how to meet the budget!
Sure there have been productions where not everything has been perfect at all and sometimes there is nothing you can do about it. I like to think all the hardships we meet are also the biggest sources of growth. And we are never ready.
5. You have been working as a lighting designer in the industry for 30 years. How has the industry changed since then?
Well, basically everything has changed and nothing at all. The core of performance has not changed. We still aim to support the artist on stage to connect with the audience on an emotional level. That has always been the core and still is.
What has changed a lot is the technology we use to achieve it. I think in some ways these times we are going through a technology driven “the bigger the better” era, but in the long run I believe new technologies are basically giving us designers a wider toolbox and eventually the general focus will shift more back to the core of delivering an emotional message. Or at least I see that is the most important aspect for me in my work.
6. Have you ever been to Prolight + Sound? If so, when and what were your impressions?
Yes I’ve visited the show a couple of times in the past when I was still living in Finland. Prolight+Sound is one of the most important events in the industry and it’s a great place for both meeting friends and colleagues and for getting introduced to everything new in the field.
7. Do you have any chance to look around the fair this year?
I certainly hope so! There are many manufacturers I want to meet and some interesting new products to check out!
8. We know that you are an ice hockey fan. What is your favourite team? Have you ever been to a game in Germany or with the German national team?
Oh! That’s the best question so far! Living in Montreal we naturally support the Habs and I go to see games at Bell Centre with my kids as much as I can. We follow NHL very closely on daily basis and of course the Finnish players in the league are our big interest. My son is a goalie and it was amazing to be able to take him to meet his biggest hero Tuukka Rask, who is a Finnish goalie playing for the Boston Bruins. In a week we’re actually going to Florida for spring break and of course there are a couple of hockey games that we’re going to see there!
I’ve never seen a game in the German league, but I know some of finnish players play there. Germany’s national team’s coach is finnish Toni Söderholm, whom I followed pretty closely during his player career in HIFK, Helsinki.
Lightpower GmbH, which is itself represented at Prolight + Sound with an extensive presentation, is the idea provider and partner in the planning and implementation of the keynote speech. Mikki Kunttu’s speech will take place on 31 March at 16:30 on the “Theatre + Light Stage” in Hall 12.0. After the presentation Mikki Kunttu will be available to answer questions from the audience.
Pictures: Mikki Kunttu