“I’ve always had a sense of adventure,” says Malin Lindholm. Originally from Sweden, the production designer has rarely stood still since graduating from Stockholm University in the early 1990s. Over the course of her plus 20-year career she’s hopscotched from city to city, taking time off in between jobs to quench her thirst for travelling. Indeed, when we speak to Malin, she’s en route to a friend’s house in a small village in Bulgaria for an impromptu getaway. It’s the first time she’s been able to travel for over five months, having been grounded (like the vast majority of people) due to COVID-19, and it’s plain to see she’s excited to be hitting the road again.
“I love to travel,” she explains, “and I do a lot of travelling particularly in between jobs. There was a time when I had more downtime and I was able to go away for longer, but on a film or TV series you can be working solidly for six or seven months, so it’s really important to make time to go away and switch off from everything. If I go on a regular holiday and just lie on the beach then I find it hard to disconnect. If I go a bit more off the beaten track and immerse myself in a new culture and set off on an adventure, with very little planned, then that allows me to really give my brain a rest. It can be exhausting travelling that way, but it’s more relaxing in terms of it being easier to step away from work.”
Occasionally, Malin’s wanderlust and work intersect. In 2017 she teamed up with the British-Zambian filmmaker Rungano Nyoni to make the dazzling social drama I Am Not a Witch, which was shot on location in southern Africa and went on to win the BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. For Malin, who took on the role of art director, the film provided a different kind of challenge.
“It was a very organic way of working,” she recalls. “We didn’t necessarily stick to our assigned roles because we were a very small crew and we were filming in an environment where there really is no film industry; we had to work with what was there. Normally you set up an art department and work with teams who are used to their roles and come on board to meet a specific creative need. I Am Not a Witch was an exception in that sense – we had very limited resources but it was a great adventure and a very enjoyable way of working.”
Like so many creatives, Malin’s livelihood has been adversely affected by the pandemic, but crucially she’s managed to find ways to stay productive. During the early stages of lockdown – when hitting the open road had another meaning – she took to drawing the empty streets and buildings in her neighbourhood in east London. She would grab a camera and take pictures on her daily designated walk, then render the images on her iPad using Procreate, a digital painting programme she first started using for work a few years ago. “I decided to treat the lockdown as an opportunity to practice and build up my drawing skills,” she says. “It was the best thing at the beginning when it was really quiet and there was no one around. It was eerie, seeing almost no people around, and it was just something I felt I needed to document.”
One thing Malin has found time for during lockdown is building a new website. “I already had a Squarespace site for my interior design work,” she says, “so I knew it was a very user-friendly platform. I wanted to keep it simple and take all the material from my old website and add some new and updated material from my production design work. I’d never had all my work in one place before, and Squarespace makes it so easy to gather everything together and create an online portfolio.” This in turn has given her more time to hone her skills and focus on the creative building blocks which were a crucial element of this commission.
By spending more time taking in her surroundings, Malin has been able to work on her mental wellbeing too. “This whole experience has actually been very healthy for me,” she reflects. “For the last five or so years it has been pretty much non stop, working back-to-back jobs. I used to do a lot of smaller gigs – commercials and music videos – whereas now I mostly do TV series which can be very time-consuming and draining. The pandemic has been tough in many ways, but it’s been good for me to not work and instead just enjoy being at home. Before, I wasn’t making time for drawing outside of work – now I’m taking photos and drawing just for the pleasure of it. I tend to look for moments, often situations that are quite filmic. I take a lot of inspiration from geometric shapes and unusual, unconventional architecture, which I suppose is why I’ve mainly been drawing buildings around London.”
By her own admission Malin has always been something of a restless soul, constantly drawn to new places and new experiences. New York, Paris, Tel Aviv, London: all pit stops on her journey to realising her professional dream. So although she’s found solace in her surroundings more recently, you get the sense that wherever her work takes her in future she’ll always seek out the path less travelled. “Production design is all about creating emotions around a space, and I love the freedom that you get on smaller, low-budget projects, especially when it’s somewhere unfamiliar. It’s more hands-on and you’ve got to make magic with what you have.”
Malin Lindholm and all of the creatives featured in our Creative Resilience series use Squarespace as an easy and affordable website builder to get their work out there in a beautiful way. If you’re thinking of sharing your own vision with the world, start building your Squarespace website today with a free trial – no credit card required! Use the discount code LWLies when you’re ready to go live.
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