005: Orlando von Eisendel/How It Feels To Win An Oscar

Photo: Natalie Mayer


“It was a story of heroes and a story of hope.”

In episode 5 of the Looking Sideways podcast I was lucky enough to be joined by Oscar-winning documentary maker – and snowboarder – Orlando von Eisendel. Along with his producer and friend Johanna Natasegara, Orlando won Best Short Documentary at the 2017 Oscars for his film The White Helmets, which documents the humanitarian work done by the Syria Civil Defense, colloquially and popularly known as the White Helmets.

We met at his Grain Media offices in South London and once he’d made me a cup of tea we got down to it and it’s a great chat. Naturally, we discussed the Oscar win, and delved deep into his background as a film and documentary maker. We also talked about his years snowboarding, and how the early snowboarding films he made acted as a film-making apprenticeship which ultimately led to the documentaries he’s celebrated for today.

Among the highlights of our conversation:

  • How action sports encourage creatives to become their own start-ups
  • Some priceless advice for young film-makers looking to get into the game.
  • Brilliant stories from the making of Virunga, the White Helmets and Skateistan
  • How it feels to win an Oscar
  • How to deal with self doubt, and how it can be healthy for artists.

There’s some real gold in here from a charming, passionate and principled artist (who also makes a great cup of tea), so have a listen, and enjoy my interview with Orlando von Eisendel on finding hope in the worst situations on the planet.

If you only have five minutes…

Listen to this section - Orlando on the importance of persistence

Connect With Orlando

Show Notes

  • What it feels like to win an Oscar, and what goes down at the ceremony itself.
  • How the Trump travel ban affected the White Helmets
  • How Orlando’s winning speech was reported
  • What the award will mean to the White Helmets team.
  • How Orlando and his team used the platform provided by an Oscar nomination to spread their message.
  • The most surreal part of the whole Oscar experience.
  • How Orlando learned about the White Helmets and decided to make the film.
  • On collaborating with the White Helmets and Khaled Kateeb.
  • The latest on the White Helmets
  • His reaction to the conspiracy theories circulating about his documentary
  • Orlando’s apprenticeship making snowboarding documentaries
  • Wintermission
  • 140 Degrees East
  • We Ride
  • Establishing Grain Media and changing focus
  • Learning to tell stories through early investigative projects
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Finding positivity in the darkest places
  • The Skateistan video diaries
  • Where the idea for Virunga came from
  • The practicalities of filming of Virunga
  • How the project evolved
  • Orlando’s partnership with Johanna
  • Canon 7D, Canon C300 and Sony F5
  • ‘There were moments making that film were I’ve never been more scared in my entire life’
  • How Leonardo di Caprio got involved and what he brought to the project
  • The game changing introduction of Netflix
  • The message of Virunga
  • The legacy of Virunga
  • The action sports community as a safe space to learn creative arts
  • On learning as you go, being your own start-up and finding your own creative voice
  • Gen-X documentary for Extreme Sports Channel
  • Having different influences depending on the project
  • Iraq in Fragments, by James Longley
  • The changing presence of the documentary maker
  • How Orlando records audio differently depending on the project
  • How individuals can offer hope even in the most awful places
  • Orlando’s next project
  • The last work of art that impressed Orlando
  • Last book read – The Story of Film
  • Orlando’s tips for a young film maker wanting to get into the same game
  • The importance of persistence, and how it’s normal to be knocked back.
  • How to deal with self doubt – and how it can be healthy.