Born and raised in Bucharest, Hypno is one of the country's most prominent directors of music videos and commercial spots working today. A staple of the city's creative community, Hypno's work has been seen across screens for two decades. Cinematic commercials for the likes of ING, Diesel, EMag, and Mastercard and stylised music videos from Subcarpati, Golan, Jurjak, and Deliric (amongst others) dot his extensive filmography. And though sometimes it seems like visual art was always in his future, the path to this place has taken a few exciting but inspirational curves. However, despite everything, one thing remains consistent - the city that provides the inspiration and the streets that inform the aesthetics necessary to stand out in a crowded and competitive field.
With the release of More Than a Hustle, our new video series, in partnership with glo™ focusing on Bucharest's creative community and the city that inspires them, we sat down with Hypno to discuss his relationship with the city and the journey that got him to where he is now.
The colours of goa and Atomic TV
Aside from a six-month stint in New York City studying directing at that city's famed Film Academy, Hypno has operated out of Bucharest since his earliest days. But those early days started with very different activities from directing, albeit no less instrumental. First, about two weeks of law school led to an initial foray into music - goa trance, specifically - where the seeds of creativity and the name Hypno were born. "I love colours. I love patterns. From the visual point of view, goa trance is made of fractals, patterns, and colours everywhere. In the end, it's mushroom music. I won't say more than that!".
And, more so than the colours - which can be seen prominently in, for example, Subcarpați's Balada Romanului video - that scene also brought about the name that has stuck to this day. "In those days, no one knew what goa trance was in Romania. But I met a guy who already had the name Hypno, and we made music together under it. Since there were so many Bogdan in those days, I'd become Bogdan from Hypno, which was shortened to just Hypno after we stopped working together. Though he kept performing under the name, everyone kept calling me like this".
But those early days were about more than bright colours and rapid-fire BPMs. All those Bogdans mentioned earlier were involved with Atomic TV – responsible for some of Hypno – the band – music videos. Initially a client of Tudor Giurgiu's production house, this relationship would eventually lead to longstanding professional collaboration. However, in an early foray into the industry, Hypno and Atomic TV would enjoy a symbiotic relationship between the former's scripts and Giurgiu's directing methods. To say this relationship was integral would be an understatement, as Hypno immediately tells me, "I was 18 or 19 when I started working with Tudor. It was right at the beginning. I grew up with him" But as in most such relationships, it was time for Hypno and Tudor to go their separate ways. Tudor would become one of the country's most prolific and respected figures in the narrative cinema scene, presiding over the Transylvania International Film Festival, among other activities. At the same time, Hypno knew precisely where he wanted to go - advertising.
"I think it's because of my hedonism," Hypno says when discussing his reasoning for focusing on advertising and short-form video form. "I like to get joy from a speedy process," he continues. "I want to work intensely on something that takes a week or two and get all the joy out of it. I want to have fun in this business," Hypno concludes.
An interesting sentiment to include as it is a question I, myself, ask many times during my travels within the cinema industry - "what happened to all the fun?" The answer lies in the current trends in Romanian cinema. Its naturalism and reliance on setting and themes are much easier to come by than the stylisations and palettes are seen across Hypno's work.
"The way I shoot the city is the way I am looking at the city. Compared with Romanian movies at the film festivals, their goal is to show the reality here. Usually, they are dramas. Social hardcore dramas. So it would help if you created social pressure. The directors use the city and country as a background for this drama. The location supports the actors. So as dramatic and grey as it will be, the drama will be heightened." This acute observation is explained by Hypno further, "imagine a Romanian drama shot in Los Angeles. You won't have that drama anymore. Everything will be beautiful and shiny around them". But, despite all these trends in Romanian cinema for the past decades congruent with Hypmno's career, we agree that some indications of changes are coming on the cinematic horizon. "I don't think the recent Romanian films are into hyperrealism as much as before. They've changed quite a lot."
But, despite the gradual changes in the country's cinematic formalism, the aesthetics remain, and the city becomes subjective in the eyes of the beholder. Here, Hypno refers to his focus on having fun on set and how this can affect the eyes with which one sees their surroundings. "If I have fun, the whole process and product will have something from me. If I am not having fun and becoming too structured, the project will be shit." "No matter how tense I am inside, I am always joking," Hypno says, appreciating self-depreciation as a necessity for loose thought.
Bucharest, a city all its own
"My neighbourhood is Colentina. It is where I started to look around Bucharest and see the city in my way," Hypno nostalgically mentions about his home streets.
"I like how you can see the city from some of the buildings in Colentina. When I was a kid, I would pretend to go to school earlier to watch the sunrise from another building in the neighbourhood. Some of these places are still in my location portfolio." He continues, "there were also bridges in the neighbourhood and the park. I didn't know it then, but these would become integral locations for me as time passed."
Despite this architecture specific to the city, it is undebatable that it has evolved within the thirty-five-ish years since Hypno's early climbs up Colentina rooftops. "The city has changed a lot. Most places don't resemble my memories anymore. There is western modernity to them", Hypno says about the changing skylines of Bucharest. "Bucharest is full of this. You will have lots of flats where the top part looks like the 90s, but the bottom part, where the stores are, is America. Everything is shiny." But, it's still challenging to trick Bucharest for other cities, a primary reason it represents the kinds of unique aesthetics Hypno draws such personal inspiration. "You can put the camera wherever, and you'll have an Eastern European background. There are a few places where you can cheat locations, but for the most part, when you shoot in Bucharest, you know you're in Bucharest."
There are also some places Hypno always returns to when shooting around the city. One of these places was the old bridge that goes over the railway. Another, Hypno describes as "a very tall block of flats in Colentina on the city's border. You can see a green field on one side, and the other has communist flats. It is a perfect example of the clashes found all over. This image is of an extended city that eventually leads into nature. I like to see that!" he concludes.
And in addition to the inspiration the city can provide, there are practical elements of production that need to be considered. For example, is Bucharest a place that is conducive to freelancers and the creative video community? "It's getting better and better," Hypno answers immediately. "The people are getting much better at following the specific requirements for international productions. This also helps the local market, as they have a different approach once they come from these shoots; he continues on the peripheral effects on staff and crew in the city. In terms of finance, "I think there are some incentives. Thanks to this, there should be more international productions and, as I said, the quality of the work always improves."
Finally, though, life is about more than just work. So, where does Hypno chill out when no work is to be done? "For a morning coffee, I go to Boiler. The people and music there make me feel like I can pretend I don't know where I am". He continues with The Owl Cocktail House. "This is a very underrated bar. It's close to the Black Rhino Radio studios. Its never too crowded. The people are always nice. I like it". And, a final bit of wisdom any creative work-at-home freelancer will understand, "thank you, Glovo and Tazz!".
The story continues
The story of Hypno and his relationship with Bucharest is as continuing and evolving as the city itself. But, with invites worldwide, including projects in Cape Town, Mexico, Georgia, and more, Hypno's mark on the local and international industries is still developing. And, for a taste of what might be coming up next, "I love the metaverse. I did my first metaverse project last year, which was amazing!" That project, for an unnamed Italian client, should be public imminently. So stay tuned. More to come.