|the-talks founders Sven Schumann & Johannes Bonke|
I am really glad to present my special in-depth conversation with Sven Schumann, co-founder
of the-talks.com, a weekly updated online interview magazine he founded with his best friend Johannes Bonke. Creating a platform for the essence of conversations,they have interviewed big names in pop culture such as designer Tom Ford,Anthony Hopkins,Mike Tyson and more.
It was fun and interesting for me to turn Sven Schumann from an interviewer to an interviewee, we talked about wide variety of topics from interviewing people,pop culture,his home city Berlin and more. Enjoy!
What made you smile today?
It was probably my girlfriend when I woke up in the morning. That’s usually the first thing that makes me smile. Then I realized I had a headache, so the smile was more or less gone. (Laughs)
So how long did it last?
It probably lasted a few seconds. The smile usually goes away when I realize it’s time to get up. (Laughs)
What was the genesis of the The Talks, what made you start The Talks?
Over the years, my partner and I have had a lot of experience talking to people and writing for magazines and newspapers. Because most of them were published in print magazines, I felt it was time for an online magazine, a platform where we could choose who we wanted to feature for ourselves. A platform where people could talk about anything that we find interesting and a platform where people could swear and where our audience could get the right impression of what people sound like. That’s why we also included the audio sample. It’s more than just reading the article; one also gets a second dimension of who the person might be. All together The Talks is supposed to be fun, with a weekly interview posted every Wednesday. So far the response is really good.
So you actually started it with your partner, Johannes Bonke?
Yeah I grew up with Johannes and we have been friends for over 20 years. We started a company together called COLORSTORM Media a few years ago and somehow we ended up putting our focus on interviewing people. At a certain point we decided to do our own thing on the side and we started The Talks.
So basically journalism is your profession.
Yes, journalism is my profession. Writing interviews, getting them out to magazines.
We are still doing interviews for magazines as well. We work with magazines from around the world, like Vogue, Elle, GQ and other monthly magazines as well as news magazines and newspapers. The main thing is talking to people and having great conversations.
Would you call yourself a “people person” or someone that brings the best out of people?
To some extent I am definitely a people person. The best thing about my job is that I get to meet a lot of different people, some good ones and some bad ones (laughs). I get to travel a lot too, so it’s not really an ordinary office job, which I like because the everyday sitting at my desk looking at the PC is not for me.
How do you pick your interviews?
We usually pick whatever we are interested in. We started out mainly doing film interviews and then over the years we’ve gone into different directions. At the moment we are doing a lot of fashion, art, and music stuff and we talk to a lot of photographers and writers as well. Anybody that seems interesting to us as well as people who have some kind of interest to people in general.
How do you always turn your interviews into an actual conversation? Your interviews do not seem strict, forced or promotional.
We always try to get something normal out of people. I am not into finding the big scandal. I guess it is more about the opinions and interests of people and by talking and asking things that interest you. Some are things that come up from normal conversation, which makes it interesting and something different from what people read all the time.
What is the process like, do you outline topics you want to talk about or is it just a natural flow?
There is definitely some research. You read about the person and things you want to talk about. I’ve learned over the years that it is more important to listen to what people tell you than to look on your paper and look for the next question. If you listen to what people are saying, these sort of conversations come up instead of a plain Q&A interview. If somebody says something that catches your attention, ask about it and try to find out a little bit more and really go for the things that interest you.
On that note how do you enlighten yourself to have a great conversation?
It always depends on the people you are talking to. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s not easy at all; it often depends on what kind of mood they are in. Also good conversations comes when people realize you did your homework and you know about their achievements and their standing in culture. With that kind of background information you can get great conversations out of it.
What has been your biggest challenge so far in terms of interviewing people?
I guess the biggest challenge is talking to people you really like. If you have a good opinion of someone, you hope that they are able live up to it and managing to get that done is always a task. I recently interviewed Madonna and she was a lovely person and quite fun and charming.
So were you star-struck interviewing Madonna?
Getting the interview was difficult. It involved all these discussions about what has to be fulfilled and what not, but in the end she was really lovely and we had a nice conversation. She was super nice. It might have even been easier compared to some people who are as famous as her. Some people try too hard to promote themselves instead of just having a great conversation.
What has been the most remarkable/crazy moment for you while doing an interview?
Kate Winslet started crying once. Both the producers Anthony Minghella and Sidney Lumet had passed away during the shooting of the film and somehow the topic came up. She went outside, she cried, she came back, smoked a cigarette. She was really nice about it but I could tell that this was really tough on her.
So in such situations, do you change the topic or the mood of the interview?
Yeah I guess we try to have something a little more uplifting because nobody wants to make people cry. It was obviously something close to her and I was not trying to exploit that in any way.
Let’s talk about your city Berlin. What is your favorite spot in Berlin?
My favorite spot in Berlin is probably the rooftop of Johannes' apartment. We used to live together. We moved to Berlin about 10 years ago and we rented an apartment that has an incredible rooftop. We still go there and hang out sometimes. That's definitely one of my favorite spots in Berlin. Otherwise I like restaurants, there are nice parks in Berlin, my friends’ places, my apartment. Berlin has the luxury of a lot of available space and it is pretty open.
What is it about Berlin that you find different and special from other places?
Berlin still feels like things are possible, it’s not completely developed yet. Berlin still has a lot of space and the atmosphere is really international these days. Especially within the last five years so many people from all over have moved here. Most of my friends are from all over: my fiancé is from Canada, some of my best friends are from Switzerland, London, Australia, New York – all over the place. I love that people are constantly coming here and everybody seems to enjoy the art and the architecture. Things like this give a nice vibe to Berlin.
In your travels, which country has been the most interesting for you so far?
It’s difficult to narrow down. I used to live in New York for a couple of years and I really love the city. It’s got a feeling that no other city in the world has. I was recently in Indonesia and it’s really peaceful and quiet. There are places there where it seems like you can forget everything around you and forget about hectic life in other places. In the end there are tons of places it’s really hard for me to choose the most interesting one.
I am sure you are a fan of movies?
Yes, of course. I have been a big fan of movies since I was 12, maybe even a little younger than that. I used to watch anything I could get my hands on, from Chinatown to Jurassic Park.
What are your top 3 movies of all time?
I can maybe tell you my top 100 movies of all time. (Laughs) To narrow it down to my top 3 would be nearly impossible. I recently saw Drive, I really liked The Social Network. I think it was very well written and well done.
Yes I love Drive and The Social Network, one of the best I have seen in a while. What else are you passionate about besides journalism and movies?
Definitely traveling, music, the arts. I love good hotels, I love my computer. I just started to get involved in the internet and it is quite incredible what’s happening there in all directions. My friends are very important. I think wherever you are you can be happy as long as you’ve got good people around you.
Speaking of music, what song is stuck in your head right now?
Bon Iver's Bon Iver album and I quite like Alexander Ebert's solo album.
How has traveling and being exposed to different cultures and interviewing people helped you as a person?
Being exposed to different cultures has helped me a lot in general. Opening your mind to different cultures is very important. The more you see, the more impressions you have, the more your horizons open and widen and you start seeing things from a different angle. It also helps with interviews as well and talking to people: if you have been to many places you have more things in common that you can relate to.
What would you call a perfect interview?
A perfect interview is when it’s fun, when you enjoy the people that you interview and they meet the expectations that you have. Having a good conversation and feeling that they have told you something that they wouldn’t tell just any person. When you manage to get something and get the conversation to go in a direction that is not just the usual Q&A bullshit that’s trying to promote something, it can usually turn into a good conversation.
Is there any specific person that you’ve interviewed that you initially thought differently about, but after the interview your whole perspective of the person changed?
I can’t think of a specific example, but I’m sure it has happened. I have gone to some interviews not knowing what to expect, but afterwards realizing the person is actually very nice, smart, and had good things to say. It definitely changes what you think of the person because when you see them in films you only get to see the part they play. It’s good to look beyond that and if the person turns out to be good then that’s a great thing.
What has been your favorite interview so far?
That is also tough. I guess it’s just any interview with people that you have talked to that you know you get along with and they are fun to talk to. You can sort of build that up and them also knowing what to expect makes the conversation a little bit easier. Some are people whose movies I have watched or whose songs I have listened to when I was a teenager, some who have even had some sort of influence on me growing up. I don’t know which one is the interview, but it’s been great for me to meet the people I have met.
How has pop culture influenced you?
I guess in Germany pop culture does not influence me anymore. I don’t pay attention to a lot of pop culture in Germany. I don’t think what’s on the radio has anything to do with what culture is about anymore. A lot of it is just record companies trying to sell music to kids and marketing in the right ways. I do pay attention to pop culture internationally. I read a lot on the internet and that influences me. I like magazines; I like newspapers.
How do you define creativity?
I think creativity comes from inside of you. It’s something you search inside of you that you think will be good for certain task - if you want to write a book, painting, song, or whatever. It comes from inside of you. I guess it’s also a reflection of what inspires you.
What do you like most about what you do?
The diversity. The best part about what I do is that I get to do different things. I get to travel a lot and meet different people all the time. It’s something I can be really happy about because it does not come with many jobs.
Sven Schumann & Johannes Bonke's -ColorStorm Media webpage
The-talks -facebook page