Ian Asbjørnsen is an in-house director and cinematographer at GUESS? World Headquarters, where he’s shot & directed international campaign videos.
Asbjørnsen’s short films have premiered internationally, winning at festivals like the Vogue Cultural Calendar’s New Renaissance Film Festival (Best LGBTQ Dance Film). His AT&T commercial was awarded for telling the story of an immigrant businesswoman.
Music videos he’s directed have played on mtvU on rotation, premiered nationally on NBC’s Last Call with Carson Daly, and have been featured on Spin Mag, Pitchfork, Noisy, XXL Magazine, Brainfeeder Records, Glamour Mag UK, and Topshop.
With an M.F.A. from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Asbjørnsen’s work explores the intersection of science fiction, psychology, and popular culture.
My first draft of Odyssey Omega began as a freewriting exercise to help me deal with the death of my best friend, Kyle Bell. When Kyle died of a prescription drug overdose at the age of twenty-two, I found myself in a toxic, white male culture that left me completely unequipped to deal with grief and vulnerability. What’s more, growing up together, Kyle was always the one who helped me deal with things head on. When we made movies together as kids in the backyard, he would bring me out of my shell, support my most creative ideas, and show me how to be myself.
After Kyle died, I didn’t know how to care for my mental health. Struggling with my identity, I got into ego-based bar fights. Refusing to make true connections, my relationships became roller coasters. Suddenly faced with pain, I found myself getting caught up in drugs like Kyle had. All of this isolated me, and kept me from being vulnerable. Until my inner truth came out through my art.
It was only after my therapist suggested I freewrite that I tapped into the psychology behind my depression. I finally realized where my inner rage was coming from, allowed myself to grieve, and began making healthier choices. When I decided to turn my story into a script, I brought these choices to the screen: choices of healing over violence, of connection over isolation, and of externalized expression over internalized pain. So through space exploration, 90s nostalgia, and handdrawn animation, I directed a film where a writer comes to terms with the death of his brother through his fantasies of being a space marine.
Odyssey Omega is a film that changes the culture, that shows men that they can apologize, they can change course, and they can fight their inner demons instead of each other. Stories of overcoming isolation, like my character Erik who is alone for years in his space travels, are especially important and relatable right now as we fight COVID. And what’s more, this film is a personal victory for me. Kyle may no longer be here anymore filming with me in the backyard. But he lives on in my characters to inspire others, so in that way, we’re still making movies together.