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Stan Adard: “Pride is not the right word”

Pride is not the right word. I’m just happy to be at a point in my life where I can experiment with film and digital art and exposit my ideas to an audience. But I’m aware of the world around me: the fear, the hate, the desperation, the injustice of incomes, the thousands of children […]

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Pride is not the right word. I’m just happy to be at a point in my life where I can experiment with film and digital art and exposit my ideas to an audience. But I’m aware of the world around me: the fear, the hate, the desperation, the injustice of incomes, the thousands of children dying from hunger every single day. As an artist I try to contribute to a fight against fear and anxiety: Conscious breathing releases a lot of psychological energy, diffusing fears and honing our attention. In a world where the primal forces of love and fear (conceived as opposites) are always colliding against the global situation; where, in many places, anxiety is conscientiously instrumentalized (fear of losing one’s job, fear of death, fear of social disgrace, etc.) conscious breathing becomes a subversive act. We come to realize that it’s just our thoughts that plunge us into fear; and that many of these frightful thoughts are deliberately fomented to manipulate people. This mechanism must be broken.


As a part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Stan Adard.

With a unique approach to digital art, Stan Adard creates pictures and experimental short films that breathe. Born in Switzerland in 1954, he received his Master’s Degree in Education and Social Psychology at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and currently lives and works in a converted farmhouse in a small village in the Jura Hills. Adard married his wife Christine in 1982, and the couple has three adult sons.

Adard performed for more than a decade as keyboardist and singer in the progressive rock band Nautilus. He also created the cover art for the band’s two albums. In 1978, Adard founded a company for ERP software. As owner and CEO, he successfully directed the company for more than 25 years, eventually selling the developed technologies in 2004 in order to devote himself completely to his digital art projects.

Pursuing a passion for film, Adard won the Swiss Video Film awards in 1986. In the early days of digital animation, he created the first animated sequences for Digital Dreams (1995). Adard went on to invent The Breathing Pictures: a breathing-length form of video, which is looped and framed. Out of a similar process, he realized Time(s) To Breathe (2018) and Breathing Through (2020) as experimental short films that have received worldwide recognition.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

My early life unfolded in a small town in the very north of Switzerland, where the Rhine forms the border with Germany. Together with my older brother and my younger sister, I grew up in a loving and motivating environment. My father was the financial manager of an international company; my mother trained in psychiatric care. In addition to school, the Boy Scouts were an important early influence, and my imagination was nourished by dreams of space travel, which seemed substantiated by the moon landing. At the age of 8, my family moved from the city to the more rural Lake Hallwil, Switzerland. I would communicate in Morse code to friends across the lake with a small flashlight, take piano lessons, or study the anatomy of small animals. At that time, I still wanted to become a veterinarian or astrophysicist.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I got my first Super 8 camera at the age of 11. Bringing life into focus through the viewfinder, telling stories in images, has fascinated me ever since. Part of my Matura thesis was a documentary film about the urbanization of Switzerland (1972). At the age of 16, I started playing a Hammond organ in various rock bands. Together with some musically inclined friends, I founded the progressive rock band Nautilus in 1974. We released two albums — 20,000 Miles Under The Sea (1978), and Space Storm (1980) — before the group dissolved. It was during this period that my enthusiasm for interweaving images and music grew.

At the age of 20, I had a formative experience. Together with a friend, I drove to the Croatian sea in a rickety Citroën Dyane. On the way back, my friend skidded out around a curve and we crashed head-on into a large truck. In the seconds after the impact, I was convinced I was going to die now. But there was no fear, no dread, only serenity and an indelible memory of having gone through this process many times before. Happily, neither of us died. But I’ve since attempted to address the insight gleaned from this experience in my last two films: namely, that there is no reason to be afraid of the transformation of our energy.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

For the song Elements, which lays the groundwork for a film of the same name I’m developing, we decided to do all the work — on both the soundtrack and the film — only on full moon days. Despite only having one day per month to work, this approach has brought great peace and attentiveness to the creative process. And on the most unlikely days we’ll be standing with our sound equipment in stalactite caves, chasing thunderstorms, making sound recordings of big fires, and bringing the sampled sounds together in the studio during full moon nights. The soundtrack is already finished. The film still needs a few months.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

I have met many exciting people in my life. Some have guided me; some have goaded me, smiled at me, or motivated me. But if I am to single out one person with whom I have wrestled the most, from whom I have learned the most about myself, it is my wife Christine. She still challenges me every day, using her fine intuition to develop my inner self.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

A good film needs an outstanding soundtrack. For over 35 years Mihaly Horvath has composed all the music and soundtracks for my films and projects. He has his own studio, plays keyboards in various ensembles, and plays live music in all its facets. We understand each other intuitively, wrestle with details together and rejoice together when a new idea comes to life. I’d be remiss not to mention Peter Fibich as well, with whom I played in the progressive rock band Nautilus (he was the drummer). He opened many doors for us with his creative ideas, his spirit of research, and his winning mannerisms. Together, Horvath and Fibich form the core team of astradream. Their help reminds me daily that good teamwork is invaluable for the creative labors that go into making a film.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The giver is the recipient, says Buddha.

The basic thesis of our meritocracy is completely wrong, because it says:

Work hard, then you will have success. If you have success (=money), you are happy.

Such a narrative only benefits those who profit from the “hard work” of others. More promising is this approach:

Be happy! Happiness brings success, and success brings what you need for a happy life.

I plead for a school course in happiness, because we all should be allowed to learn how to be happy (and still work hard).

I am very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

When I was growing up as a child, women in Switzerland didn’t even have the right to vote. When I moved away from home at 17, I discovered what was really going on in the world. Everything was different from at home: women were oppressed, there were absurd role models, people were divided according to skin color, and workers from Italy were treated as second-class citizens.

This is where I started to get interested in the thinking behind it. Why don’t we just see a human being as a human being? These questions preoccupied me and led me to study social psychology, sociology, and social pedagogy. From this I came to see how representations in film could provide an important way for diversity to be experienced.

For one thing, good films often captivate us due to the characters they present. They tell us what a person is like, what difficulties they face in life, and how they transform. Transformation is key. That’s where we learn about the intelligence underlying characterization. This representation of intelligence should lead us to question why we divide people into categories and why we arbitrarily assign any attributes to these categories. Lastly, diversity is important in film and television because only through that can we approach the awareness that we’re all simply human beings, despite differences regarding sexual orientation, skin color, religious beliefs, or cultural background.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Virtual Reality fascinates me because I can generate a panoramic view of any thinkable world. So I’m working on another experimental short film for this kind of environment. The film will be called Kundalini and it will visualize the inner processes that can be stimulated through conscious breathing. Additionally, I may create some Breathing Pictures for the Marriott Marquis in NYC, which will be shown on a large display in their new lounge. And then there is, of course, the full-moon project Elements.

Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?

Pride is not the right word. I’m just happy to be at a point in my life where I can experiment with film and digital art and exposit my ideas to an audience. But I’m aware of the world around me: the fear, the hate, the desperation, the injustice of incomes, the thousands of children dying from hunger every single day. As an artist I try to contribute to a fight against fear and anxiety: Conscious breathing releases a lot of psychological energy, diffusing fears and honing our attention. In a world where the primal forces of love and fear (conceived as opposites) are always colliding against the global situation; where, in many places, anxiety is conscientiously instrumentalized (fear of losing one’s job, fear of death, fear of social disgrace, etc.) conscious breathing becomes a subversive act. We come to realize that it’s just our thoughts that plunge us into fear; and that many of these frightful thoughts are deliberately fomented to manipulate people. This mechanism must be broken.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

May I emphasize just a single point and justify it a little more deeply?
Devote your loving attention to all things.

At the age of 23, while still studying social psychology, I founded my first computer company and developed software. The firm developed well, but demanded a lot from me. Weeks with 60–80 hours of intensive work were the norm, plus I wanted to be a present father to my three sons and a good husband. This increasingly stressed me out as I approached my forties.

I was then able to experience how much easier life became as I increasingly learned to meet all things, including difficulties at work and in the family, with loving attention. I learned, somewhat late, that it is my own thinking that shapes the world for me.

While today I don’t necessarily have less work, or face fewer obstacles, I perceive them differently. The results of the work become better, and obstacles are skipped over instead of becoming painful impasses. Moreover, it brings infinitely more joy and fulfillment when we look at the world with loving attention. I’d like to have had this insight earlier.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The Martian Gaze. I would appreciate it if we could get more people to see Earth as if from Mars. Our planet is a small, outstandingly constructed spaceship in the infinitude of the universe. On it lives a species that is slow to access planetary consciousness, an understanding of cycles, the meaning of happiness, and the dignity of each and every living being. Movements that promote access to these insights abound. And we can support them. My personal movement would be a call to invest in space exploration instead of weapons.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I would like to have dinner with Kitaro, the Japanese musician. Just to thank him for his inspirational work.

How can our readers further follow you online?

My homepage is (https://stanadard.com) and I’m on Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/stanadard), Facebook (https://facebook.com/stanadard), Instagram (https://instagram.com/stanadard) and Twitter (@Stan_Adard). Some of my Breathing Pictures are available at Blackdove, an art platform for moving art (https://blackdove.com).

This was great, thank you so much for sharing your story and doing this with us. We wish you continued success!


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