Where are you based and how did you first get into this line of work?
I’m originally from Sao Paulo, Brasil. When I was 25 I moved to Barcelona, Spain, lived there for four years, then moved to Sydney, Australia, lived there for six years, and last year I came back to Barcelona.
Back in 2011 I was living here in Barcelona and working in the advertising industry. I decided to move to Australia because my brother was there and I visited him and it was wonderful. But before leaving Barcelona, I felt I wanted to say goodbye in a special and creative way, being grateful and sharing the happiness I felt while living there.
So I had the idea to write a farewell letter, attach tickets to my favorite theater (a comedy improv show) and attach the letter and tickets to helium balloons and release them around Barcelona. I recorded everything with a camera and I could say that was the first time I “directed” a video, even if it was an amateur video. The film went super viral and I realised I wanted to become a film director. It took me a couple of years to make the transition, but I did it! 🙂
How did you come up with the Phenomenality project?
I met Ric Friar, the protagonist, and Wendy, his wife, through friends in common in Sydney. He wouldn’t stop talking and telling me all these amazing stories about his life. We kept catching up and developed a friendship. We would sit by the fire at his farm in Sydney, at night, and we’d drink wine and talk about life and share stories.
I was very inspired by the way he lived his life, he had never been to school, never had a proper job, got his education from going to the cinema and surfing, and he had achieved so many wonderful things in life, like surfing a 30-foot wave back in the 60’s without any kind of safety procedures, going through two near-death experiences, pioneering the use of industrial hemp in Australia, started a successful business recycling poo—among many other incredible things. I felt his story deserved to be shared. So we started talking about making this short film and we did it.
I never pitched it to anyone, we just got friends together and made the film happen. It took one year and a half because we had no funding and had to ask many favours, but it was worthy it.
What gear/cameras did you use and why?
We shot everything with the Red Epic Dragon, handheld by our amazing DOP Toby Heslop, because it was the camera he had.
Anyway, my first choices are always the Red or Alexa, so I was happy with it.
The underwater cinematography was shot by Jon Shaw with a Red Epic inside a watercase.
Did you plan out the story structure from the beginning or did it come out in post?
I did three interviews with Ric, that I recorded in audio. I decided that the main story for this short film would be the fact he pioneered surfing big waves in Europe and his near-death experience, but that the film would be about much more than that, it would be about the way he chooses to live his life, which for me is the most inspiring aspect about himself.
So I wrote the script based on the three interviews. I made a shot list of cool things we could capture without much resources.
We shot a interview in a blacked studio and then all the overlays.
I put together the structure of the film, like a rough cut, using the audio as a guide. Then I started to lay over the images and visuals and see where I needed animations, archive footage and other visual material. Knowing exactly what I needed, we made storyboards and I started looking for animators and typographers. We ended up having four different animators plus one typographer for the animated quotes.
What do you do differently from other filmmakers?
I think we’re all unique individuals, with different points of view about life, who have lived very different stories and that will be reflected in anything you do.
One thing that is important for me when making a film and telling a story, is to bring to audiences something that is meaningful and inspiring, that they will take with them for the rest of their lives or that maybe it will shift something inside them and touch their souls.
If you had to go back and do it all again, how would you get a foothold in the business?
Oh, man, if I knew I’d wanted to be a film director when I was 17, I’d have studied Cinema, because it must be so much fun and I would had started working in film production super soon, on my first year at Uni, because I believe practical experience is the best way to learn and also the most fun way.
But I only “discovered” that I wanted to make films when I was like 31, but it’s okay, it’s never too late to make your dreams come true. 🙂
What’s the one secret tip, go-to trick that you use often that takes your work to the next level?
First of all, be sure you have a very good script in your hands. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time. And always shoot with a really good camera and be sure that you have a excellent DOP in your team. That will make a whole difference.
What has been the hardest part of doing what you do?
Find funding to make independent films.
What is currently the best part of doing what you do?
Writing would be one of my favorite parts, because it’s pure creation and your imagination has no limits. But it’s also very challenging and probably the most difficult part of the process as well. Directing a film is also so amazing because it’s a team of creative souls bringing a dream together, it’s so beautiful, I love it.
What are some of your favorite stories or web videos that you’ve gotten inspired by?
I think my main source of inspiration are some of the films I saw growing up and that really touched me and made me experience emotions I had never felt before, and made me dream in some wild ways. Some of them were: E.T, Back to the Future, Never Ending Story, Goonies, Indiana Jones, Pan’s Labyrinth, Forrest Gump, Cinema Paradiso, Jurassic Park. And more recently some of my favorites were Arrival and Interstellar.
Where can people follow your work?
Official Page of Phenomenality with posters, credits, awards, etc: https://livinglibraryfilms.com/project/phenomenality