Monthly Archives:

November 2017

Day-to-Day

For Better Work.

November 27, 2017

If you have ever worked for free, this might be of your interest. I’ve lived and breathed film long enough to learn how to tell bullshit from honesty, and we all know there’s bullshit everywhere. The reason we all know is because we come up with our own crap, all the time. If you don’t think so, better stop now – either stop with the bullshit or stop reading this post.

We have all had more than one account of someone coming up to you and saying “this is gonna be a great opportunity in your career”, or “this will look great in your portfolio”, or “there’s gonna be others after this one”. These are all versions of something I’m gonna call “the deal of a lifetime”. By promising you the future, your employer convinces you the present is no big deal. We’re all poor right now, aren’t we? It feels good to dream of a plentiful future while we toil away. I’ve been there, I’ve done that. We pride ourselves in the stories of the money we’re owed (and unlikely to be ever paid). That’s our elusive future, the one we’re constantly promised yet never delivered.

We do things we hate in the hopes of being handsomely rewarded for it. We keep thinking these sacrifices are gonna pay out one day. Our desire for this future to be true, combined with the stories of success that populate our surroundings, is what perpetuates the cycle. EVERY film school tells stories of underdogs who rose to fame and fortune, of nobodies that turned millionaires overnight. “Film is an inclusive industry” you’ll hear over and over. The film industry is the American Dream that failed to die. Actually, that’s not true. The film industry is the failed American Dream that has enough money to disguise its shortcomings and repeated failures. It’s cheaper for the business as a whole to spend money advertising that all is well and continue to siphon dreamers like us, underpaid and overworked, than to admit its flaws and reward people properly. Later on, this environment will allow you to exploit someone else, the same way you were exploited throughout your career.

As I went through film school once more, less dreamy this time, I struggled trying to understand why our environment is so based on the concept of “you trying to sell how YOUR project is important to ME while I know full well that you don’t really mean what you say”; I know you’re the one getting the better deal; I know that, in your head, my role can be replaced while yours can’t; I know in the end, when reward comes, you’re the one reaping it while I watch from the distance. I don’t understand if I pretend to believe you as a way of justifying my poor choice – this bad investment of my time – or, if after being hammered over and over that this “is good for my career”, I actually believe it might be my big break.

It has taken me ten years of no big breaks to figure out some things for myself when it comes to work: Deals of a lifetime don’t come dressed as deals of a lifetime. It drives me crazy whenever someone tries to sell me their project as such deal for my career. I’ll know it when the time comes – IF it ever comes. I’m not too eager for the deal of a lifetime and this is why I prefer the honest take on work. If you want my services for little money, be upfront about it and let me decide if I want to join the team or not. Don’t try to convince me with some bullshit reason because we all know it’s a lie. Make sacrifices too. The last two sets I worked on, my superiors were getting less money than me because they cared more about the project, and that made me respect them tenfold.

I see a film set as a tiny functioning society and I don’t feel like putting my chips on a society that is the same or worse than the one we have on our daily lives. By that I mean a society in which there’s the top dog who eats steak for lunch and gets paid by the minute while some kid stays up for fifteen hours in the rain so they can get minimum wage. I believe the hierarchy is necessary on a film set and I know some jobs are more stressful or require more prep than others, but I don’t believe in the current wage gap. The system as it is only favors the type of competition in which people sabotage each other and don’t own up to their mistakes because they’re afraid of being fired or, even worse, blacklisted.

There’s a culture of putting your head down and trusting the system that your time will come. This only perpetuates the issues we have now. The unraveling we witness today is a consequence of empowering people who were silenced in the past. These aren’t new problems. They’re entrenched in our industry, remnants of a period based on inequality. Keeping your head down doesn’t encourage discussion or change. Discussion and change are the future, and much needed in the film industry.

I love film and I don’t want to change the magic that shrouds it. I am changing my approach to making films though, and so should you if want a better working environment for the years to come. When we’re the ones making the rules, let’s not repeat what we were told and what we went through. Let’s question it; Question how things can be improved and made better for everyone involved. Let’s bring to set the same magic we experience when watching a good film because, let’s face it, we spend way more time making films than watching them.

Day-to-Day

Mentors

November 22, 2017

This year I went to film school. Again. If you know me in person or if you follow this blog for long enough (since its creation), you’ll know this is the third time I’m doing it. Each one of them was very different due to my approach and focus. The common aspect of all three is I met amazing people that taught me and inspired me to be better at my craft and a better person overall.

People that challenged the status quo and what was expected of the students. People that were open to unusual lines of thinking and an incredibly questioning student (the one writing this) with authority issues. I’m not gonna say there were lots of these people everywhere. There was one or two of them for each time.

The first time, at University of Sao Paulo, I was mentored by Fernando Scavone, who encouraged me to write a graduation paper unlike any that came before. A unique blend between theory and practice that was gonna turn into template for future classes and projects (I didn’t know that at the time). I also had Luli Radfahrer, who has a unique view on how to teach basic photography and was so open to my questioning that he let me teach one of his classes to see if I could prove a technical point we disagreed on.

The second time, at Vancouver Film School, my savior and mentor was Werner ten Hoeve. To this day, I still don’t know exactly why we bonded so well. I was going through the hardest period of my life, but I still kept my no-bullshit attitude of not taking orders without question and accepting that some things are just “meant to be”. Ultimately, I think Werner liked me because of how I took ownership of my final project and never complained about the challenges he gave me.

The third and hopefully last (at least for a while) time, at Langara College, I had Janin Palahicky, the key instructor when it came to dealing with gear and technical questions. I honestly don’t know how he put up with me since the beginning of the program while I questioned the cameras we used, the lenses we had, the software used and other basic level instructions. Nowadays we have a group chat and talk about both work and mundane things.

The other important person at Langara was Sara McIntyre. When I went into the film program, I was set on cinematography. Cinematography was a part of the directing stream which involved, among other things, directing a couple of short films. You see, I never wanted to be a director (we’ll get back to that in the future), I didn’t have the traits I believed were required to be a director. After a semester of Sara’s Advanced Directing classes my resolve in not to be a director was a little shaken – she is a director and her views on pretty much everything that a director represents went the opposite way of this director archetype I had in my mind. In multiple occasions I came to Sara with this subject and we discussed what it meant to be a director. She changed my view on the film industry, from simply accepting what’s already there, into fighting for what you think is right – and there’s plenty of things in the film industry that need to be made right.

Weaving through this process, from all the way back at University of Sao Paulo to the present days, there’s Bruno Nicko. We made a webseries together, we lived together more than once, and whenever I decide to learn something new, he’s there to support me – many times by teaching me. The same way Nicko comes aboard for my crazy ideas, I always jump in to help and encourage him on his. Among the shared qualities: my bike is the same model as his – he got it first -, we started riding fixed gear together and we don’t really like big crowds of people or social events. Sometimes we don’t see each other for quite a while but every time we chat, it inspires me to grow and see things under a different light.

After this last time in film school – and two years of weekly therapy sessions – I found some connections between all the people mentioned above. They are the ones that didn’t try to stop me from doing something that had never been done before simply because it had never been done before. They are the ones that instead of fighting back against my questions, were open to listening and talking about said questions. The point was not “who was right and who was wrong”, but the conversation itself. The outcome was not as important as the process. They were the ones that didn’t simply accept things that “are”. They saw potential for change, for doing things differently.

These folks are my compasses and I’m extremely lucky they’re just a phone call or email away.

Day-to-Day

Home

November 21, 2017

As I crossed into the US yesterday, the border agent asked me where I was headed.

– São Paulo, Brazil.
– Is that home for you?
– Yeah.
– And what were you doing in Canada?
– I live here. I just got Permanent Residence
– So Canada is home?
– Yeah, I guess.

He didn’t question me further and wished me a good trip.

For four hours I slept. The first part of my 6800 mile journey was a flight to Dallas, then a 6h wait, and a 10h flight to Sao Paulo. 6h waiting at an airport is a damn long time even if you have options to keep yourself entertained. 6h feel like forever for me and my mind and that was what triggered a return to my chat with the border agent.

Leaving home is a drastic thing and there are several degrees to it. The first time I left home was in 2008, when I moved from Salvador to Sao Paulo to pursue a dream of filmmaking. One day I was home, the next I was 1000 miles away from my parents, my sister and my friends. It takes a bit of getting used to and rewiring your brain.

When living by yourself, if you want something done you are the only one responsible for getting it done. That can be both positive and negative. Positive as in if you want something, there’s no one there to stop you. Negative because there’s no one there to give it to you. I think that’s when I figured no one was gonna carry me anywhere and push me forward. It was all up to me.

This was great in the sense that I became independent and never minded being by myself. I enjoy my company quite a lot. The problem is after you’re on your own for long enough, you end up forgetting you can rely on others. While I was living by myself I taught myself photography, visual effects, juggling and filmmaking to some extent. Being ok on my own allowed me to keep this blog running for almost ten years now, create a youtube channel with 6000 subscribers and come up with various small passive income sources. On the downside, I never had more than a handful of friends, I’ve had more than one relationship crumble because of poor communication skills and only recently I started to feel comfortable trusting other people with things that matter to me.

Buying a one-way ticket symbolizes there’s no going back. It’s not a temporary thing. It’s an indefinite amount of time – many times with an indefinite goal in mind. There’s no “if I fuck up, next week I’ll be home and this will all be forgotten”. It’s starting from the ground up – not for the first time for many of us. It took me three and a half years of living in Canada before I was legally able to do similar work I used to do when I left Brazil. Don’t read me wrong, I don’t regret leaving home, but it’s important to acknowledge these are three years of my life that I’m not getting back. The only thing I can do is try to fly through the challenges I would’ve had more time to conquer.

That’s my plan for 2018. To make up for the lost time.

I was amazed by how my views on Canada changed after I got Permanent Residence status. I suddenly was no longer afraid that whole time had been wasted. It had amounted to something and I was gonna get something out of all the money, sweat and tears – there was plenty of all three. Suddenly there was a future I could plan for, and no longer an if-statement. I started caring about where I lived, about the people I had around me, about recycling and about making life better for others that are facing similar struggles to the one I withstood.

I’m proud of being Brazilian and I’ve always perceived my background as enriching and inspiring. The difference is now I feel like a Brazilian that belongs in Canada and not like a Brazilian who’s only here for a certain amount of time. I still feel like a foreigner but not anymore like an outsider.

Home is wherever you feel comfortable at, is the place you care the most about, is where you feel you’re welcome to be yourself with no masks. At the time of writing this post, I have three homes, and each of them harbors very very special people I can’t imagine living without.