Vitor Baumgratz is director of the brilliant Brazilian film Carnaval Till The End, which won Best Foreign Film at IFA London 2020. He talks with IFA co-founder Adam Kearns about the challenges of making a film live at the Carnaval of Brazil. Part of a new wave of directors coming out of Brazil, Vitor’s film is a must-watch.
The most difficult part was to find a good spot location to shoot the scenes in the middle of the madness that was Carnaval.
Vitor, can you tell me about Carnival Till The End and how you became involved in it?
I have long wanted to make a movie about Brazilian Carnaval, there are so many colors, so much art involved with so much joy, that it looked like the most fantastic world to be portraited on camera. And it was out there, waiting to be discovered. So, we wrote the script and went out to the streets!
You shot your film during the real Carnaval of Brazil, what added challenges did that bring?
It was a real challenge because there were so many people on the streets that you had to be very aware to know where your cast and crew were. We also had to be quick and smart to find a place to gather everybody between all that madness and then find a spot to start shooting. Also, there was the heat. It was very hot and the cast and crew needed water all the time.
What difficulties did you encounter as the Director?
The most difficult part was to find a good spot location to shoot the scenes in the middle of the madness that was Carnaval. We already had rehearsed the actors a lot, because we knew it was going to be crazy out there. The cast needed to be prepared so when the time comes, they had the perfect mise en scène on their minds. The crew was also constantly reminded how hard it was going to be and we discussed every little aspect of the shootings to avoid any surprises. So, we were very prepared. That said, to find a spot location to shoot where the sound would be okay and not many people would be interfering in the scene was the hardest part at that moment on the Carnaval.
How did you approach the funding for your work and in what ways did cost prohibit the production?
Me and my partner shared the costs of the film, but this was an exceptionally low budget film. To keep costs low we had to get clever to make good work. Carnaval is a free party on the streets, that´s already a great production value, and you’re shooting in daylight which is another factor that puts down the price.
Ultimately cost did prohibit the production because I wished I had more days to shoot some scenes.
Being an indie film, you must select people who are really interested in making the movie above everything else and not care about things such as money!
How big was your production team and how did you go about recruiting them?
We worked with small teams because we knew that to move around the streets in the middle of Carnaval would be a challenge. So, we always had the necessary actors for the scene and as we could not have a large crew to walk around freely, we used to take just the people needed to make it happen.
About the recruiting, we used friends who already work with cinema and who were passionate about the project and willing to do it. Being an indie film, you must select people who are really interested in making the movie above everything else and not care about things such as money!
What equipment did you use to film?
We used a Sony A7sii as the main camera, and as an indie film the best lighting is always to work with sunlight to make your script achievable. The second-best tool for indies is night internals, so we used a few key lights and china balls on the final scenes.
If there was one thing you could change about your project, what would it be?
I wish I had shot more scenes on Carnaval, maybe doing the end on a night Carnaval… also, I would put fewer drugs in the movie, I know it´s a time when people go crazy but maybe it was too much. But by another angle, it´s a realistic portrait of what happens.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to make a feature film?
Just do it. This is my second indie film made totally by passion and no money at all. For many years I heard my friends from cinema complaining about how hard it is to make movies, but these are all excuses, nowadays with the new accessible cameras and technology there is no excuse why you cannot do it. If the film is too large think of a smaller one, adapt the script for what you got, find some people who are interested and believe in your ideas and go shoot your art for the world!
How have you approached the distribution process for your work?
Distribution is a key aspect of making a film, you must show your work to the world and that’s all in the hands of the distribution companies. It’s very hard for young and indie filmmakers to close a good deal with these companies, especially in the beginning of our careers. The best way to do it is to find a distribution company which you are comfortable with and take the best deal but don’t settle up! Continue distributing your film yourself, go around and show everyone what you’ve got and try to make it appear in many places as possible. In the end, you are the most important seller of your product.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I think the most important part is to say to filmmakers everywhere that if you have a project that you are passionate about, go and do it! Don´t bother with people saying it’s impossible. Find people who like your project as much as you do and go make some history!
Thank you for chatting with me Vitor, I enjoyed your film.