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Inspiration

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Discussing the LatAm film industry with filmmaker Alejandro Giorlando

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Alejandro Giorlando is a dubbing coordinator for NatGeo by day, and an ambitious, driven filmmaker by night. He dreams of directing his own feature film, even though government support and the problems in the LatAm film industry get in the way. Nothing seems to be strong enough to stop his motivation.

Alejandro is well conscious of the issues of the film industry in LatAm, but he didn't give up his hopes to get funding for two years straight and finally managed to get some financing for his short film. This was his first step into becoming a director of his own stories.

If there is one important piece of insight to learn from our chat with him below, it is that no one can believe in your story better than you. If you don't believe in your own dreams, why would anyone else?

For this Member Spotlight we are learning more about Alejandro, his story and his dreams, including a brief look at some of the pieces of his work that he is most proud of.

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How did you get into the industry?

I've studied Cinema at Buenos Aires University. I first started working as a Video editor in a mid-sized production company called Hermanos Dawidson Films, which is known for shooting music videos for famous Argentinian or Latin American artists. There, I gained a lot of knowledge and experience, and started doing some camera work while editing. I took part in the development of many music videos, documentaries, and I was the assistant editor for a film called ´´La sangre del gallo´´ (that was available on Netflix and is now on Amazon). Afterwards, I worked in a big TV channel called Telefe, a part of Viacom, and ended up as a Senior Video Editor, editing mainly TV shows.

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Where are you based now and who do you work for?

I live in Argentina, and I work as a Dubbing Coordinator for Nat Geo, while I also work as a freelancer, edit and shoot some material of my own. While my main job is in Nat Geo, I like to participate in as many creative projects as possible. Nonetheless, I carefully choose to work on the projects that really inspire me. For the last couple of months, I've been working on a personal project which is a short film about Bullying. Recently, I won a grant for shooting it and I hope it will catch everyone's attention. I'm looking forward to shooting it as soon as this pandemic allows it. I'm also working on a script for a feature film, but I don't have a tight deadline to finish it. I'm giving it all the time it needs to create a highly creative and original content. My goal for the script is not only to be very interesting and creative, but also fully doable without the support of a big production behind it.

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Where did the story for that film come up from and what does it mean to you as a Film director?

"School Recess" is a story that I have had in mind for a long time; it just needed to be put on paper. It is different, in the sense that its aim is not to seek a happy ending, but to understand the reality of the situation that many kids have to experience on a daily basis at schools and colleges. We follow this story by getting closer to the protagonist and experiencing his everyday struggles facing bullying. My objective is to show it and expose it to the extent of making the viewer feel exactly what the main character is feeling. It is not about sympathy, but empathy.

Some time ago I discovered that directing is my thing. I previously directed three short films which helped me train my critical eye and the way of transmitting ideas to actors and the technical team. Being able to imagine such a story, thinking of the best way to tell it, being able to lead this idea and nurture it with the other areas of the team is a job that I knew would become my great passion. 

"School Recess" is a story that allows me to gain new experiences as a director and enables me to experiment with ideas that formed me during my studies and to discover my own vision and voice as an artist.

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If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

From the very beginning, I always knew that this was what I loved and wanted to do for a living, so there was NO PLAN B really! haha. Honestly, I can't imagine myself doing anything else. 

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Can you explain your creative process?

It depends on the project. My main objective is to be practical and have realistic goals, while trying to make the project look bigger. Let me explain this a little more:

I work with the resources I have. For example, in editing, firstly I try to understand what story the Director or the team wants to tell, and later I evaluate what the recorded material tells me. After that, I fully focus on the best story that I can come up with from the material. Using editing and narrative tools, I focus on making the project look more professional (this is key in small projects without a big budget behind it). 

When I shoot or write a script, I try to think of it in the same way: What resources do I have to tell the story? Is the main character a powerful one? Do I have an inspiring location to shoot? Are there some props available for me to use?

Provided that I get a great location, what kind of interesting stories can I imagine taking place there? From which angles or places can I shoot this in a compelling way for the story? If I have a nice prop that is available to use, how can I wisely include this in my story?

Finally, I use all the cinematic resources I know to make a compelling story. I try to implement this approach in every project I work on.

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What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

One of the works I'm most proud of is a documentary called "Hijos del Mundo" (Sons of the World). This film is about following a band during the process of making their new album, several days in a studio. Although this doesn't look pretty rare, the difference was that we didn't aim to show the band as if they were super cool and they knew everything. Unlike other similar projects, this documentary does not act as an element for selling the album but as a way of showing the real people behind it. There was plenty of material shooted, as well as amazing and unique moments captured of the band struggling while recording their songs. 

You can feel all the nervousness of the band, as if you were one of the members. You get to witness all the problems that come up when things don't go as planned, when they are unable to achieve the quality they expect, which leads into some tensions within the band.

I'm highly proud of the essence that the film evoques, you see REAL people, with worries, without knowing all the answers, which results in you feeling like a participant, wondering: "How is this problem gonna be solved?" I believe that the pacing was just perfect for those unique moments: not rushing the story, not hiding issues and not making any heroes.I will leave below the link, so people can have a look at this amazing project:

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

When talking about industry I will only talk referring to Argentina and Latin America industry. Although I could talk regarding the global industry, I prefer to talk about the one I know for first hand.

In our country and throughout Latin America, there are recurrent issues that need to be fixed, such as Distribution and Publicity. This is a big unattended issue that is terminal in those films that do not have a big production company behind them, that can invest money in Distribution.

In Argentina, films mainly depend on the government's support for coming to life. In most cases, you finish the film for release using all the financial resources available, leaving no money for Publicity. Considering that not many people will hear of your film's existence, it will probably be shown only 2 weeks in theaters. So one big question is: what's the point of releasing a film when nobody will notice it?

Although I am satisfied with state policies regarding the support of our films and industry, these only cover the production of the film and do not contemplate the Distribution and Publicity of them. Currently there are no strategies for attracting an audience or at least make it more visible to people, so they know about its existence.

Although the OTT and streaming services have become great help, the reality is that a big majority of national films do not end up there. Which leads Festivals to be the only tool for giving exposure to the film.

I hope we could get more help and visibility on this topic, since there are many films that have amazing stories but do not reach their target audience.

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What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?

If I would give one advice to other aspiring creatives it would be: Don't wait for the opportunities to come, go and try to create them. After several tries you will have more knowledge and more chances to achieve your goal.

Let me give a more personal insight on this. I'm a video editor and cameraman, but my main goal is to direct a feature film. There are little chances of someone offering me to direct a film if I haven't directed any yet. I'm fully conscious that it will depend totally on my own and personal effort. The first step towards directing a movie, was to write a script for a short film which I will later direct. The next step would be finding out where to get the funding to make it. As my plan is to shoot it with professional cameras that are used for cinema, this step is of high importance. 

I created funding project folders and applied to several finance grants. Of course, I did not win the first time, nor the second, or third. However, I was fully convinced that my story needed to be told, so I worked on enhancing my folder several times and I applied again. After a long time of doing so, throughout 2 years, I finally got funding for my short film.

What I'm trying to say, is that if you believe in your project and your vision, you have to truly work for it! Nobody is going to give anything to you for free.

What I would recommend to anyone who is starting, regardless of the role they want to perform: create your own opportunities and work hard for them!

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