One-on-one with Filmmaker Luís Soares - "The short film format had a huge boom."
Luís Soares was born in Lisbon in 1981. His first animated film, Any Other Man, premiered at the Vila do Conde International Short Film Festival in 2012, having participated in dozens of international festivals and shows where it won five prizes: António Gaio Prize at Cinanima 2012, Mikeldi de Oro at ZINEBI 2013 in Spain, Brand New Award at IndieLisboa, Special Mention of the Jury at Mumia - Udigrudi World Animation in Brazil and the Revelation Prize in the Portuguese Cinema Paths. His second animated film, Poise, premiered at the 17th IndieLisboa in 2020.
iFilmFestival: Tell us a bit about your most important film so far.
Soares: “I only have two films and can't say which is most important. Obviously the first is the first. I learned a lot and I'm still very proud of it, but it feels a bit outdated to me and 'Poise' is a great evolution to me as a filmmaker. I made it more freely and more in my own way of expressing. I feel 'Poise' is closer to me and the kind of film I want to create.”
iFilmFestival: What were the key challenges making it?
Soares: “To pass on the feeling I wanted. And I feel I didn't fully reach that. The graphic style was not easy to reach and maintain, either. I needed that the cleanup maintained a balance of delicate and fragile lines that couldn't vibrate much mixed with a rough/naive drawing style. The sound design and music were also very hard to reach. It was very good to work on it, but this film depended a lot on the sound and it needed something very, very specific, and it wasn't obvious what that was, at all.”
iFilmFestival: What’s one aspect that you’re particularly proud of?
Soares: “The scene where the spectator character freaks out. The sound of it all, the animation of him going crazy..."
iFilmFestival: How did you get involved in filmmaking?
Soares: “I was just a humble animator and post-producer with around 2 or 3 years’ experience when, one random night, I encountered Zepe (a well know Portuguese animation director) and he told me if I ever wanted to make a film, that he could help me to start to develop a project. I said "oh ok, thanks.", but thought "Why the hell is he telling me this?! No way, I'm a noob and I have no ideas for stories". This sparked the thought though, and after a couple of months I had this idea from a poem a friend wrote and went to Zepe, and he directed me to Cátia Salgueiro (my now all-time scripting partner).”
Teaser: Poise (2020)
iFilmFestival: What new projects are you working on or are you hoping to work on in the future?
Soares: “Between 'Any Other Man' (my first film) and 'Poise', I developed another project that never got support called 'Caustics'. These three films are connected because they talk about different ways that people get stuck in life. They can't move on because they're overwhelmed by loneliness, overworking, tiredness, etc. So, I'm trying to get back to this because I really love the idea behind it and I think it would be a very unique film. Also, because I think this would wrap up things and maybe allow me to get un-stuck from this mind loop. Ahah!”
iFilmFestival: What role do film festivals play?
Soares: “They're obviously extremely important to show films that aren't commercial. I don't think I'm wrong saying that more and more cinemas screen the most viable and commercially secure films. Without festivals people wouldn't even know there was this whole universe of different cinema being made. I watched movies in festivals that I'm sure I wouldn't even know existed, and I can't even rewatch them if I search online. At the same time, festival's programmings help people identify films and to care about watching them, because it's somehow a curatorship they can use as guidelines.
But I'd like to see more festivals focusing more on alternative and different ways of making and thinking about cinema, and also trying to level the different cinemas (photographic, non-photographic, fiction, documentary).
Talking from my side: Although there's some very interesting ones, most animation festivals tend to be lighthearted and easy going, with the tone of cinema for the family. "Generic" festivals are more interesting in general. Most include animated films and sometimes have animation prizes, but they're usually considered "lower" prizes and animated films are almost never real contenders for main prizes.”
iFilmFestival: What is your advice to filmmakers tackling the festival circuit?
Soares: “I don't like to think strategically about what the festivals or the viewers will think or feel, but I can say technical stuff such as: a smaller film is more likely to be accepted because it's easier to program and fill some empty space in a session. Use all those websites where you can submit your film but pay attention and do your research because some festivals are still not on those. Think very, very well on the fee you'll pay for that festival because you're betting, and sometimes it's obvious that you'll lose your money. What festivals write in their description isn't always exactly what they program so, look at previous editions programs and winners and you'll get the feel of the festival's style.”
iFilmFestival: How do you see the future of film?
Soares: “It's obvious that it will flourish online. And the short film format had a huge boom with Youtube and Vimeo. I like to watch a short film when I'm eating or just taking a break from work. 'Vimeo staff picks' or 'Short of the Week' are great ideas that follow that idea of curatorship a bit I was talking about earlier in regards to festivals, and I think there will probably appear more of these type of things.
The commercial cinemas will probably start to close or reduce their size but won't disappear completely. At least not that soon, because I think people still like to go out and not go drinking.”
iFilmFestival: Which filmmaker do you admire and why?
Soares: “I just can't say one. I worship the films from Olga and Priit Pärn, Allison Schulnik, Theodore Ushev, David O'Reilly, Emma De Swaef & Marc James Roels, Julia Pott, for example. I say I can't mention only one because I admire so many directors for so many different aspects. Each of them gives and inspires me in different ways that complement and help me to evolve and explore more.”
iFilmFestival: What film have you recently seen that you have admired in one way or another?
Soares: “I watched 'Peripheria' by David Coquard-Dassault. It's from 2015 but somehow, I missed it. I was amazed about how David tells this story without humans and without humanizing the dogs (well, a bit here and there, but is discreet). I was struck about the atmosphere. There was a pressure and some feeling of impending doom even after the cataclysm.”
Thank you Luís for answering our questions!
Interview by iFilmFestival on 26 February 2021.