Tell us about your journey to Brazil.
My journey to Brazil began when I was a kid. Born into a mixed family with a half-Italian, half-Brazilian mother and a British father, I remember travelling from a very young age. I was four when I arrived in São Paulo, the third largest city on this planet.
I grew up in a very tropical, loving, and encouraging culture for around eight years, when I then returned to the UK, at the age of 13. I had spent seven years away from Brazil, the country that I could, in one way or another, class as my second home. At the age of 20, I decided to give up my life in Europe and start a fresh life in the tropics again. Everyone asks me if I can describe Brazil, but I simply can’t. I have travelled to various places, but there’s an essence about this place that I just can’t describe.
How has the transition from photography to filmmaking been for you?
I can’t say the transition was seamless – it was rather subconscious to be frank. I remember working with photography in the UK and hearing people talking about DSLRs that could shoot video. Until I had heard the news, I never saw myself shooting film. I saw myself working as a cinematographer perhaps, but never as a director. The wonderful thing about the visual arts, especially with photography, is that you see your results then and there. I will never forget my first shoot, where I had the picture in my mind and I felt it – palpable, fractions of a second after pressing the shutter.
Filmmaking is a completely different world from photography. It’s only when you discover that filmmaking is actually one of the richest storytelling tools, that you realise that its essence is not only about a DSLR that shoots video.
How has the country surprised you?
Being in Brazil, or more specifically in São Paulo at the moment, is like living many lives at once. It’s colourful in every sense of the word, and in a country of so many palettes, there comes many ways of seeing things. Despite feeling like a foreigner everywhere I go, Brazil has welcomed me very well. It’s a place of constant rediscoveries: from its evident social class division, to its religious backbone that loses itself in new evangelic trends, this country keeps you on your toes. It’s a place where your creative craving is constantly fed.
People have a strong misconception of what Brazil is all about. Bombarded by the stereotypical mentality that everyone dances samba, and lives within walking distance to the beach, people who visit the country for a limited time, are only getting a snippet of the grandiosity that lives within it.
What was the genesis for the OUTOYOU platform?
During the 2012 World Cup, I shot a photo story about an elderly man who crafted soccer balls in a very run-down neighbourhood of São Paulo. This man, known as: “Luizinho das bolas” [Luizinho of the footballs], left me holding the camera with one hand while the other was busy drying up my tears, as he unfolded his story.
The photoessay ended up running in the biggest football magazine in Europe. After it was printed, I went back to Luzinho, with the magazine in my hands. To this day, I don’t think I’ve seen a smile that big.That wasn’t enough for me. I had to go back and connect the dots with a more complete story.
This is where filmmaking made sense to me. I went back to Luzinho’s neighbourhood and I shot a three-minute documentary. From that story, I began talking to a lot more people in my life. Everyone for that matter. I began asking more questions. I began to hunt for that thing inside everyone that gives reason for our existence: our passions.
Luizinho gives a clear statement that if it wasn’t for making footballs, he would be in agonising pain. His passion is what keeps him going. It was after that specific doc, that I thought I had to start connecting these emotions with the world.
I knew people out there had gone through the same experience. It all had to come together somehow.
How did you initially fund the platform?
I started the project with no funding whatsoever. The good thing about there being so many start-ups today, is that there are also many people on the look-out for exciting new projects to fund. It was a matter of weeks – after I uploaded the second story on the website – before an investor here in Brazil gave me a call to meet for a coffee and talk about a potential investment for the project. “Wow”, I thought. I had no idea that a ‘storytelling platform’ would be be considered a start-up! And that is the cool thing about today’s world. Everyone has the possibility of developing fairly simple projects with a good solid mission that can be attractive to investors who see that potential.
We are now injecting a bit of money to better structure the platform – at the moment the site is in its beta version.
Tell us a bit about the stories you’ve documented so far.
It’s amazing how telling these stories has completely changed my perspective on things that I would otherwise, perhaps, never be aware of. Each story carries its own special values. I remember crossing the city to meet with Orestes, passionate for candy-floss making, and negotiating access with drug dealers to enter the narrow street where Luizinho, passionate for making footballs, lived.
One of the most powerful storytelling tools in the platform are those which the filmmakers themselves have to share. With OUTOYOU, we hope to open a dialogue with the audience through the stories of those telling the stories. This, I believe, has often been overlooked by documentarians and journalists. The filmmaker’s story about going out to shoot a doc, and his transformation as a storyteller, will surely inspire people.
How will OUTOYOU help amateur/first-time filmmakers?
OUTOYOU will eventually become a very complete storytelling platform. At the moment, we aim to help every filmmaker, from the pre- to the post-production stages, by giving a ‘live’ consultation. For example, you source a story of someone who’s evidently passionate about a hobby, but you aren’t sure how to go about the whole shooting process. So we’ll have one of our filmmakers go through the whole process, from interviewing tips – to extracting the essence of that passion – to photography insights to help best portray that story.
Soon, we’ll also offer video lessons to better explain this process. Also, since the platform is open to all, we feel it’s extremely important to hear from people who have never shot a doc before. This fresh perspective, from someone who has never held a camera in their lives before, can bring new ways of exploring a potential that perhaps a very established filmmaker wouldn’t explore.
What are the social aims and objectives of OUTOYOU?
Besides the online platform, we are taking the initiative to underprivileged areas and giving people the opportunity to tell stories through filmmaking. The ideal ‘journalist’ is the person who is from that reality – from that physical space – and not someone who enters that space without living its daily context. Thus, by empowering the tool in these places, we will be connecting to stories that are fresh and authentic. With future funding, we will build a team to go out into these communities with cameras and an educational staff to make this possible.
What has the reaction been like so far, and what plans do you have for the future?
It’s been a bumpy road so far, I must say. Developing a platform that branches out into so many segments isn’t easy at all, especially with very limited funding. Still, the journey has been amazing and without a doubt, life-changing. Developing something that makes complete sense to you in life is what makes it all worth it. We hope that more aspiring and established filmmakers will start to join the platform, and that eventually, we’ll be running documentary and educational festivals around the world and WILL ultimately BE connected to more passionate stories.
For more information visit: OUTOYOU