Short Film Corner 2022
Chloë de Carvalho
May 7th, 2022
Three young children sneak out alone for a day in the mountains. Their world is a wild and curious one: alliances are made, death is contemplated, swings are swung and stories told under the hot sun.
Hello Chloë, it’s great to get to talk with you, how have you been keeping after everything that’s been happening?
It’s been an intense couple of years hasn’t it? Lockdown itself was an interesting pause, where all the busyness and noise that fills everyday life fell away and it felt like an opportunity to see things in your life with hyper focus. Like an existential game of musical chairs where you’re forced to sit down, look around and ask yourself how did I get here? How do I want to keep going when the music starts up again? For me it meant applying to and starting a part time PhD something I never imagined I would do but I’m so glad I am.
Have you been able to remain positive and creative at least?
Yes for the most part although the invasion of Ukraine is really horrifying and hard for me to ever disconnect from completely.
I’m a parent and lockdown (or ‘safer at home’ as it was called here in LA) meant no in-person schools for almost a year in our case. Which of course made it extremely hard to get anything else done but it also meant you have to keep it positive and children, with their uncanny ability to live in the present, help you do that.
Aventura itself was a lockdown project. I don’t think I would have shot it had I not had this downtime, this break and been forced to spend all day with children. The idea for the short film was born out of observing their play and seeing the recurrent “we’re running away” theme. They would plan elaborate runaway plans, back their rucksacks, leave goodbye drawings and then come back after walking 10 metres. I wondered what would it be like if they just actually went for it? What would their day be like if two 4 year olds and 7 year old took off? I also felt it was so apt to the moment we were living and in a way when we were shooting I felt the film was like an antidote to everything claustrophobic and screen-centred about lockdown.
What does it mean for you to be at the Cannes Short Film Corner with Aventura and what do you hope to take away from this experience?
I hope it helps the film to find it’s audience and I hope we can network and meet people who are chasing the cinema dream as well and share knowledge. I’m also looking forward to attend a film festival and WATCH FILMS IN A CINEMA, IN PERSON for the first time in ages for me.
How vital are platforms like Cannes SFC in continuing to champion and support the short film format?
So vital. Since short films are not always economically viable there’s this vacuum, it feels, between making something and people actually getting to watch it. So many new creative voices rise up through shorts but also some stories just ask to be told in a short form and it’s so important to have platforms amplifying those.
Did your background as a commercial director help you navigate directing Aventura?
Not so much the directing of it (I think), but it definitely helped in how to conceptualise the production of it and make it happen – which for independent filmmakers really go hand in hand and inform each other in an intense way.
I knew this was not a plot heavy short film instead I wanted us to meander through the children’s world so that our grown up POV might start to fade away. To get those performances I knew we needed to get the children so comfortable that they would almost forget we were there. We needed the smallest crew in the world and we were able to bring in collaborators from commercials who brought their wildly talented selves and multi tasked like crazy to make that possible.
It was also important to me that as we were immersed in their world - their chatter, their little made up songs, their spontaneous games, their chubby hands and scuffed knees - could live on the epic scale usually reserved for westerns. We managed to shoot with a beautiful set of anamorphic lenses and between Tobia Sempi’s photography and the landscape they travel through I think we’ve achieved that.
Our production model was to beg, borrow and steal (shhh!) from companies we usually work with on commercial projects. Our post production was also all done with people we have loved working with in the past on commercial projects: from our editor Mo Stoebe, to Tim Harrison and Felix Waverley-Hudson at Aumeta on music and sound design, to colour with Toby Tomkins at Cheat in London. All talented people I would not have met had it not been for work.
Do you think more can be done to bring short films to wider audiences outside of film festivals, I recently discovered that Netflix has some shorts?
I think industry has set it up in a way that for a lot of filmmakers short films are a necessary stepping stone to directing a feature. It's a place where you can prove you can direct and you can hint at your universe as a storyteller with smaller budgets and less risk. But a short film is also such a different being from a feature, just as a short story gets to do things a novel can’t and vice versa. I watch shorts on MUBI sometimes, I didn't know Netflix had some – will check it out .
You know when I was kid growing up in Brazil there was this law that there would have to be a Brazilian short film screened at the cinema before any foreign film. People hated it and exhibitors would often just cut the reel half way through. I hadn’t thought about that in ages but now that I think about it I did see a lot of shorts that way.
How did Aventura come about, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
As an independent filmmaker I have found that my ideas come from what’s around me, what I figure I could use to make a film. Inspiration happens when those elements, be it a location, an actor, an incident kind of come together and spark a story. The punk NY artist Kembra Phaeler coined the term ‘Availabilism’ for her performance work and I have been to borrowing it: availabilism for me as an independent filmmaker and as a parent meant that I looked to what was around me - in this case: children and that location - and thought what story could unfold here?
What would you say have been the biggest challenges you faced bringing Aventura to life?
Whining! No the kids really enjoyed themselves actually. I guess it was the tiny shooting days. We would just do about 3 or 4 hours a day with a long lunch break and free play time in the middle so the kids could chill out.
When working on a film like Aventura how important was it for you to be flexible with your screenplay once you started filming?
The screenplay for "Aventura" was minimal. It was a skeleton of a screenplay really. Actually before we started shooting I sat down with the kids and told them the story. I wanted them to be excited and I also wanted their consent to film them and their world. The two youngest were into it instantly, they had been playing runaways for weeks so this was right up their alley. But the eldest kid, Silas, was not into it. He didn't want to run away – even though he knew it was pretend, he was just really worried he would get into trouble (even though his mother Katja Kulenkampff is the film’s producer and was there the whole time!) It just really rubbed his sense of ethics the wrong way. So we talked about what we should change and he came up with the idea of A: leaving a note on the fridge, for the imaginary parents, explaining that they were going for a walk and would be back – which we did and is in there in the background on the fridge. And then B: he wanted to include the line “we’re just going for an adventure, we’ll be back soon”. Which we filmed, it made it into the cut and we were so thankful to Silas for adding it.
I had a very loose framework that allowed for a lot of improvising within it. I wouldn't work like this on every project but this felt like the right way to go about it for the film I wanted to make here.
Is it hard not to be discouraged when something doesn’t plan out the way you hoped?
Hummmm interesting question… In life, yes! On film sets, no, not really. Creative dead ends sometimes open up to different solutions you would never have thought of. I love preparing, preparing, preparing – so I have that basis and am confident I have it covered - which then allows me to let it all go and see where the filming takes us. I think because I have faith in the magic of improvising and of actors bringing their all then I don't get discouraged because it just means we’ll find something different.
"I love the craft involved in any sort of filming but I would really love the luxury of only thinking about cinema as an art form one day."
Having grown up in Rio, lived in London and now based in LA how have these amazing creative and cultural places helped inspire you creatively?
I guess deep inside me I’m in a state of constant geographic angst, because I feel I belong to all those three places to some extent. When I’m not in one I long for the other. No idea how that inspires me: I’m trying to figure it out!
What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve taken away from making Aventura?
The confidence that I can make a film with nothing if need be – so I mean imagine what can be done with a budget. Also, child actors need lots of snacks and can be bribed with promises of Shaun the Sheep.
Looking back over your work to date what would you say this body of work says about you as a filmmaker?
I think it says that I’ve struggled to make a living as a director of narrative work and so have branched out into film as a communication tool. I love the craft involved in any sort of filming but I would really love the luxury of only thinking about cinema as an art form one day.
I know it’s early but can you tell me anything about your current feature film?
I developed a feature script ‘Rosa Ao Avesso’ with funding from PRODAV run by the Brazilian federal film body, ANCINE. It’s about Carmen a single mother, living on the move in her car with her eight year old son. When she finds herself in a desperate situation, about to lose custody of her son, a missing person poster offers her a chance of a way out. Carmen works hard to convince a small rural community that she is their long-disappeared child healer Rosa, but starts to fall for her own con.
And finally, what would you like audiences to take away from Aventura?
I would like audiences to be reminded of their own childhoods. And also to observe that childhood and flirting with danger go hand in hand, even though as a parent that can be hard sometimes. And to remind people that young children can have a laissez faire attitude to death which is actually really healthy but morbidly disconcerting to us socialised grown ups.