What does this thing look and feel like?
I take a lot of inspiration from fashion photography, showing characters from below with an air of presence and confidence. But I also take inspiration from raw, unedited documentary footage you can see on YouTube. For smooth camera movements, I use a Steadicam. But I also use the straight-to-the-point look of a handheld video camera and the stillness of a camera on a tripod.
I believe convincing sound design can be more important to a film than even stellar photography. I convey cultural context through the use of bits and pieces of Santomean music and sound recorded on location.
I’ve also chosen a male lead that has a particular, memorable voice. Alex-Keller self-narrates his story, and the b-roll images shown during interviews. Alex-Keller’s posture and self-awareness convey a strong character. He carries himself with confidence.
Music is the consistent soundtrack of life in Sao Tome, with the styles of Kizomba, Zouk, and Kuduro, mostly from Angola, Portugal, and other Lusophone countries booming out of every household since early in the morning. I’ve chosen music by the local Santomean Kizomba star Haylton Dias and a selection of tracks from Cape Verde for the film’s soundtrack.
This is a young film so to be consistent with that youthful energy of the film I use fast cuts and speedy editing reminiscent of the style used by the MTV channel.
Sao Tome is definitely a colorful place and the Santomean people love to use color in their attire; the group of artist I focus even more so. Thus I use strong primary colors, low-key highlights and thick black tones in the shadows to bring out the liveliness of the characters.
Principles of Form
For consistency throughout the film, I’ve chosen to follow 5 general principles of form.
One, I use visually diverse cinematic language, lending ideas and mixing genres of documentary cinema and fictional narrative, I combine fictional elements with traditional documentary methods such as interviews and observation.
Two, I recognize that shorter clips are easier to share on social media. I simplify the storyline. I divide twenty one minutes of footage into 3 segments. Each plays 7 minutes in length.
Three, I create an over-arching storyline. Each sequence furthers the journey of the character or reveals some aspect of his personality.
Four, I tell the story in pictures, rather than telling it in words. Smooth camerawork and careful use of color emphasize elements of the story. I create disruption and inspiration and weave aspects of the location into Alex-Keller’s story thus revealing something about the country (much like Woody Alles does in Vicky Cristina Barcelona).
Five, I follow in the tradition of documentaries created by the BBC reporters but I also recognize that audiences are increasingly well-traveled. I provide a meaningful film experience that’s more authentic than the common Travel Channel overview.
How will I direct the film? Continue reading the director’s point of view.
– Kris Haamer