Lately I’ve been keenly looking into the world of film and video production…main reason being that I want to venture into it. Even though I pursued a non-related film course in uni (I actually did Actuarial Science)…my passion for film continues to throb in me like the first British locomotive! I’ve been doing everything to enrich myself with knowledge on film like watching tutorials on you-tube, reading books and getting first hand info from friends in this field. That’s why I thought it would be a fabulous idea to interview Camilo and have him give us insights on film-making. At the tender age of 19, Camilo has made short films and videos that have earned him more than half a million views on his you-tube channel. Its no wonder that after graduating from high school, he enrolled with the University Of North Carolina School of the arts [UNCSA] to pursue more on his childhood hobby. I conducted an online interview with Camilo, and this is what he had to say. Enjoy!
*So Camilo, let’s begin by asking you to give us a brief description of yourself…
My name is Juan Camilo Herrera but I go by Camilo. I’m 19 years old, I was born in Colombia, South America and I moved to the USA when I was 7 years old. I’m a second year student filmmaker at University of North Carolina School of the Arts. I have two older brothers and I’m also working at a quaint family restaurant as a server and host.
*And how was your childhood life like? Where did you grow up?
My childhood was very vibrant. I was loud, energetic, and obnoxious. Living in Colombia, I was oblivious to the political climates and I wasn’t aware of the violence that occurred. My childhood makes up a lot of who I am as a person now. I saw a lot of imagination as a child and I was open to every possibility. Now, to this day, I still battle the ability to keep myself imaginative while keeping the daily tasks and stresses from holding me down. I think back and I remember how open I was to everything and, to this day, I still remind myself to stay as humble and as open-minded as I can be.
*So, at what stage in your life did you realize you had a passion for film?
Shortly after moving to the United States, I was exposed to the rich film industry. I saw films and I was exposed to these moving images that I never knew a whole lot about. When I lived in Colombia, I only have recollections of watching portions of Disney movies and short cuts of them because we never really owned many movies. (Not that I can recall) Never the less, my interest and my attention for film wasn’t captured until I moved here. I can pin-point the moment when I started looking into directors when I watched the trailer for Steve Spielberg’s ‘War of the Worlds.’ The teaser trailer captured my attention so intensely that I had to look into who made it – especially after my cousin commented on how good of a director Steven Spielberg is. That’s when I began looking into this who new world of narrative storytelling.
*Then after graduating from high school, you got admitted to University Of North Carolina School of the arts [UNCSA]. I’m assuming you are doing a film related course? How is college life for you so far?
Yes. My career path is incredibly immersed in the film studies. My college experience so far I feel is not like many other college universities. I sometimes feel like I’ve been admitted into Hogwarts. It’s an incredibly magical place where people are unbelievably talented and yet it feels as though it’s extremely exclusive. After all, you have to be asked to come back for the following year. The school is remarkably small, so within a week’s time that I began my first year, I had pretty much already made eye contact with 90% of the film students. My time is literally consumed by a black hole of lectures, movie making, and movie-watching that people, outside of the school, sometimes don’t fully grasp how busy me and my peers get – not even my parents! On weekdays, we’re in class from 8am to, sometimes, 11pm. On Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays (if we don’t have class/screenings) we are working on upper classmen’s films with 12-hour crewing shifts per day. It gets time consuming, energy consuming and very busy. I’m not even including typical class homework and assignments. We meet with fellow classmates for films constantly and it can sometimes get very difficult to keep up with deadlines, meetings, and screenings – among many things. It’s incredibly hard to put into words how hectic our schedule can get.
*Now, let’s talk about the short film you did ‘The Vision’ Where did you get the inspiration to do it and what was your major role in this project?
The inspiration from ‘The Vision’ came from a time in my life when I was feeling very detached and cut away from many aspects and even people in my life. I like to explore the human condition as much as I can, so through the characters that I write, I explore these emotions and states of mind. After writing the film, I not only starred in it but also directed it. I can’t help but feel very selfish and almost conceited typing this out, but this was before I was admitted into my university, so I had very little resources and had little motivation to really go above and beyond due to my insecurities as a well-defined filmmaker. This film serves as a good turning point in my learning about the film process.
*Who else did you work with and what are some of the challenges that you encountered?
I worked with a very close friend of mine (who also attends UNCSA with me), Tyler Harmon-Townsend. He was the Director of Photography, aka Cinematographer, and he helped me put together the visual aspect of the film. Working with Tyler, I quickly learned how vital the relationship between the director and the cinematography had to be in any production. My biggest struggle was learning to communicate my vision with him and trying to get him on the same page as I was. Not only was it my input, but his input was greatly considered as well, seeing as he knew more about the logistics of making an image happen than I did.
Here’s is the Short-film Camilo did, The Vision, starring Ciara Arce, Elias Eldeberto Nunes and Sam Barnes. Tyler was the assistant Director and Lighting Technical Director.
*Now a lot of work is involved in doing a video production, be it a well done music video or a short film. From your own experience, would you take us through the different stages of the production process, right from generating an idea to the actual product?
Most, if not every production (even if it’s a music video or a mega budget Hollywood feature film), will be composed of three main phases; Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production.
Includes everything from the moment the idea was inspired to the time it is just about to roll out and begin filming. Writers will write the idea or develop the concept and pitch it to a producer, who will invest on the idea by finding and providing the money to make the film. The producer will also hire the director, cinematographer, and any other key member of the production. Depending on the development of the project, sometimes the films must be pitched to companies in order for the company to ‘green light’ the production.
This phase pretty much starts the first day they begin principle photography. It’s the complete process from when they shoot the first shot to the very last shot and they call ‘that’s a wrap.’ Huge blockbuster films can take up to 6 months to film (or more!) and short films can take up to a single weekend. Commercials and Music videos sometimes take one to two days.
This is pretty much the assembling of all the footage together that they shot. They hire editors to put together the film and depending on the projects, such as large films, they’ll score film for the picture and add additional sound. Film is a collaborative process. That’s the key to it all. It never rests on ONE person… its always a collective work effort.
*And talking of roles, what exactly are the roles of a producer and a director in video production? What are the limitations of each? And how does one ensure that a production team of many creative minds work together cohesively with minimal conflict?
The producer and the director are very different. One thing they have in common is that they share the same inspiration and motivation to make the film. The difference is that the Producer is in charge of getting the money and getting the resources to make it happen while the Director is in charge of artistically making the film unfold. When so many artists are brought together to paint on the film canvas, there has to be a tremendous amount of respect and patience for what the director wants. There are untold rules that everyone already knows from the get-go that we must abide by and it’s about knowing who is in charge of what aspect of the art – something you gain from experience. We never want to step on anyone’s toes. It’s not good for your reputation.
*We all know media is such an influential tool in today’s world. Say you were the most influential filmmaker on the planet, how would you use your influence to change the world around you?
You are right about it being the most influential tool in the world. If I were to have such a blessing as to influence the world with it, I would definitely use it to expose to the world what we as humans and as beings are capable of doing. Exploring our mind and our imagination to further inspire the way we think and the way we go about living out daily lives. To inspire to creatively solve problems for the beauty of it, not for its economic benefits. Because when we creatively change the world around us with imagination, we inspire others, and if we inspire others, we spark happiness in their soul. I’m certain that would change the world tremendously. But for right now, I think I’ll just face that obstacle in my bedroom and in my workshops at school. Maybe one day I’ll have the amazing opportunity of doing it in the film industry professionally.
*Would I be correct to say that the film industry is saturated? If so, what does it take to stand out from the crowd?
It is absolutely saturated. More than I could put into words. More now than yesterday and the day before. Why? Because of the internet. The film industry is slowly not just the movie theater, but the monitor screen that you’re looking at right now. Our ability to see these wonderful images, that only our inner most flourished imagination could generate, at the tip of our fingers is something that makes our entertainment much more mobile. Its expanding exponentially the possibilities we could do with it. Now getting noticed is incredibly tricky. It’s really difficult but its not impossible. It’s no longer, ‘what does it take to get noticed?’ its more of ‘how long will it take?’ cause there’s so many different outlets that people turn to that its no longer just the movie theater… its now the TV, the internet, the iphones, and ipads and other technology that enables us to see these images. The only way to really get noticed, I’d say, is making something that is compatible with all of those things and that the material is compatible with its viewers; which is also more diverse!
*I have many friends right here in Kenya and some of their greatest aspirations as actors is to make it to Hollywood. So, how hard [or easy] is it to make it there and get recognized?
It’s all about being at the right place at the right time, honestly. As a filmmaker, I now can see what its like being on the other side of the auditioning table. With the eyes that know what they’re scoping for. Even for someone who lives right in Hollywood, might be just as tricky to get into the acting scene as someone elsewhere. Keep in mind everything is digital now, so anyone from another part of the world can be casted. Connections are extremely valuable! Trust me.
*Looking into the film industry, who inspires you? Anyone in particular who comes across as your favorite or someone you’d love to work with?
That’s a difficult question to answer. I’m not really sure. I love the work of many different directors and filmmakers for many different reasons. It’s an endless list. I would love to work with Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, and maybe even Michael Bay. Just to get a perspective on things. They all work incredibly different but I’d give anything to see how they make such large pictures come to life seamlessly.
*In your opinion, what makes a good movie and which are some of your all time favorites?
What makes a good movie? Hmm… let me answer this question with another question. What makes a good person? For me, films are like people, or people’s personalities. Each one has their flaw and their perfections and both make them the gem that they are. That’s the beauty of film as an art, and a beauty that many people, including critics, overlook. I feel like people see good films too much as something where a ‘good’ line is drawn on a scale that every movie is weighed into to figure out if it is or isn’t good. The ending product is beautiful for me no matter what – its what keeps my mind so open about films. But technically speaking, a good story, a good visual, and good characters is what makes a movie good for me. Especially story and characters; without those, you have nothing. A couple of films that pop to mind for me would be ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994), ‘Baraka’ (1992), ‘Rear Window’ (1954), ‘Brave’ (2011) ..its an endless list!
*Apart from the vision, is there anything else you have done that you are proud of? Any current projects you are working on?
Of course! I made a music video with my friend Tyler Harmon-Townsend, who also worked with me on ‘The Vision,’ for Owl City’s ‘Lonely Lullaby.’ I’d say that’s one of my more proud projects. At the moment, I’m working on my second year fall film, titled ‘TAXI’ which I will release very soon! It was a guerrilla project so it was all shot in one night with two actors and minimal crew but it was extremely fun. As soon as I’m finished editing that, I’m going to begin focusing on my Spring project (which is the film that represents my second year film) so it’s significantly larger than my fall film. I’m going be casting it soon and getting ready for rehearsals! I’m always working on projects, usually 2 or 3 at the same time! We’ll see if that stays the same after I graduate!
*Would you briefly acquaint us with your hopes and dreams as a film-maker? Where do you see yourself in the next say 5 to 10 years?
I hope to one day be a feature film director. I also love to direct music videos and abstract projects so it’d be idea to be able to do both of those things. In the next 5 to 10 years, I still see myself working on films of all kinds, small and large productions. Meeting an abundance of people on an every day basis and working hard at what I love to do.
*Anything you’d love to tell aspiring filmmakers like yourself?
Have a story to tell. Know why you do what you do. Even if it’s something as small as, ‘I just like operating a camera.’ Remember what attracted you to that. The camera is stupid but film doesn’t lie.. so use it to your advantage, and tell a good story; an honest story that people will be entertained by and even grow themselves from. Inspire others.
THE QUICK FIVE::
*Now, all your life you’ve been capturing breathtaking moments using your camera. Let’s turn the tables. Who is this that captured your heart and took your breath away? Your facebook profile says ‘in a relationship’ you know… (*_*)
Haha, yes, I’m currently seeing someone in my personal life but I like to keep it personal.
*The five people in the world you’d love to meet are…
Selena Gomez, Christopher Nolan, Oprah, Adam Young, and Tom Hardy
*A filmmaker’s favorite tool has to be…
The camera! Duhhh!
*Tell me something…anything…you know about my country Kenya…
Kenya. …admittedly and embarrassingly enough, I know very little about the outside world from inside these borders. Part of the engine that drives me to become a filmmaker. I want to learn about different places. I’d be better off asking you what is one of the greatest attributes about Kenya.
*And finally, what’s your most embarrassing moment?
Most embarrassing moment that I can think of was the first time I went ice skating and I fell flat on my face. The pain was the icing on the cake to embarrassment until I realized I was only the first of dozens of face plants that day.
Its at this point that I send a BIG shout out to Camilo for taking his time off his busy schedule to respond to these set of questions. I know it has been a good read for you, hasn’t it? (I can see all film enthusiasts nodding in affirmation! :-D) I’ll end this with the words of Ingmar Bergman who said:
“No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul.”
VIDEO OF THE DAY: Owl City – Lonely Lullaby Fan Music Video::
Directed by: Juan Camilo Herrera.
Filmed by: Tyler Harmon-Townsend and Juan Camilo Herrera.
Edited by: Juan Camilo Herrera.
Starring: Juan Camilo Herrera and Erica Clinard.
Lighting by: Grace Vicars.
Sound by: Evan Wagoner.
Crew: Josh Jimenez, Evan Wagoner, Katie Frey, Eric Barefoot, Tyler Harmon-Townsend.
Find Camilo on You-tube and make sure to subscribe!