Welcome to our new ongoing series of blog posts featuring interviews with our membership. The Film and Video Arts Society of Alberta is an artist-run co-operative that exists to facilitate and support the creation, exhibition, distribution, and preservation of independent film, video and new media art in Northern Alberta. What makes that all possible is the artists, filmmakers, and creators that are members of our society. Watch this space on #MembershipMonday as we highlight a different member weekly.
How did you start working in film and why?
I’m a journalist by trade, but I have wanted to make documentary films since I was a child. How I truly started in film was while I was living in São Paulo, Brazil and TV news companies started approaching me to be their fixer or translator for their reports. I was recommended to other people and the demands turned from “Can you translate?” to “Can you get a bilingual First AC? Can you get a bilingual DIT? Can you book a hotel and security?” The demands grew from being a translator and journalist to production services.
I started a production services company in Brazil with my husband, Sandro Silva, called Dona Ana Films & Multimedia. We ended up being a great team. I’m Canadian, he’s Brazilian and has a background in copyright law. We specialize in creating content for foreign companies filming in Brazil who want to make nonfiction content or documentaries. After a while, we were giving away our best stories so we decided to make our own. That’s when we decided to make 3 Siblings about siblings with different gender identities and sexual orientation from a São Paulo favela, which is a slum in Brazil. Sandro is from the same favela as these siblings and they’re longtime family friends. One sibling identifies as straight, one identifies as gay, and one is transitioning from male to female and I thought that was a really interesting story. We followed them around during Pride Month in São Paulo and made it into a short documentary.
How did you find out about FAVA and why did you join?
When I moved back to Edmonton after living abroad for ten years, I just searched online for a way to meet new people. Even though I was born and raised in Edmonton, I hadn’t lived here since my early twenties. I was looking to meet other people in the filmmaking community who were based here locally and thought that FAVA had great services for a great rate. It seemed like an amazing outlet because networking is very important in this industry, and I wanted to meet like-minded people.
What was a great collaborative experience you’ve had on a project?
I’ve had a lot because making films is not something that you can do alone. Filmmaking is a collaborative medium, so I would say all collaborations are good in different ways. Every time I’ve collaborated with somebody new, I always learn something new. It is a craft we’re in so the more people you meet and collaborate with, the more you grow and can see the world in a different way. I’ve had lots of great collaborations and have been fortunate to work with people from all over the world including the UK, the US, Canada, Netherlands, Bosnia, France, Finland, Sweden, I could go on. It’s really refreshing to work with people from all of these different countries because they all bring a different perspective and offer something unique.
How has FAVA supported your filmmaking journey/experience?
The equipment rentals have been really great. I just finished producing a podcast for Women In Film and Television Alberta and they were super helpful with all of the equipment rentals for that podcast. I’m also producing an experimental short film called 1000 Brazils of Truth and we rented equipment and studios from FAVA in the Orange Hub and it was such a great space. It was very affordable and accessible. I would say it’s been helpful as a member in that respect to have those rates, as well as networking and meeting other people.
How does it feel to present your work with an audience?
The best festival experience I’ve had by far was for my documentary film 3 Siblings at OUTFEST in Los Angeles. The entire crew wasn’t able to attend so we worked really hard on the speech beforehand, and the key thing we wanted people to understand from watching this observational documentary was that more exists in these favelas beyond the poverty and violence that is portrayed in mass media. We aren’t saying that doesn’t exist, because it does. But a lot of the people living in these communities still choose to live there simply because that is their community and their environment. Even if they do have the chance to leave, they choose to stay because that is where their friends and family are.
Afterward there were several African American women who were probably in their fifties who came up to me, touched me on the arm and said, “I loved it!” Something I realized was that being from Compton isn’t that different from being from a favela in São Paulo; you’re still just as marginalized by greater society, and I could feel that these women resonated deeply with the film. As a filmmaker, you want your work to make an impact beyond the community that you’ve portrayed in the film. I just loved how lively that crowd was and how they would talk back to the screen while the film was going on, cheering and celebrating at moments. That crowd had the ginga, which is the term for Brazilian swagger. I wanted people to cheer and enjoy it, so it was the most rewarding experience.
What are you working on next?
It’s a bigger project in development so I can’t say too much yet. Right now, I’m completing a short experimental film called 1000 Brazils of Truth co-directed by myself and my husband, Sandro Silva. We wrote the lyrics and a longtime friend and collaborator from Edmonton called Omoe composed it. He also composed for 3 Siblings. It’s basically a little tribute poem to my husband’s home in São Paulo, where I lived. When I lived there, it was definitely one of the hardest times in my life. The Brazilian composer Tom Jobim once said: “Brazil is not for beginners,” and it’s so true. We curated this poem which effectively turned into a song talking about the ironies and paradoxes that are Brazil. It’s a very fitting time to release it with social inequality being brought to the forefront globally.
Where can we find your work?
You can check out Sheena’s documentary film 3 Siblings on Vimeo and her production company’s website below!
3 Siblings: https://vimeo.com/343586010
Dona Ana Films & Multimedia: http://donaanafilms.com/