SMOKE FOR THE CLOUDS was the winner of BEST SOUND & MUSIC at the August 2020 Dance & Music Festival.
Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?
Isabel Restrepo: My wish was to give a visual portrait of our music through film. I wanted to do it myself to be sure I could transmit to the public the Fabulae Dramatis’ concept. Which involves music, visuals, poetry, theatre and the natural elements. The short film was made also in the context of my studies of film and video art at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp.
Alex Rjabovs from FD films, a filmmaker graduated from Northumbria University contacted me when I was brainstorming about the script. He wanted to collaborate in the production process with me so that motivated me even more to make the production with him and with the film crew of the Royal Academy.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?
Only the post-production process took me around one year to finish. So I think the whole production process took us around 1 year and half. We had so much footage that only the shot selection was pretty intense and difficult to choose. I also needed some time out to cool down my eyes and mind between scenes to think about how to put all of them together. The assistant director from FD films helped me also in the first stages of edition to try to find a structure. I finished the special effects and the final timeline. The pre-production also included the process of making the props and scenography plan. I elaborated a kind of tree as a woman-figure. That was for the shots with the puppet that represented the shaman. I asked advice to the students of scenography at the academy about how to create an atmosphere that could evoque water. They suggested to use veil curtains and make them kind of float with the help of wind. I added a video projection on the curtains with footage of blue ink in water and the jelly pearls we shot first with a macro lens. That to give the effect of water waves en water bubbels.
3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?
Those words were also used by the audience of the FEEDBACK festival. It surprises me that not only them but several spectators have mentioned at least one of those words when it comes to our music or imagery. I found it a good description, so it means we succeed in the idea we want to spread.
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
The post-production: specifically the shot selection and the final stage of color grading! Color correction or color grading is something that you normally delegate to an expert. I made the film also as a student project during my second year of film studies, so I wanted and needed to be involved in the whole process. I got some help also from FD films in the early stage and from my teachers at the academy at the last fase. Color grading is the final touch in edition and maybe the most important one in order to give the film the atmosphere and message you wanted to give to the spectator.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
Of joy that such a nice people at the other side of the globe talked about our film in an objective way and that they could appreciate the piece.
I was pleased with the fact that even though the music wasn’t really the type of music to listen to, at least for some of them, they could genuine enjoy the video whether it was through visuals or music. They gave specific feedback about the elements used in the film and their impressions about the editing style, the colors, the costume, voices and the location.
Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:
6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?
I had some ideas based on the lyrics to film indoor and Rjabovs from FD films had the idea of filming at the “Sahara desert” in Lommel, Belgium. An outstanding location for the outdoor shots. A nature reserve. A sand bank by a lake. It was suppose to give the idea of being at the Mexico’s desert and create the atmosphere of the “Ahuirán’s shaman” that we talk about on the lyrics. So I adapted the script in order to integrate also Rjabovs’ ideas. Surprisingly enough the night before the shooting snowed so we found a beautiful blue and white landscape by the time we arrived in the morning. That gave a total new picturesque point of view to the film. It was definitely welcome anyway!
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
I barely watch a movie twice. I do have a sort of interest for the cult film. If you ask me which films captivated me the most then I can name some from different genres such as in the silent films: “A Trip to the Moon” by Georges Méliès because of the fantasy world he created in a theatrical way during a time when film production and special effects were so limited. It amazes me! Although it took me some time to get interested in black & white films. “City lights’” by Charlie Chaplin because of the emotional, innocent romance and altruistic script. It really made me cry of joy! And that, as I said, for a black & white and silent film, it manages to awake emotions in the spectator. It is a film to not to forget! So, yes I do watch it over and over but in my head.
Further about other more contemporary films I love sci-fi films and psychological thrillers. I’m fan of almost all the films of Christopher Nolan’s films/screenplays because of his originality and metaphysical topics. His films definitely need to be watched more than once. So his films are for me the exception of the rule. Can you hear me think? I’m expectant about the release of his last film “Tenet”.
8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?
I loved it! I found out about FilmFreeway last year. It was an eye-opener to me, since I’m really new in the world of filmmaking. That word sounded big to me but I discovered step by step the easy way of submitting films through this platform. I like the communication, the approach and design of it because it works like a social media site. It is effective and intuitive. A great tool to network and to discover new opportunities. It is also reliable to find trustable film festivals because you can also read the reviews and the rules of each festival directly. The submit button is just a click away!
9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?
That is really a difficult question to answer… If I’m objective enough… according to numbers and for practical circumstances that would be maybe one of the music pieces of my band Fabulae Dramatis, because I obviously listen to it multiple times when we compose, rehearse, perform and edit a live or studio videoclip for it. On the other hand if we are talking about repeditely listening to a song in the way that “ I can’t have enough…” That would be a song that does not have anything to do with metal: “Teardrop” by Massive Attack, sung by Elizabeth Fraser. That is one of the songs I can’t never be tired of listen to. At least that has been the case for the last 17 years of my life.
10. What is next for you? A new film?
On the 3rd of July this year we released other music videoclip for my band Fabulae Dramatis. Also in the context of my film studies. I wrote the script and took other roles such as assistant director, scenography, costume, makeup and post-production. This time the direction was in charge of Philippe Van Beeumen, a classmate from the art academy.
The next step would be for now to continue the music composition process and demo recording along with my bandmates. I’ll brainstorm also about new ideas for the next short films. I take advantage of the the actual situation of the pandemic to meditate and let ideas flow, even if sometimes it’s hard to keep the positive vibes when so many people are suffering around the globe. Let’s hope we can get out stronger and more creative than before after this.
Thanks a lot for this interview, for the feedback and for the award!