By Charndré Emma Kippie
Robert dos Santos is an international award winning Film and Television Commercials Director based out of Cape Town & Johannesburg South Africa. This once upon a time lawyer has thrown his suit aside and plunged headfirst into the world of directing with explosive results. Having directed major productions for international brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Warner Music Group, and nominated for awards both locally and internationally, this is without a doubt a director to keep your eyes on.
Steeped in the cinematic storytelling of auteur directors, such as Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan, Robert dos Santos specialises in bringing a strong narrative vision and cinematic touch to all of his projects. He has been nominated for 15+ awards locally and internationally including in the USA, UK, France, and Canada. Robert has won awards in Seattle USA and in Croatia. Most recently, the Cape Town-based director and producer released a short film titled A Moment, which stars SA-born, Hollywood-based actor Sean Cameron Michael as well as Jonathan Boynton-Lee. The film has been picked up by 3 international film sites. In addition, Robert just received the news that the film was accepted into the Los Angeles Film Awards.
Congratulations on the release of your recent short film. Please could you tell us a bit about the project?
If you like Mexican standoffs and you want to see one done in a way that has never been done before, have a watch. You may enjoy this piece.
What is your vision when it comes to your work as a Director? How do you hope to make a difference in society?
I have the firm belief that ideas have the ability to change the world. It is my goal to inspire people to seize the time that they have on this earth. The fact that we even exist is out of this world and blows my mind several times a day. My way of making a difference is to create stories which inspire people to go out there and do something with this gift.
Do you find that your field has experienced many challenges during the pandemic? And if so, how have you worked to overcome these challenges?
Yes and no. Our industry has been affected just like everything else, less money, less freedom, less everything. But at the same time, due to being kept at home in lockdown, we have realised how much we need stories in our lives. The demand for compelling narratives has never been greater. We have been knocked back in many ways but at the same time we have been propelled so far forward.
When it comes to being a Director, how important is work ethic when building your creative style/brand?
For style, I would say work ethic means nothing. Style should come through naturally. If you are trying too hard then it just isn’t your style. With that being said, work ethic is everything. In a world where everyone has a good idea, the only thing that matters is effective execution.
What are some essential skills that any successful Director should possess and work on improving, and why?
I think there are hundreds of essential skills that a director should possess, and constantly be improving upon, and that all of them are important. A film is made up of multiple elements and you need to have skills in every department. Production design, wardrobe, scriptwriting, lighting, editing, set etiquette, performance, colour choice, composition, dialogue, blocking, camera movement, pacing – the list goes on and on. If you are not, at least, aware of and able to have a conversation about these, then you are not making films – you are merely getting lucky, and luck eventually runs out.
What advice do you have when it comes to handling the business elements behind being a recognised film and commercial Director?
If you are doing this with the intention of making money or finding fame you are doing it for the wrong reasons.
Have you read any books or listened to any podcasts that have inspired you and your career thus far?
I listen to the Roger Deakins podcast every week. Otherwise video essays on films and film techniques such as “Every Frame a Painting”, “Lessons From The Screenplay”, and “In Depth Cine” inspire me.
What have been some of your proudest career accomplishments thus far? And how have they motivated you?
The first piece I ever directed was called “Light” which was made with a budget of R2000. It was made with love and I don’t care if I never make anything again because I am just so happy about what it means to me. You can watch it here.
Outside of work, are you involved in any extracurricular activities and/or community outreach projects?
I am, but my input is minimal compared to those who have committed their lives, so they deserve the love. If you are ever looking for a good cause please consider donating to the Down Syndrome association at: https://downsyndrome.org.za/donate/
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