An essay by Brazilian filmmaker and artist THAÍS DEMELO on how she made the “experimental, lowest-budget-that-you can-possibly-imagine-somewhat-garbage-version-of-Blade-Runner” short film “AM:PM”
Since I was a child, I always had a great time creating stories. When my family bought a camera, I started to film what happened around me, then I started creating scripts – calling my friends and relatives to act, turning them into my characters. Until one day I realized that I could live off the arts that I liked to create or at least, try to. So from an early age, I already knew that I would work with cinema or anything that involved art.
My favorite film directors? To be honest, I believe I don’t have a top 10 film directors who have been direct inspirations, but rather artistic movements within the cinematographic universe: Dada, German Expressionism, then mix this with SCI-FI, with experimental, then add a film that I liked whoever the director is and it becomes a new thing, which is different from a direct reference. There are several incredible contemporary directors, the old and the new, unknown and known, they inspire me equally.
AMPM popped into my head while I was talking to some friends comparing a fight to the noise of an off-air television, about how people can be noisy with their ideas, with their feelings, their desires and also how everything revolves around the sound, around the connections. I kept thinking about it at home and the idea for a film came up. I wanted to make an unpretentious experimental film. I mixed the initial idea of noise with the “entertainment drug” thing and imagined a dystopia where the use of TV and smartphones was banned and they started to be smuggled due to the fact that the sound waves, the noise and the imagery waves coming from analog TVs can cause hallucinations in people for 12h straight (that’s the reason of the name AMPM). I already think that this actually happens, people are sucked by their smartphones, computers, and TVs. AMPM is just an exaggeration of reality with a touch of magic and riot. The access to entertainment has become a kind of war.
I think the inspiration came from the desire to make an extremely colorful film, due to the fact that my previous one was in black and white. I wanted a film that had a lot of my personality, eccentric characters, something experimental, lowest-budget-that-you can-possibly-imagine-somewhat-garbage-version-of-Blade-Runner, the budget was almost 0, I was very limited, but I tried as hard as I could to make the film entertaining. We have this thing of creating the “future” through costumes, lighting. Sometimes people say that AMPM is an experimental Gaspar Noé and very similar to Liquid Sky, that last reference, at the time, I hadn’t seen it yet and I was positively surprised by the similarity. I think AMPM was a mix of everything that was going on in my head at the time.
My creative process is very energetic, if I like an idea I dive right into it and only settle down when completely finish it.
AMPM was a film that came easy for me in a somewhat chaotic moment when I was graduating college. We shot the film in one day, with an absurd rush, a crew member arriving from another city, two actors who didn’t like each other very much, (I think it even improved the chemistry between them, not sorry), but everything went well. I couldn’t make it without my small but very competent team. It felt good having managed to make everything flow on set, no one got hurt! Thankfully, as chaotic as it may have been, the production and I were able to organize ourselves to make it happen.
I am much slower in the post-production process, furthermore, the worst thing about directing and editing is to be perfectionist, it always seems that something is wrong or missing. Crazy as it may seem, I’m cruel to myself, the good or the bad that I hear will never be worse.
The pandemic affected my head a lot, my plans, emotions, and my work, and let’s say that in Brazil the thing is critical because, in addition to being in a deadly pandemic, we have a negationist president so I’m not veeeery optimistic as a person because it will take a while for my age group to get the vaccine. As an artist, I think I became a little obsessed with being on the move because it seems like these pandemic years can be lost if I stand still without acting, I know this is a bit extreme of and with myself, but it is what is saving me. I’m trying to do things that make me happy, creating, studying, and trying to put into practice projects that I abandoned in 2020 again, it relaxes me a little, but I still feel apprehensive at times.
I’ll start directing music videos in 2021, so I hope to make good, fun ones, especially because creating entertainment through music will make me very satisfied. I want to create more video art projects – being the body in question in front of the camera, and of course, continue working on other people’s projects, friend’s projects, try to be helpful, and write more fiction. I’m releasing a documentary this year about performing arts so I’m really excited about it. In the future, I want to keep studying, and also express myself in different ways in the art field. I have a lot of plans, I think I never wanted to spend so much time creating new possibilities for making art like today.