When filmmaker Shirley Bruno’s film Tezen was screened at the Haiti Cultural Exchange Haiti Film Fest earlier this month, audiences got to see imagination poured on film at its best. Bruno took “Tezen”, a traditional Haitian folk tale, and turned it into a poignant short film.
Kreyolicious: If you could give a budding filmmaker some advice, you’d say…
Shirley Bruno: My advice is to make films. Don’t be precious about the practical parts but, only make films about things you actually care deeply about. It’s pointless otherwise. I know the American industry tends to dismiss shorts but I would say make shorts. Make many. I’ve never understood how young filmmakers think they can handle making a feature if they haven’t cut their teeth on shorts. Even after you make a feature, you can make a short – you can feel free to experiment and take risks with a short. It’s a powerful medium in its own right.
Above: A still from an upcoming project from filmmaker ShirleY Bruno, based on the life of a woman soldier in the Haitian Revolution.
Also, you must truly know your stuff – know your lenses, study color and light for their emotional qualities, study photography, study painting, understand editing, sound design, costumes, production design – learn as much as you can about every aspect of filmmaking, not just script-writing or the camera. Read, read, read literature. Read short stories, nonfiction, biographies. Read stories that talk about people like you as well as stories about people who are nothing like you. Look for the universal truths in everything you absorb, the stuff that makes us human. Whenever you discover a film that really moves you, go and spend the next weeks watching only the work of that one particular filmmaker so that it’s a real study of her/him. This way you can see how they evolved, what they’re about, what is their process even if it’s nothing like yours.
Shirley Bruno: Don’t obsess over the newest camera or the latest rig. This is also pointless. Good cinema can be made with a crappy camera if it’s right for the story, if the acting is good, if the story you are telling is meaningful to you. Don’t ever be concerned with making a pretty picture or getting some big actor in your film or a well-known cinematographer or whatever. As I said, cinema is made up of smoke and mirrors. Aim to do more with less. Find the simple and most creative way to tell your story. Be bold. But be flexible. Better to fail at making something that means something to you then to make a soulless film that you think the industry may like. What other people like has nothing to do with you. That is their business. You can only make a film you like. Travel. Meditate. Get in tune with your interior self, your inner stories. Make films about things that get under your skin, things that scare you, bring you to tears, reveal who you really are when no one is looking. It’s pointless to tell stories that have no heart. Only when you tell stories that genuinely move you can you have a chance at moving someone else.
CLICK HERE to visit film director Shirley Bruno’s website!