Finding a Story in Spontaneous Moments

Lights Online Film School recently interviewed filmmaker Neels Castillon regarding a couple of films from his portfolio. We were drawn towards the poetic power of his images.We also appreciated his ability to find spontaneous moments and later edit them together allowing the narrative element of his story to emerge.

The two films we want to profile for blog post are both testament to being at the right place at the right time. Although not a travel film, the first film we want to show is a film that Neels shot while on set shooting a commercial for a client. Neels and his team were waiting for a helicopter to fly into the sunset, when many thousands of starlings grouped together for one of the most visually impressive acts of nature I’ve ever seen. I was scratching my head trying to figure out what to call this video. It’s not really a short film as it lacks a narrative spine, it’s not really a music video although it’s incredibly musical, it’s not really behind the scenes footage although in a way it is. Then I looked at the title of the film “A Bird Ballet”. There is really no other way to precisely describe this film. The film can be seen below.

Welcome Neels and thank you for talking with Lights Online Film School about your work as a filmmaker. One of the things I really love about your work is how you merge a strong improvisational element with a structural backbone to ensure that it makes narrative sense for your audience.

For example, let me use your short film “Arte Poetica”. Many of us who have traveled often return home with an incredible amount of footage from our trip. After a few frustrating attempts to edit it together, we give up because we can’t find any narrative through-line to hold the footage together. Or, In many cases, travel films are pieced together in such a manner that the only people with enough patience to sit through a viewing are the travelers themselves and possibly their close family. In many cases the videos end up being stored in a box, or on a hard-drive somewhere not to be looked at again.

However, what you’ve done is something quite different. You’ve shot beautiful footage and found a way to edit it together that gives it a universal appeal. You’ve used strong images, great editing, powerful music as well as poetry which work together to help those of us watching your film connect to your story. Before we speak further on this topic let’s allow our blog readers to watch your three minute film here:

First of all congratulations on such a great short film. Can you tell me a little bit about your approach to creating this film? Was this film something you shot and figured out how to edit together later in the process, or did you always have the plan to edit it to a poem using sound and music?

First, thank you so much for the interview. I am very honored that you liked “Arte Poética”, which is one of my most personal short films. I traveled around South America during six months in 2011, for the usual reasons young people travel: learning new languages, discovering new cultures and also being focused on my photography work. I only took photographs during my trip but when a friend joined me with his camera we shot this short film. When I came back in France, he gave me the footage but I didn’t know what to do with it, until I heard the voice of Borges reading his poem. I did not want to make a basic travel video, as my feeling about my journey represented much more than that. The poem and the music gave me the opportunity to construct something more powerful.

Tell us a little bit more about how you decided upon this particular Jorge Luis Borges poem? Was this a theme running through your head at the time of your travels, or did you listen to many poems until one “clicked” and seemed to match the essence of what you had captured visually?

I discovered Borges in Argentina, where he is quite famous. His themes of time and art really touched me. This is the main feature of literature that I love. When an author can put words onto my feelings. His poem gives the evocative power that doesn’t exist in the footage or the music alone. I had this “click” when I found the recording of “Arte Poética”.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your editing process? This film is only three minutes long. I’m assuming you would have had a lot of travel footage to go through. How did you approach the pile of footage you had knowing that you were only going to need a few minutes of it?

I started the editing process putting images on the words, trying to find a relation, not always literally but based on my feelings. I gave it the final editing rhythm when I got the music.

How long did it take you to edit this film together?

Once I found the idea, the editing took me a few weeks. I did it on my free time between different projects, but I was thinking about it all the time.

I noticed the film’s videography is credited to Kévin Michel. Was this your travel companion during this time who entrusted you with the footage?

My friend Kévin joined me in Argentina to travel during 15 days, he carried his Canon 7D with him, so while I was taking photographs he was filming. We share the same enthusiasm for adventure and making pictures so it was a natural collaboration.

You shot this film on the Canon 7D. Can you tell me what lenses you used for your shoot?

He had a very basic set-up, the 7D with a 18-200mm lenses.

How did you go about being able to collaborate with Yann Rouquet for this video?

Yann Rouquet is also one of my best friends, he has a solid background in guitar and he started composing music very young. We wanted something inspired by flamenco and Latin influence.

As a Director I’m trying to compose the perfect team with friends and passionate people sharing the same goal to make great movies…

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with our blog readers Neels. On behalf of ourselves and all of our blog readers we wish you continued success as a filmmaker!

Neels Castillon Website
Neels Castillon Vimeo Page
Yann Rouquet Music


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