I was recently in touch with Side Films duo Carlos Puertolas & Rani Naamani from San Francisco. They make incredibly punchy and high-octane short films. However, as well as making their own films, the pair are also fantastic animators working on feature films from Shrek The Third to How To Train Your Dragon 2. You may have come across their latest short film Call Back which has been a tremendous hit online across Vimeo and Short of the Week. Here, the two give some concrete advice and insight into the art of filmmaking.
When did you guys first get interested in filmmaking?
We both got interested in filmmaking from a very young age. Unfortunately there were no good cheap SLR’s back then, so we created little films with the family camcorders, from little segments to the use of cutting to create “magic tricks” and illusions. Animation was also a huge influence on us; we are both huge fans of Tex Avery, and the Looney Tunes. It was a like free animation school for us; these shows had great comedic timing and I think watching enough of those as kids got that sensibility embedded in our brains!
Being animators, does this affect how you approach filmmaking?
Yes! Great question. It totally does. As animators, we really appreciate pantomime and simplicity, partially because it’s aesthetically appealing, but also because it has been proven time and time again that this is the most efficient way to communicate ideas. This mentality applies to everything from composition to ideas to lighting to sound and dialogue. Less is more.
Your short films are very dark and astute, how do you come up with your ideas?
A lot of these ideas start with an image, and then we go from there. In some cases, the ideas are formed from notions we had for a premise. So really it varies. The ideas can come from anywhere. We quite often have brainstorming sessions, where we sit down and discuss things that might have popped into our heads that week. It’s interesting you mentioning that our ideas are always dark, our theory is that after so many years working in the animation business where everything is colorful and fun we need to express our darker instincts somewhere… so we use Side Films!
Your latest short film, ‘Call Back’ is incredibly concentrated, smart and wonderfully shot. How challenging was the process of making this film?
Very challenging. We really didn’t have a big budget for this short. So we had to plan every detail meticulously because the margin for error was almost non-existent. We did a lot of pre-visualization before hand to figure out every single shot that we wanted to shoot. We planned what lenses we had to rent, what equipment we needed, we had to find a place that will permit us to film there and had to shoot the entire thing in 4 days. All that planning and the day still went by fast, the sun was no longer were we needed it, and we had to improvise and find ways to re-frame and light our subject so that it looked like day time even when it was dark outside. The weather was also a factor, it rained during our shoot, so we had to stop and wait for the clouds to clear, thankfully they did!
‘Call Back’ has done exceedingly well online. Did the film have a successful festival run too?
We haven’t had the chance to submit it to that many festivals just yet. We’re hoping to send it to some in the next few months!
What can we expect from Side Films in the future, any features?
That is definitely the goal. We have a few feature film ideas, when one of them gets ripe, we can begin pre-production. In the end, we want to make sure that whichever one we go for has a good story, great characters, and if possible a fresh concept.
What do you guys enjoy most about filmmaking?
We both love directing, but if we had to narrow it down, editing & sound are definitely among our favorites. Mainly because that’s when things start to come together and give you instant gratification for all the planning you’ve been doing up to this point.
Finally, do you have any critical advice you’d like to give filmmakers starting out?
Yes, if you want to learn how to make films, just go out and film something. Experience is the best teacher. No matter how many books on film theory you read and study, nothing comes close to you just trying it first hand. Reading a couple of books is okay, but at some point you need to stop preparing for life and just do it.
Watch Call Back here:
Visit their website Side Films