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Brazil’s Helena Sardinha on the joy of producing and making award-winning films

As a film producer, Helena Sardinha is the leader of any project she takes on. She is responsible for taking a director’s vision and providing them with the tools to make it a reality, requiring for a versatile and demanding skill set. She has to have tremendous business savvy, studying marketing trends, developing business plans, analyzing profitability, creating marketing strategies, while also having a creative mindset and knowing how to best tell a story that would resonate with audiences around the world. She takes a simple idea at the beginning of a project and works tirelessly until the very end, when viewers get to take in her work on the big screen. It is a demanding job, and one that she is immensely passionate about.

Hailing from Brazil, Sardinha has shown both her home country and the world what she is capable of as a producer. Her films like Pumpkin, Note to Say, Walter, and many more have drastically impressed both film critics and audiences all over the world. She knows just what it takes to turn a film into a success story, and never grows tired of it.

“Producing also allows me to be very flexible with the types of content I make. I can be shooting a two-hour feature drama on one day, attending a conference on a festival market on the other, creating branded content or working alongside musicians on music videos. The spectrum of possibilities for content creation is so broad and gives me the power to keep exploring,” said Sardinha.

Sardinha enjoys telling stories that audiences can relate to, as evident in her film That Girl. The film follows a young couple still in the honeymoon phase that discuss relationships and love in the 21st century whilst the thought of if they're truly suited for each other lingers overhead. It portrays the most mundane conversations couples have.

That Girl talks about the little things in life. The pauses, the little shared moments we all live through. I personally as an audience member love films like that; it makes us stop and look at our own lives and try to recognize those elements. Most films bring to the screen big dramatic moments, fights, wars, deep romance, etc., but when a film is capable of moving audiences with the little things, that really gets me. At the end of the day, life is made out of the little moments, the day to day, the boring routine, way more than the climactic exciting scenes,” she said.

That Girl premiered at the Katra Film Series 2016, where it was an Official Selection, and continued on to have a very successful festival run. It was an Official Selection at BLOW-UP Chicago International Arthouse Film Fest 2016, a Semi-Finalist in The Sao Paulo Times Film Festival 2016, an Official Selection for the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival (LAIFF) 2016 where it took home the awards for Best Short, Best Director and Best Actresses, the Best Short Winner at the Hollywood International Moving Picture Film Festival (HIMPFF) - Winner Best Short 2016 and Just4Shorts Film Festival 2016, and was even selected for the world-renowned Short Film Corner at Cannes in 2016.

“For me, all this success is just a big recognition of all our work and effort towards the project. Coming from an international background and seeing a piece of your own work touching the hearts of American and a global audience amazes me every time. This film was also screened back in São Paulo, which is very fulfilling to be able to showcase something I produced back in my home country,” said Sardinha.

Working on this project several years ago now, Sardinha looks back and considers it an amazing learning experience. Her main lesson came from the idea of active listening. As a producer, she needed to be attentive to every detail when it came to communicating with the creators she worked with. Active listening becomes not only about the words, but the intentions, the expressions the unspoken desires of the artist. Understanding the sensibility of the director and his needs was fundamental in making this film work. She is always working on this skill and being constantly aware of it can change the game and the relationship between close collaborators. The way she listened to her team on this film allowed her to make the film the success it became, a lesson she carries with her to this day.

“Being a part of the story from beginning to end was very special. The additional element of film development highlighted the film’s stages and its own ‘life.’ Film makes you more careful about your choices, more conscious. It brings a side to the production that’s very interesting to watch. Everyone seemed more alert, more ready. It was a great experience to develop my skills as a producer in this kind of environment,” she said.

Sardinha and That Girl Director Brandon Lee are currently collaborating once more on the anticipated horror feature The Wendigo Witch, which is set to be released next year. Keep an eye out for it.

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