Caracas, Venezuela, that´s a very chaotic and loud place. Full of life, beautiful women and rum (and a lot of bullets as well). That´s where I was born and raised (aside a couple of years of wandering) and that´s where I finished my education in sound, acting and film studies. That´s also where I started making short films, documentaries, corporate films and theater work for 10 years now and that´s also the place I left 5 years ago to try to reach higher dreams. I now live in Berlin, Germany, the land of order, structure, quietness, laws and a messed up language. Quite a culture shock ha?
I now have a family of my own here and I call this place home, I can get away with my Deutsch and I can keep the noise down (not my daughter). Many call Berlin the new Sillicon Valley and many Hollywood productions come here to the Babelsberg studios to take advantage of government incentives and funding plans. This place is thriving with cultural activity, cutting edge expression and a multiculturalism you just can´t escape. And it is here where I plan to develop myself professionally and build an independent network of artists that collectively collaborate to create an international appealing body of work in the form of film, series and transmedia properties.
Collective, collaboration, new technologies. Those are the pivotal terms that move my creative endeavors nowadays. Hollywood and even the German version of the mainstream film industry are a very archaic, tight and mafia like structures, therefore out of own necessity, survival instinct (something you are born with in Caracas) and plain stubbornness of not wanting to wait for gate keepers to get through my own doors, I´ve been building a style, body of work and network of collaborators to create the kind of content that interest me in the way that best fits my independence and total freedom.
Making short films for such a long time make you eager and thirsty for more, but those gate keepers are strong enough to keep you out. Fortunately, another group of like minded “entrepeneurs” and artists based in Detroit by the name of CollabFeature, showed interest in my work and gave me the opportunity to form part of the first ever fiction collaborative feature film “The Owner,” made by 25 filmmakers from all over the world through the Internet which had its premiere last may. The circumstances and philosophy of filmmaking I brought into that project is what led me to develop a Guerrilla-Micro-Budget-No-Crew style of filmmaking that allowed me to move fast and cheap by maintaining a competitive picture quality courtesy of new camera technologies.
This project was my transition from the solo short film making career, to the real industry-valid feature film business. I was eager for more and while I started developing projects in different levels of the budget ladder, I was convinced I could aim higher and keep myself active in creating a track record for myself by developing other projects where I could move fast, cheap and stay creative enough for me to reach those higher steps on the film-hierarchy stair.
Then I heard Mike Leigh during last year´s Berlinale, met Joe Swanberg the year before and started reading Keith Johnstone on Improv techniques for storytellers. It all made click and the Improv Film Project was born. It was a natural reaction and rebellion to the film industry status quo and a creative thirst to try to bring my theater background, my filmmaking techniques and collaborative efforts into a project that I feel could sweat authenticity, spontaneity and freshness, while bringing an international team of collaborators that use Berlin as their creative base to bring their expressions to the rest of the world.
As any other independent filmmaker, I struggle to survive financially and having a small family makes a greater pressure into succumbing to a corporate life that would bring security and piece of mind every month, but would doom you to the dungeons of frustration and massive depression. So trying to create a sustainable freelancing career while keeping my creative freedom is the main objective in every project I decide to pursue. Therefore it was clear for me that the Improv Film Project could not pose any financial strain to my family and it was to follow my own Atom-Filmmaking dogma I´ve been preaching for a couple of years now. So I devised a way to challenge the pre-conceptions of the filmmaking process by developing a project that would only need the core-basis of any cinematic endeavor, namely a story, actors and a camera, stripping from all technical limitations and fast tracking a creative process to develop a story based on improvisation techniques and collaboration with like minded souls. Through an Improv Workshop we conducted an audition that culminated with four improv audition films and a process with improv exercises and games will begin with our main cast to develop characters and story points before we go out on location to shoot our film.
A line in a book by Mick Napier on improvisation stuck in my mind: “F*ck Your Fear,” and that´s exactly what we´re doing. I want my actors to f*ck their fear by daring to take chances and take their characters to the very limit of consequences of the situations they get themselves to and I decided to f*ck my fear by embracing a project that could turn out either catastrophic or truly amazing while spending almost no money so that we can stay in the game of this industry and put ourselves in the indie film map. I hope you´re on for the ride…
Xavier Agudo is a Berlin-based Venezuelan filmmaker. Sound Engineer, B.A. in Film Studies, Trained Actor and M.A. in Media Production. He develops projects for Feature films, Documentaries, Web Series, Transmedia properties, Interactive sound and audiovisual design for theater, as well as Branded Entertainment and Corporate Transmedia Production. He also works freelance as a director, editor and assistant editor mainly for the German film and TV industry. His work has been seen in International Film and Theater festivals in Germany, Turkey, Ukraine, Switzerland, Brazil, Lebanon and Venezuela.