“We always look for a theme or cause to support with our film festival each year. We’ve supported women’s health and human trafficking victims so far by showcasing documentaries and associating our event with organizations that help the cause. Our hope is to continue to grow so our impact can be stronger each year. And, create a ripple of good in not only giving back but in also drawing attention to the social issues that’s instrumental for us to come together as a community to make the necessary changes we seek.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing three-time Emmy winning editor, and the founder of NoHo CineFest (North Hollywood’s premiere indie film festival) Gustavo Sampaio. Gustavo is a filmmaker and a sought-after television editor, as well as, a champion of independent cinema. Approaching its 6th year, North Hollywood CineFest exemplifies Gustavo’s mission in creating an event that brings together the vibrant indie film community in North Hollywood to celebrate the achievements and aspirations of the next generation of storytellers.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I’m Brazilian, originally from Rio de Janeiro. My father worked in international telecommunications, so we lived in the Washington DC area when I was younger. Eventually, I went to school at Penn State University and began my career in television on the East Coast. However, my dream had always been to become a filmmaker in Los Angeles. I was finally able to get a job as an editor at CBS Los Angeles in 2007 and I’ve been in LA since. I’ve also produced a few short films in recent years, exposing me to the world of film festivals, which served as a motivation for me to create my own.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your festival?
Two interesting moments come to mind. One was in 2015 when Sean Astin showed up unexpectedly at our festival. He was an actor who was in a film we were showing; however, we had no prior announcement he would attend until the actual day of the screening. It was our first big celebrity and we were so happy to see how incredibly warm and generous he was with us and the audience. He participated in the Q&A and supported his filmmakers. The other was in 2017 when we invited actress Milana Vayntrub, who is known for having been the “AT&T girl” and had a recurring role on This Is Us. She had done an impromptu short documentary, while on vacation in Greece, to show the Syrian refugee crisis that was happening there. Armed with her cell phone and a lot of courage, she documented the chaotic and deplorable conditions she witnessed. When I saw it online, I immediately reached out to her representatives to invite her to screen and speak about it. She agreed, and we gave her our “Visionary Artist Award” for her brave work. Both were very special moments out of many from our event.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We have a genuine passion to help our filmmakers. I feel NoHo CineFest is a vital link in the chain of today’s global film culture. We provide a launch platform for films & filmmakers (by providing support in showcasing, distributing & marketing), bridging the gap between Los Angeles Filmmakers and the world as a meeting place for dialogue, creating a hub for sharing ideas, in celebrating creativity and in inspiring, encouraging and keeping alive the excitement towards the overall cinematic experience.
I’d like to think that we stand out because we communicate often with our filmmakers and because we also inspire and energize our filmmakers to really participate and be involved in the festival, and not just attend their own screenings. The idea of a festival is to network and learn from each other, so we work hard to make that happen. We also do not require any premiere status, something many other festivals do. The premiere status is supposed to help the festival get attention from the audience since it’s showing something for the first time. However, the problem is that many times some of those films may be scheduled to play at an inconvenient time, such as a weekday afternoon or early morning on a weekend, and the audiences don’t show up. So, we’ve often been told that there were greater numbers in audience at our screening than other festivals. Requiring a premiere status only limits the filmmaker’s ability to show their film, and that goes against the idea of supporting independent cinema to me. One time specifically, we had accepted a film and they had to withdraw because they were waiting to hear from another festival where they “knew someone” and that festival required a premiere status. In the end, they weren’t accepted in the other and missed out on showing their film at ours.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Many people. To begin with, my parents who have always supported me. Greg Laemmle from Laemmle Theaters (our venue) and his staff who always made things easy for me. But, ultimately, much credit to my wife Natalia, who is great at organizing and helping me run the day to day intricacies of the festival.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Right now, I’m currently writing a television pilot based on a short film I recently produced called Gaia. It’s about a woman who begins to fight human trafficking and realizes that she has supernatural powers. The story will have some influence from Greek mythology and will have underlying themes of humanity and environmental impact. Once the pilot is ready, we’ll create a full pitch deck and market it. I’m also in the process of editing a documentary about the current refugee crisis in Moria, Greece. It was filmed undercover by a young American journalist, Annie DiGrazia and it’s incredibly eye-opening. We’re still looking for funding support to complete it but the material is outstanding.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We always look for a theme or cause to support with our film festival each year. We’ve supported women’s health and human trafficking victims so far by showcasing documentaries and associating our event with organizations that help the cause. Our hope is to continue to grow so our impact can be stronger each year. And, create a ripple of good in not only giving back but in also drawing attention to the social issues that’s instrumental for us to come together as a community to make the necessary changes we seek.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
I’ve never been a big reader. Movies has always been my thing. I have several movie quotes I live by. One of my favorites is from Dead Poets Society. In the film, Robin Williams plays a teacher in a prep school and teaches his students about learning to think for themselves. A cynical colleague challenges Williams by quoting a poem that says, “Show me a man unfettered by foolish dreams, and I’ll show you a happy man.” To which Williams replies, “But only in their dreams can men be truly free. Tis always thus, and always thus will be.”
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1) Believe in your gut — I think many times we second guess ourselves because we’re new at something and think others may know better. I’ve always felt that the most important thing is to focus on the filmmakers and not the general public for our growth. The filmmakers are the heart of it all and despite a number of suggestions to broaden the advertisement, we stayed our course and feel it’s served us better.
2) Be careful with vendors — they push hard for the sell but many times we’ve been disappointed at broken promises or lackluster interest in helping us. We had a location host our awards ceremony once that just fell through on many promises. Plus, at one point, they actually allowed a large group of people in, during our event, to scout the location for filming. Needless to say, we’re not coming back.
3) Rejecting films will be the hardest thing you do — As much as it’s exciting to announce to filmmakers that their films have been selected, it’s incredibly difficult to reject films, especially great films, because you simply don’t have time slots to show them all.
4) People and businesses will be inspired by your event — It’s difficult to get sponsors to commit sometimes, but we’ve also been pleasantly surprised at the generosity and energy from many others. They just simply like what we’re doing and have offered support.
5) The market is saturated — I already knew this going in but maybe not to the extent that I know now. The bottom line is that there are too many festivals but not enough great ones, and I always focus on that to make sure the experience at our event is the best as it can be for the filmmakers and guests. As a result, we’ve been receiving numerous submissions from filmmakers who say they were recommended by their friends to submit.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
For the festival, I would say Barack Obama. Aside from being successful and a great communicator, he also has a great sense of humor, something I consider important in life. For my television series project, I’d love to meet with actress/producer Krysten Ritter, since I like her work and she champions projects that support complex female characters.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Originally published at medium.com