Vellas is an award winning cinematographer working at the forefront of the film and advertising spaces in Brazil. He is the recipient of dozens of awards and he currently runs his own production company Saigon Films, based in São Paulo. We talked to the longtime Ciclope friend about the production opportunities throughout South America, the pros and cons of shooting in Brazil, and the top three things that keep him inspired.

Q: What is the current production space / film community like in Brazil? Is it more prevalent than in other countries in the region?
A: In Brazil big productions are basically polarized between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The biggest films and the biggest productions usually are produced here. We can of course shoot anywhere, but the base is always in one of those cities. That happens mainly because of clients, crew, equipment, casting and all kinds of production matters. Both cities are probably very saturated in terms of locations for the local market, everything has been shot! So we try to shoot campaigns in different spots as much as we can… I think that’s one of the main challenges of every production company right now: how to be fresh over and over again.

When we talk about South America, the market is basically shared between Brazil and Argentina, especially because big brands have Argentinian agencies as main creative spots. Brazil is a bigger country and has a bigger market, but Argentina is always creating good and creative campaigns. Of course we can’t despise Colombia and the huge Mexican market.

I think its also interesting to mention that Uruguay is a hot spot for production service, everyone shoots there all the time because of the high quality and lower prices compared to other countries.

Q: What excites you about the production space in Brazil? What are the market’s main challenges?
A: Compared to other countries, Brazil has some advantages and disadvantages. From my point of view, casting is a great advantage because we can find all kinds of people in the country. If you need to shoot a scene that looks like China you can do it. Japan? Sure. A set that feels like we are in Senegal? Yes.

Another good thing is the flexibility you can get in locations and timings. Some countries are full of restrictions for permits, drone flying, and time of shooting. In Brazil I feel things can be negotiated. If you have some time, you can shoot incredible things. I just shot a short movie for the UN and I shot three days in a tunnel. The most important one in São Paulo probably. I could never, ever do this in Paris for example. And since we asked for permits 45 days in advance we got all the structure to shoot in that tunnel.

In terms of challenges, what I feel is very complex is the fact that we don’t have many brands. Many things are imported, the industry is basically ruled by banks, mobile phones, food, cars (six or seven brands) and beverages. I mean, we don’t have too much diversity. No luxury brands, sports cars, high tech products, audio / video products…

Just as a quick example, I got a script from a big hotel chain from the US recently, and two weeks before another one for video games and another one for a luxury perfume. That’s diversity! That’s a big challenge for the local market because everyone is fighting for the same things.

Also another big challenge is how to make things happen, how to shoot in another country with a very high dollar. Especially now after the lockdown; nobody knows exactly what will happen.

Q: Being a creative person on the inside of the regional market, what do you hope Ciclope can help draw attention to?
A: I think Ciclope is a very powerful platform to launch new talents and names in the market. It’s a very intense way to see what everyone is doing all around the region since we don’t have much time to surf the internet looking at all the countries… We keep mainly in our bubble. Ciclope definitely pops that bubble.

Q: What is the role of award shows and events such as Ciclope?
A: Connect, inspire, transform. Repeat. Every year my assistant downloads all the winners after the festival and I watch them in a roll. I get mixed feelings every time. I feel inspired by some work and jealous of others, haha. But every time is a blast to see good stuff being made here in the continent.

Q: What are the top three things that always stir your creativity?
A: Traveling – new places always bring new ideas and new perspectives. Alcohol – self explained. Stop thinking about work -if you think too much you burn your brain. Let it go sometimes…

Q: You love photography. Could you name a photographer (From Brazil or another country in South America) everyone should know about, and explain why?
A: There is a guy called Gustavo Minas who is really great. He is a still photographer, usually works with very complex compositions and uses color as a character. I think he is a great photographer to follow on Instagram.


In 2023, the only festival dedicated to film craft in advertising and moving image goes back to Sao Paulo, and will host its live awards ceremony at the MIS (Museu da Imagem e do Som de Sao Paulo). Join us on Wednesday 25th May to recognize the most well-crafted work in Latin America!