Sitting in the sunny rooms of the Institute of Cinematic Arts overlooking State Street, independent filmmaker Sandra Lindo seems relieved that her first feature film, Den of Darkness, is—as they say in the industry—“in the can.”
“I’m almost ready to close the package,” sighs Lindo in her melodious Portuguese accent. A dead ringer for actress Sophia Vergara, the stunning Lindo wrote, directed, produced and played a supporting role in the psychological thriller. She now plans to oversee its distribution strategy as well.
“Next, I’ll start entering it into festivals and build up a pedigree,” trills the filmmaker. “Then I’ll try to get more interest from people in the industry and see what happens.”
That and drafting an idea for a new film should be enough to keep her busy, but the vivacious Lindo doesn’t seem able to sit still for long. Eager to participate in Savannah’s burgeoning independent film community, she and her son, Vitor, have expanded the headquarters of their Dalunda Productions to include the new Institute, which opened in late July.
“The basic idea is that we are independent filmmakers and we finance our own movies as well as produce corporate videos and other projects,” says Sandra. “We thought we could pass along our knowledge as we continue to work.”
A native of Rio de Janeiro, Lindo has her own esteemed entertainment pedigree: She began modeling at 12 and acting at 14, racking up over 200 commercials in Brazil. By 22, she was producing and starring in large–scale “Broadway–like” musicals, including 1996’s award–winning Pocahontas, A Princesa da Paz.
She took a film workshop with acclaimed Japanese–Brazilian director Tizuka Yamazaki, who signed on Lindo as an assistant director for Yamazaki’s blockbuster childrens’ film O Novico Rebelde. Lindo served as AD on several other Yamazaki films, receiving a hands–on education of the technical side of filmmaking and falling in love with medium.
“I grew up with theater, being on stage. It was very rewarding,” she says. “But movies are forever.”
In 2001, in the midst of Rio’s economic and social turbulence, Sandra moved with then-14 year–old Vitor to Miami. A few years later, she married a man who brought them to Hilton Head Island, where she learned to play golf and enjoy the peaceful scenery. Vitor enrolled in nearby UCSB to study English literature.
Now 26, Vitor admits he took a “crooked path” to becoming a filmmaker.
“As a second generation showbiz kid, I didn’t want that for my life. I wanted a 9–to–5 job,” he laughs. “Destiny had another idea.”
His mother gave him a camera as a gift, and his interest in photography and video blossomed into a career when he followed Sandra out to Los Angeles in 2005.
With her son grown and her marriage over, Sandra had gone to L.A. to rekindle her film career. There she found that she had as much knowledge of camera and direction as anyone else and didn’t need to wait around for work. In 2009, she wrote, produced and starred in the Hitchcock–inspired Laura, a spine–tingling short film about a serial killer.
“I just decided to go for it,” she shrugs. “We got 70,000 hits on YouTube in three months.”
Laura received a modest amount of attention from small film festivals, and in between projects in L.A., Sandra would return to the Lowcountry to recoup and plot her next step.
“I survived Los Angeles because I had Hilton Head,” she swears. “I love my birds in my backyard!”
Finally, it occurred to her that she could make films outside of Hollywood. After developing her plan to move Dalunda Productions closer to home, she informed Vitor, who didn’t need to be overly encouraged to come back East in spite of steady work.
“L.A. is a ridiculously competitive town,” says Vitor, adding that the rising costs of production and tax incentives to shoot elsewhere have continued to narrow job options even further.
The duo has been at work here ever since. In addition to serving as camera operator on the set of Den of Darkness, Vitor shot and produced his own feature–length documentary, Dancing with Saints, an in–depth look into the obscure rites of the Afro–Brazilian Candoble religion.
Dalunda Productions also participated in 48 Hour Film Festival earlier this month, garnering several nominations, including Best Film.
Vitor professes excitement at the decentralization of moviemaking, a step that takes the craft out of the big Hollywood studios and puts it in the hands of anyone with a vision.
“Technology and globalization are allowing everyone to shoot a film and allowing everyone to find the avenues to distribute,” he says, pointing towards a large black box of equipment. “The RED camera is one of the tools allowing that to happen.”
RED cameras—ultra–high end digital cameras that cost a tenth of traditional film equipment but deliver similar quality—are becoming the trend even in big budget Hollywood. Last summer’s Spiderman was shot completely in digital format, as was the latest in the Resident Evil series and the highly–anticipated live action version of The Hobbit.
Attendees of ICA’s film workshops have direct access to Dalunda’s RED camera—a rare opportunity in Savannah.
“The only other ones I know of around here are at Meddin Studios and at SCAD,” says Vitor. “Here at the Institute you can spend a couple of hundred dollars on a workshop and get your hands on one.”
Make no mistake, the Lindos have no intention of going up against the big film school down the street.
“We’re not looking to compete with but complement what SCAD offers,” explains Vitor. “Our basic photography classes are geared towards hobbyists and serious amateurs.”
Other classes offered are Acting for Film and TV, which includes a professional reel at the end of the session, as well as video editing, screenwriting, cinematography as well as a slew of free lectures. While the directors want to educate, they also have an underlying motive.
“Our goal is to create a roster of crew and cast members in Savannah,” says Sandra. “I want to shoot my next film here, and I’d rather put people to work as well as save money by hiring locals.”
That as–of–yet untitled project will be another suspenseful thriller centered around a female main character, set amongst the creepy woods surrounding the city.
For a mother and son, the Lindos’ dynamic is at once affectionately easygoing and impressively professional.
Comments Vitor: “We share a similar artistic vision, plus there’s a hundred percent trust when you’re in business with your family.”
Sandra smiles. “One day I’ll be gone and it will all be his.” Then she can’t resist a motherly jibe:
“Hopefully he’ll have some kids someday!” she says with a wink.maticarts.com.