An interactive view of Webster University's campus.
‘Sophie’ director thinks commercially in filmmaking
Webster University film production student Alvaro Aro wanted his work to be seen.
“I wanted to make sure I’m given an opportunity to show off something that’s decent, whether it’s a video or photo or even a whole film,” Aro said.
He did make a whole film about a young woman held captive in a strange land and her attempts to escape. The film, ‘Sophie’ , was his Senior Overview project.
‘Sophie’ was featured at the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase July 21. The film took home awards for Best Costumes, Best Makeup/Hairstyling and Best Production Design/Art Direction. Actor Brock Russell received an Honorary Award.
Aro’s sense of visuals came from his experience as a photographer and cinematographer. The cinematographer is the person in charge of the camera crew on a film. His day-to-day life is focused on capturing visual moments.
Aro is the co-founder of Vimage Studios, a video production company and photography studio based in Lake St. Louis. Around 70 percent of the business the company gets is shooting weddings. The other 30 percent is for various businesses, including some commercials.
“I wanted to create something visually intriguing,” Aro said.
The budget of the film was raised through Kickstarter, a global crowd-funding platform for creative projects. The film managed to achieve their pledge goal of $7,500 with the help of 104 backers. The project was also named a Kickstarter Staff Pick.
Aro had spent almost $3,000 of his personal savings by the time the film was done.
“It’s something here, something there,” Aro said. “One day, something would happen, the next something else would happen.”
Associate Producer and Marketing Director Nate Nguepsi said there was a lot of pre-planning to get as many people as involved as possible. Nguepsi handled what would be said publicly about the film and who to approach as a way to back the film financially.
“The question was about how we could get people to want more,” Nguepsi said.
Confidence in Aro’s vision encouraged Nguepsi to take on the task of marketing the film. A big part of the marketing was through Facebook.
“I wanted it to be something that people would get really interested in, not just ‘Hey mom. Hey friends. Help me out’,” Aro said. “I wanted to reach people all over the world.”
Aro considers himself a commercial director. He takes inspiration from directors Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, Guillermo del Toro and Robert Wise.
“To me, film is an art medium that you utilize for human enjoyment,” Aro said. “To me, a good film is the one where I watch it and it moves me or it transports me somewhere else. It’s not necessarily a film that has to teach me something or make me think a certain way.”
Aro does not consider himself a writer. He enlisted the help of his production designer Elizabeth Parker and a couple of story editors to put the words on the page.
Aro said a lot of his decision-making happens when he considers the viewing audience.
“If I sometimes don’t like the change, I have to go with what I believe the audience wants,” Aro said. “If I don’t have an audience, I don’t have anything.”
Jumping into the director’s chair was not difficult for Aro. He credits the cast and crew of ‘Sophie’ for making that transition easy.
“I really didn’t have to do much talking,” Aro said. “The actors just created their characters.”
Aro wishes to experiment in all genres of film. He’s done fantasy, experimented with horror, and is currently working on a crime film.
“I hope to do a little bit of comedy at some point,” Aro said.
His future will continue in St. Louis, where he will continue running Vimage Studios, hoping to find ways to help the company grow and become a mainstay in the Midwest.
He hopes to dive more into the cinematography aspect of not just films, but commercials, as Vimage Studios moves towards focusing more on commercial work.
“Anything that has to do with visuals, I’m in,” Aro said.
Aro will graduate from Webster University December 2015.