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Diogo Abrantes: From copywriting to directing25.09.2020

We asked the finalist of Papaya Young Directors international contest about the personality split in a creative job, combining other professions’ abilities and methods to make sure the idea will work.

The awards ceremony of the 7th edition of Papaya Young Directors and the official premiere of the films took place on September 5. More information about the event can be found HERE.


You have a strong advertising agency background as a copywriter. Was it helpful or problematic working without client feedback or even without the client on set?

Being an agency creative and a director on set are two completely different jobs. In my opinion, the input from creatives on a film must be done on pre-production. Onset, our role changes slightly. We’re there to supervise and, of course, comment on what we see. But for me, the creative’s main job on set is to protect the director from external opinions. And these opinions can come from clients or other agency members. On this specific shoot, it was great not having external opinions affecting the rhythm of the shoot. It helped me to commit my role and vision.

How would you describe yourself as a director?

As an undercover director. Being a director has always been on my mind, but I had to take some side steps, disguising myself in other roles, to be able to reach my end goal. When I became a screenwriter, I did it because I wanted to know how storytelling works and to start every project with the most bulletproof blueprint of the film possible. Then, I moved to the advertising industry because it was a way for me to make a large number of stories. Also, it was an opportunity to be frequently exposed to a film set and different directors. So, during my entire career, I was always a director getting prepared for the moment I would feel ready to do it properly. That moment has finally come.

So you prefer to be a screenwriter rather than the director?

For me being a screenwriter and a director are two completely distinct roles. I think even the brain works differently, so it is a bit like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. As a screenwriter, I let my imagination fly, think about storytelling structure and flow, not about the consequences. If you're a screenwriter, only the story matters, the production is not even in sight. Then as a director, I dig down. I see what is possible to do, what can be achievable, how can cast influence the story, and also how can location simplify it. Sometimes the narrative changes, but the heart of it must always keep beating. I love wearing both hats. Not only from the pleasure of doing both roles, but also because changing mindset works as a mental wellbeing tool.

film set
film set

Do you believe in being a creative who combines many abilities and talents?

I think being a director is one of the most difficult jobs a creative can do. You have to understand the craft of different job roles. And the more you know it, the best you’ll be. There’s a saying that, if you’re a specialist of everything, you’re a specialist of none. I believe that. You can’t master every profession. Still, you can veer towards certain aspects of your craft. My driving force will always be storytelling. It is the core of everything I love. That’s my approach as a director.

You had submitted a script written for a brand not existing in the UK, where you are based. Did this make it easier? 

It didn't make it easier, but it helped me to think differently. Usually, when people make ads for the brand, the thought process inherently comes with a brand's tone of voice and an ad structure that people tend to mimic. Here, I had no idea about the brand, so I followed my gut. And when you do so, the jump into the unknown is scarier. Despite this, it is more fun in the end.

Where are you looking for inspiration and ideas?

Everywhere and anywhere. It’s a bit of a cliché saying that curiosity is what fuels creativity. I believe in that, but I would like to add something more. For me being clumsy and curious is what brings the real creativity to life. Sometimes you have some good idea in your hands, but it doesn’t mean you know what to do with it. So you have to be clumsy enough to let it slip out of your hands, fall to the ground, break, and reveal what's inside. That’s when you find the best and most natural creative solutions. Clumsy people of the world, create!

film set
film set
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