Nuno Sá Pessoa, film director at Skookum Films, is a true global visual storyteller. Educated in Denmark, based in Portugal, and working extensively in Brazil and the United States, Sá Pessoa knows firsthand what it means to collaborate internationally.
“Cinema, as any other art,” says Sá Pessoa, “should have no boundaries. It’s a global language and the more you know of the world and its people, the easier it is for you as an artist to express what you want in a way that can reach each and every kind of person.”
Are there common visual storytelling elements that span various countries and cultures? “I was born in Portugal, studied in Denmark, and have lived and worked in Brazil and the USA. All four countries,” says Sá Pessoa, “are as different as their cinema, and all four have consciously or subconsciously influenced me in every aspect of who I am. But considering that the USA is the biggest melting pot of the world and the biggest ‘exporter’ of cinema, I would say in a very general way, that it’s the one I can relate to the most, because that’s my aim as a filmmaker, reaching the world.”
After beginning film school in Portugal, Sá Pessoa transitioned to Denmark’s The European Film College. “Art and culture are intrinsically connected,” says Sá Pessoa, “and at The European Film College they meet as in no other place. Teachers and students come from all four corners of the world, united by their passion for cinema and with an urge to create. It’s a highly practical course and I think that’s essential if you want to pursue a career as a filmmaker. Studying there definitely allowed me to both culturally and artistically broaden my horizons and it has set the stage for what I wanted for my future.”
Sá Pessoa’s most challenging film project? “Terra 2084 was my biggest challenge so far. It’s a sci-fi short in which I tried to express my thoughts and feelings on the situation the world and Portugal in specific are going through right now by combining it with sci-fi and fantasy. For that reason it was artistically challenging.
“At another level it was economically challenging,” says Sá Pessoa, “since I wrote, directed, produced and edited it on a virtually nonexistent budget. But, as in other projects, the striving to make it is greater than the economic boundaries, and the effort was taken ahead by the whole cast and crew in order for the film to be completed.”
“I can’t say I have a favorite film genre,” says Sá Pessoa. “It ranges from different genres which are in some way connected, such as horror, fantasy, thriller and sci-fi. Maybe the easiest way to sum it up is to say that one of my biggest influences is the original Twilight Zone series.”
“In a general way maybe I want my audiences to take away from my films what I took from The Twilight Zone: deep and relevant messages which are delivered to the audience in an unconventional way that makes us travel to a different dimension at one level and yet very similar to our own in its essence.”
Nuno Sà Pessoa runs his company Skookum Films with his two co-founders, Kris Skovmand and Samuel Anderson. That’s three ambitious entrepreneurs from Portugal, Denmark and the US, running a film company primarily from Lisbon which is based in Estonia. We asked Nuno all about this very modern way of working, what his days are like, and the reasons he loves what he does.
What does your company do?
Skookum Films is a film, video and audio company, providing and facilitating all kinds of services in the audiovisual and creative fields. We aim to be as personal and flexible as possible and want to break old concepts and boundaries. With nearly 200 films selected for festivals worldwide, videos with over 4 million views online and customers from all kinds of cultural backgrounds, I think we’re on the right track. And we’re always open to growing by forming new partnerships with like-minded individuals and working with innovative artists and customers.
Tell us about your recent projects, and what do you enjoy about working around the world?
Life is short and there’s so much to learn, know and understand, countless people to meet and stories to hear — there’s no point in spending all your life stranded in one place while constrained by mental boundaries and fears of leaving your comfort zone. I learned this at an early age and there’s few things that make me as happy as learning, which I believe is better achieved by meeting completely different people and traveling the world.
During recent projects I’ve worked with people from countries like Spain, Lebanon, Germany and India, I was a jury member in the Czech Republic about a month ago, and I’m constantly writing new fiction which I hope to bring to the big screen as soon as possible.
What are the challenging aspects of your work, and how do you overcome them?
In everything you do you should have lots of challenges — if you don’t then you should be doing something else. The more challenging a project is, the more excited I get. Challenges and obstacles help us to grow wiser and become better at what we do. I can’t really single out any extraordinarily challenging aspects of my work, they’re all part of the job. For example, things like bringing together the right crews, scheduling, timing and arranging all the shots in the best possible way, taking into consideration every aspect like weather, traffic, people and time of day, in a way that allows us to optimize time and money regarding crews and equipment.
Did you consider basing your company in Portugal? And what made you decide against it?
Since I’m Portuguese, my first option was basing the company in Portugal. However, after talking to a lot of people and investigating this, I realized the system didn’t work as desired. I learned about all the unnecessary bureaucracy, the slow way everything works, the old-fashioned system, and most of all, how everybody I talked to was extremely unhappy at the avoidable problems they constantly faced when running a company here.
I’d compare the whole process of choosing to base the company in Estonia to the process I went through of choosing to leave cinema university in Portugal and, opting to study in Denmark at The European Film College instead. Why should I study in Portugal? Why should I start my company in Portugal? It all comes to what I’ve said before, thinking out of the box, thinking globally, seeing no boundaries.
What made you aware of Estonian e-Residency, and did you consider any other options before you signed up?
Once I realized I didn’t want to base my company in Portugal, I began looking for different options. As my father lives in Switzerland, this was the first option I considered, but after contacting some entities there I came to realise this would take quite some time, investment, and a considerable amount of bureaucracy.
After doing a lot of research, I came across Estonian e-Residency and immediately realized how much I related to its concept and was extremely excited about the prospect of having an Estonian e-Business. I was hooked on the idea and never looked back.
Talk us through a typical working day. How do you manage your time on different projects? Are the three founders all working on different projects normally, or the same one together?
At Skookum Films we get quote and budget requests on a daily basis. These are mainly dealt with by our producer Sara Moura and I. Sam is now living in Seattle, Washington and gets involved whenever we have a demand for animation or video special effects. And Kris is based in Portugal, and he gets involved in some projects as a screenwriter, although he’s also been developing a lot of his own projects as a musician.
What are your ambitions as filmmakers? Would you like to make something feature length?
Our ambition is most definitely to make feature length films, we have lots of projects in progress and we hope to get them done as soon as possible!
How did you discover LeapIN and what made you choose them to help your company?
After doing my research about where to base my company, and learning about e-Residency, I began my search for where exactly to start with the process. During that, I came across LeapIN and all its satisfied customers. I couldn’t be happier with the service, the people at LeapIN are wonderful and extremely helpful, they’re always available to answer any and all kinds of questions I may have! Kadi and Maris are always there to help me and I couldn’t feel more relaxed about my business being managed through LeapIN.
Finally, how was your visit to Estonia? Did you feel welcome, and would you like to go back or even shoot something there one day?
I absolutely adored Estonia and felt extremely welcome! So much so that I’ve even considered the possibility of spending a long period of time there!
Myself and Sara were amazed at Tallinn airport, the LHV headquarters and everything else about Tallinn! Estonia has set an example for other countries to follow!
I felt like I relate a lot to the Estonian people and was very comfortable with the environment.
I want to go back as soon as possible, and I’d like to travel every inch of land and get to know every single aspect about Estonia. And I most definitely want to shoot something in Estonia, I’m hoping to start new partnerships there and am very much looking forward to having Estonian customers!
Who are some of the artists or some of the works that inspired you to get started in your field? Of today’s current artists, who do you draw inspiration from?
My main inspirations are Stanley Kubrick, Sergio Leone, Orson Welles, Roman Polanski and Alfred Hitchcock. Of today’s artists I draw inspiration from Quentin Tarantino and Guillermo del Toro.
What have thus far been some of the negatives of being an indie artist in your field?
The main drawback is basically finding funding for the films I want to make.
What have thus far been the positives of being an indie artist in your field?
Having freedom to do what I want without intellectual restraints.
What have been your favorite completed projects to work on up to this point? Can you tell us a little bit about them?
It’s difficult to pick a favorite, it’s like choosing a favorite child, I must say The Headless Nun was a special project since it was made in memory of George Carlin and that we got his big brother Patrick to narrate the film.
What projects are you currently working on or have planned for the near future?
I’ve recently written a feature film as well as many short films, I plan to make those as soon as I get some funding.
Where do you see yourself in a few years and what would it take for you to consider your career a success?
I see myself making movies, as long as I live that’s my goal and I would call that a success.
If you couldn’t do this anymore, what career path do you think you would have followed and why?
If I couldn’t make my films I would either work in theatre or in music as those are two of my passions.