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Daily Inspiration: Meet Eduardo Ayres Soares

Today we’d like to introduce you to Eduardo Ayres Soares.

Hi Eduardo, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I was born in Brazil in 1989. My parents are divorced since I was two years old. I lived with my father until I was 16 years old. I come out to him as gay that year and he kicked me out of the house. Then I moved to my mother’s house, who works as a maid in a favela in the city of Porto Alegre. My mother at the time was part of a cult, which is a great story that I can share with you if you are interested in. I was very intrigued from an early age by religion, spirituality, and mythology. I used to study compared religions since I was 13 years old. The stories of old like Hindu Gods, Buddhism practices, Occultism, and African Deities fascinated me. I consider these years of my life a deep training in character development and the hero’s journey.

Filmmaking as art has always been on my radar. At 16 years old, I began a series of Adobe courses, and I began working with Graphic Design shortly after. At that time, I wanted to work on animation and special effects. Later, I took a national exam called PROUNI, and as I got a high grade, the Brazilian Government paid for my undergraduate studies in full, majoring in Visual Arts. These were the years where I developed a strong sense of aesthetics. This is the foundation of my skills as an artist. However, I was deeply interested in technology and my main goal has always been filmmaking, but I had not been in contact with it yet.

Still looking for it, I was selected for a study abroad program by the Brazilian Government called Science Without Borders. It paid in full for one year of study in the USA. I studied filmmaking at two universities, Allegheny College and NYU Tisch. It was a big shift for me to leave Brazil behind and adventure into a completely foreign culture and into a different art that I was not acquainted with. Fortunately, this study abroad changed my life. I was able to grasp so many different areas of filmmaking, shot six short films that year, and joined 20 other shorts as part of the crew. An amazing experience. Living in Manhattan is something that changes anyone too.

After my time in the USA, I came back to Brazil and I worked in a production company called Querosene Filmes. I started as their editing intern getting all the projects that no one wanted to edit. After six months of editing and solving all “broken” projects, my boss put me to edit their main Reality TV Show, as I was doing very well dealing with difficult/tough projects. Later, I assumed the director chair of the TV Show, as I was the person with more knowledge about it. All that happened in less than a year. This experience was essential for me as a filmmaker. Working hard. Caring about your work. Being an artist. Letting your creativity flow and don’t being shy about it are key skills for my success in those years.

Suddenly, I had a hard choice to make. I knew that my skills as a filmmaker were not there where I wanted them to be. I have been searching for a Master’s Program in the USA, as I knew that here I would be in contact with the newest methods and technology of the film industry. I was accepted at the University of Utah’s Masters in Film Production with a teaching assistantship and full-tuition help. In Brazil, my boss told me he wanted me to direct the second season of the TV Show, but I was not sure what to do: Go to do my Master’s in the USA or continue in Brazil and take charge of the Show. I chose the Master’s Program, and it was the best decision I ever made.

In the USA, I immediately deep dive into filmmaking, I didn’t want to lose a single minute. I knew my time was short for me to learn everything I needed to be a great director. In these three years, I worked as a cinematographer on several short films, as a gaffer in a feature film, and at a Chinese commercial film in Utah. I also worked a lot with color correction on several projects. During this time, I taught film production to undergraduates and I got another teaching assistantship where I created and designed my own class about Commercial Filmmaking. I really wanted to bring all the knowledge that I got at the production company in Brazil to the students at the University.

My career as a director here in the USA took a different turn than in Brazil. Here I focused on the thriller genre, fiction, and some visual poems. I explored the LGBT thematic in search of an identity for my own work. At this time, a very good friend of mine died by suicide. She was a trans girl, a childhood friend, her name is Alessandra. That loss deeply affected me. I decided my next project would honor her and will portray the challenges that trans people face in their lives.

Chasing the Dragon (2018 short film) born out of this experience. It tells the story of a trans detective investigating a prescription drug crime in a small town in rural Utah. I am interested in telling stories of individuals that are underestimated, the underdog, of those that struggle but in the end rise into victory or into tragedy. Chasing the Dragon got four awards, 13 nominations and joined several festivals. Nowadays, I finished the second draft of the TV Series based on this short film. It is a limited series of 6 episodes, which I hope to begin pitching to studios in 2021.

Another great and amazing part of my filmmaking career was the Slamdance Film Festival. I interned for them as Production Assistant, later changing to video editor. In my second year, I was the Video Producer for them, and last year I became their TV Director coordinating all the interviews, shaping the content and visuals for all the material produced during the festival. Being at Slamdance means you will meet all kinds of independent filmmakers and artists. Half of all my film industry contacts I got through Slamdance and a great part of them went to work on big and successful projects. Slamdance is the place to meet future directors. Many filmmakers began and launched their careers through Slamdance, including Steven Soderbergh, Christopher Nolan, Ryan Johnson, Bong Joon-ho, The Russo Brothers, and many others.

After graduating, I took the hard decision to move to LA leaving all my friends and Utah connections behind to try a new life at the core of the film industry. I used all my savings for that, but it was worth it. Right now, I am the creative director of a company, and through it, I am helping produce a TV Series on sports and disability. My client has an extensive network of world Paralympic champions, and I am learning so much, and I am happy to be contributing a lot to it. We have been working hard on the pitch deck, and I personally edit the pilot episode and sizzle reel. It is so much fun to create strategies and content to pitch a big project like this one. My background in graphic design came in handy at these early development stages.

2020 was a tough year for all of us. My student visa was ending, and I had to make a choice: change my visa or go back to Brasil. I choose to try to get the O1b visa for “Individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry”. A very hard visa to get, in a year where visa applications have been scrutinized by the Trump administration. After seven months of battle, hundreds of pages of documents, and spending all my savings towards my visa, I finally got my O1b Visa. This is not just a relief but a crown to my work as a filmmaker. The immigration for the USA of America recognizes me as a director and editor, and recognizes my achievements and ability in the industry, and allows me to work in the country in those areas unrestricted. After nights without sleeping with every executive order that President Trump executed, I was able to sleep in peace. This period has been one of the most stressful periods of my life. Not being able to know what happens next, if I would have to leave my life here and start again in Brazil, etc.

As a director, I am working on my TV series based on Chasing the Dragon, developing my first feature film, and on various short film stories.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has not been a smooth ride. I have faced many challenges in my life and career.

My first challenge was coming out to my family. My father kicked me out of our house, my mother cried because she thought I would die of HIV. Being very religious, it was hard to accept me. Fortunately, in my religion, I met a good LGBT friend who is a drag queen host of a nightclub in Brazil. She introduced me to a whole new world. I remember being backstage at the nightclub every single weekend talking with artists and performers. We both shared a passion for Buddhist meditation and LGBT performance. It was an incredible experience being underage in the nightlife surrounded by drag queens, sex workers, and all sorts of artists.

Another challenge was when I started at the Brazilian production company. I was surrounded by much more talented people than me, and I felt that no one really wanted me there. I knew that I was going to be fired as I was not needed because one of my colleagues told me so. Then, my boss came to me and asked me to edit a series of videos that were stuck in the company for quite some time, and no one knew what to do with it. I did the first videos, and the client loved them. They decided to stay with me.

A funny situation happened when my boss asked me to be a camera on our main Reality TV Show. The main camera operator at that set hated me with all his heart. Of course, I was learning and was just there because the executive producer asked me so as an emergency. That man gave me such a hard time that I almost left the set. We all know people in the film industry that are grumpy and abusive with people below them. The funny thing is that in the following months, the executive producer asked me to direct the Series, as they were changing directors too often and I was the one with more knowledge of the show since I was editing it and constantly being vocal about what structure the show. Guess what? The camera operator became my subordinate when I directed the last two episodes. I had never seen someone so bootlicker as that man. I am proud of this story as I climbed from an editing intern to a director inside a production company in less than a year.

Something that was very challenging for me was the cultural shock of moving to the USA. It is not easy to leave all your family and loved ones behind to sail on an adventure to fulfill your career dreams. People here speak a different language, react to jokes in a different way, relate in a much colder way to affection. Coming from Brazil, we hug each other more and laugh more, community and group thought are very important. Here in the USA individualism is above collectiveness. It was tough for me in the first years to understand and get used to it. I miss my family a lot.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
One project I haven’t addressed yet is Metamorphoses Book One. This is a visual poem I filmed in 2019 about sexual assault using the tale of Syrinx and Pan as a metaphor for sexual abuse. It is a screendance short film with no dialog, experimental at its heart.

I love the intersection of queer cinema and poetry. Some of my favorite directors are Pedro Almodóvar with his “The skin I live in”, Bernardo Bertolucci with his “The Last Emperor” and “The Conformist” challenging Fascism and exploring sexuality in his films. Walter Salles, a Brazilian director, and his “Central Station” film portraying the poverty and the struggle of lower classes in a ruthless and impoverished rural Brazil. Alfonso Cuaron and his amazing “Children of Men”.

Some themes that I am interested in are sexual orientation and acceptance of self; the underdog, underestimated, the invisible individual; politics, government, structures of power, and censorship by authoritarian regimes; history, art, and culture; and religion as a cultural artifact and a manifestation of deep psychological desires and expectations of the human mind.

How can people work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
I am interested in projects that challenge established ideas and notions of rules and characters. Projects that are relevant and have a clear intention and message behind them. I want to address socio-economic status, politics, and relevant issues happening right now. I have helped many filmmakers with their projects, as much as I received help in my career. We need to support each other. To everyone that is interested in social justice, LGBT rights, the political situation of the world, please contact me. Let’s grab a coffee and talk about our projects, goals, and the world.

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