Updated: Jul 12, 2022
Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)
From practising law for most of his working life to becoming an award-winning director in a year[sic], Robert Dos Santos has found his true calling in film.
The Cape Town Director’s latest short film and television commercial, To the Stars, recently won an award for the best advertising short category at the Best Global Shorts Festival.
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Dos Santos said the recognition was amazing but he didn’t create films for awards. He added: “I was leaving a world where you tried to make other people happy and told myself I am going to do this for myself and do what makes me happy. Affirmation isn’t what makes me happy, being myself is what makes me happy.”
To the Stars is a short film that tells an inspiring story of a character who experiences growth and achievement through dreaming big and literally shooting for the stars. The concept of the short film could be a metaphor for Dos Santos' life. He chose to follow his dream to work in film.
“I want to be able to tell my stories through films. I’m fortunate that my work has been nominated and received love,” he said. “I’m hoping that this momentum can take me to the point of making feature films that can tell more stories that can affect the world,” he added.
At 33, Dos Santos has been nominated for more than 30 local and international awards in Los Angeles, Croatia and Seattle. Prior to that, Dos Santos’ worked as an attorney in a corporate and commercial law firm in Johannesburg. Added to his most recent award, the short film is being shown at seven festivals worldwide.
“I love telling stories. I am good at telling stories. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, tell stories in a way that is exciting and also teaches something. I want to tell moralistic stories that aren’t preachy, that inspire people.”
Dos Santos said he had initially studied and worked in law because he loved the idea of justice and helping people. “Being on the right side of justice is what mattered to me. I got pushed into law by my parents but I couldn’t be happier that I had done law,” he said.
“I am very right-brained now and that brought me a lot of left-brain. It’s brought me to a point where I can channel creativity in a formulaic way.”
After exchanging his court robes for the directors chair, Dos Santos admitted that he initially felt resentment for wasting time studying law but this was short-lived. “There were many cumulative moments but one stands out. Standing in the filing room with my former boss. He told me that every single file in the room he either read or wrote, and that it was his legacy,” he said.
Dos Santos said: “I nearly had a panic attack realising that being surrounded by paperwork is what my future looked like. That was when I resigned.” An emotional Dos Santos said he always got a feeling of euphoria when he worked on a film project. “At the end of it, even if I’ve watched it a hundred times, I still want to feel happy with what I’ve put out there,” he said.
Dos Santos is working with Dragonfly, the award-winning London-based production company. While he is contractually bound and can’t say much. He is excited to adapt the brief to his style of story telling and “sharing heartfelt stories through my work.” He added: “I want to keep being myself and doing what makes me happy. When you do something that comes naturally to you and it helps those around you, that is where you get your sense of being.”