In a world where it feels like our imaginations have been monopolized by big-budget companies, we look to real heroes to breathe life back into DIY. When it comes to the craft of filmmaking, that indie spirit doesn’t falter — it just evolves.
Dominic Bekaert, a transplant from abroad, started his film career in the Philippines dedicated to preserving our nation’s precious nitrates (I know the material is dated but I’m using it for the sake of this alliteration). Today, he runs an independent production company informed by a ‘less-is-more’ ethos.
Zoopraxi Studios has stood out among many for creating visually-stunning music videos and commercials, usually with a crew of only two people. You may know them better their creations such as the music video for U by Jason Dhakal and commercials with SM Woman and Ballet Manila. Young STAR got to sit down with Dominic to talk more about creativity and collaboration.
Young STAR: First off, let’s talk about your origins in film and production, what attracted you to this line of work?
Dominic Bekaert: As a fairly young kid I was moved from country to country a lot. From Manila to London, and then Paris in just a couple of years. As we kept on moving, I would end up losing the friends I made and the familiar places I created for myself. The only thing that moved around with me, outside of my parents, were the VHS tapes I had and they slowly became a major part of “my” world (I would obsessively watch them over and over again). I guess it ended up becoming a second language for me.
And how did Zoopraxi come to be, in terms of both the studio and the name?
When I moved back to the Philippines three years ago, I came to head the National Film Archives of the Philippines because I had a masters degree in film preservation and because we have already lost around 60 percent of our national film heritage. We worked on preservation and restoration projects as well as access to these elements. I ended up having differences with our parent organization and decided to not renew my contract with them.
I wanted to stay in the country, so with my partner Clementine, we started a small production company and created a reel for ourselves by doing music videos for free with local bands we enjoyed. We wanted to create a style that wasn’t being done here and as a film archivist I was in love with the Zoopraxiscope (which is one of the first ways to render moving images through a disk) and it sounded a bit like the style we wanted to create.
In working towards becoming an all-around videographer, were there any major experiences that helped you form your artistic vision and practice?
I think Stendhal puts it best. “It’s the other arts that taught me to write.” The other thing is to just keep on creating because your errors become your strongest lessons and help you define your own style (in a world were pegs and emulation are king).
What struck me most about the company is how you were able to achieve such a high-quality output with a relatively small production team. What are the pros and cons of this DIY setup?
With the technological advancements in the field of video, gear has become smaller, cheaper and easier to manipulate. One of the things that excites me the most on a project is finding ways to make a high production value shot with limited resources. It’s great to achieve an illusion that people react strongly to. The pros of a small production team is a greater fluidity on set. If we want to change the set-ups because it doesn’t feel right, we can do it very quickly and efficiently. I enjoy being in control of every part of the creative process. The cons are that if the concept doesn’t work out you can’t blame anyone but yourself.
As someone who works with a wide breadth of the creative/marketing industry, what’s your favorite kind of collaboration?
We are open to all kinds of collaborative experiences and we really enjoy bouncing ideas back and forth to see where they’ll end up. The only projects we have a hard time and end up refusing are the ones that come with pegs that you are just asked to recreate.
You’ve done The Strangeness and Jason Dhakal’s music videos. Do you have any favorites among all of your music video works?
That’s a hard question as they are all different and I love them all for different reasons (and they all taught me different lessons about my craft). The ones that surprised me the most at the end were Twist the Knife by The Strangeness, The misery is sure by Grandi Oso, and Bridges Street by Outerhope because they went beyond my expectations.