"Giving a platform to artists is the most gratifying thing for me as a producer"
Rodrigo Ferrat is a producer who started his journey in the industry as a production assistant in different production companies that made shows for E! Entertainment, Netflix & HBO Latin America. After producing several films (including Festigious' winner The Crimson Flower), Rodrigo produced his first web series, "Oh My God!", which recently won four awards at Festigious, including Best Web Series. Here's his story.
Rodrigo, we're delighted to interview you again! For the readers who haven't read the first article, could you share a bit about yourself, your background and how did you get started in the film industry?
Thank you guys for having me here again. Hahaha, to sum it up I started as a production assistant in different production companies that made shows for E! Entertainment, Netflix & HBO Latin America.
From those experiences, I started to get an interest in the producing side of visual storytelling, and I had the opportunity to co-produce my first short film with one of my closest friends Lu Betanzos that has already been shown here in Festigious: "The Crimson Flower."
Who are your favorite filmmakers and what do you like about their work?
My all-time favorite will be Master Guillermo Del Toro. He is the one that made me fall in love with cinema and gave me hope that we (as Mexicans) can break the glass ceiling and show our visions to the world as we have seen in recent years.
He always reflects himself thru his films and his ability to fill so many roles in such a humongous production such as director, producer & writer is something otherworldly. At some point, I would like to try that out, but I'm not ready at all to pull that off not even in a short film scenario as of right now.
What were some of the highlights of your career so far?
I've had the honor of being awarded as the best producer for both my main productions as of now in festival route "The Crimson Flower" & "Oh My God" so that's something humbling.
But for me, the biggest highlight is that I've been able to give a platform to artist/performers in these projects to get recognition for their talents and that their efforts are being put on a screen around the world from India to Venezuela to the USA with stories out of the ordinary. For me, that's some of the most gratifying things as a producer.
Let's talk a bit about Oh My God! How did you get involved, and what were your responsibilities as a producer?
Pretty much it's part of the curriculum on VFS to do a web series, so I was in the writer's room for the show and eventually we had to pitch for positions, so I pitched my vision of the show, and the final question before I left that meeting was "What would you say if we asked you to produce both episodes?" and I said "I'm not going to say no to an opportunity like this" from there I got selected to produce both episodes.
Among my responsibilities was to keep the series coherent story & visuals, arrange the budget for six days of shooting (3 days respectively for each weekend we had), get the catering, location, permits, paperwork & pretty much act also like the line producer/location manager the days of shooting.
How would you describe the collaboration with directors Ezgi Gündoğdu and Farsina Kabir Prithwi? Did you discuss any visual inspirations before approaching production?
It was a refreshing experience because most of the process was treated as a long short film rather than two episodes, so that helped out to keep the synergy and the episodes consistent.
More than visually we talked the characters and story so as you can see in each episode we have traits/humor that keep consistent through the show. But the visual aspect was also really smooth to keep since both our DOP's Francis Franco & Alen Najafi also were in the meetings, gave their input and acted as gaffers respectively.
Were there any artistic disagreements and if so, how did you resolve them?
There were a couple because of the dialogue that sometimes the humor was dark and we had to make it lighter, sometimes I had some gruesome ideas, but they will always keep me in check, and also I tried to help with their creative process to portray the characters as they wanted.
Mostly it was resolved as human beings haha by talking things out spending 2-3 hours brainstorming and finally coming into an agreement.
Can you talk a little bit about the technical aspects of this production: how did you raise the budget, how did you recruit the department heads (cinematographers, editors) and the cast? How long was the shoot?
So for the budget, it was assigned by VFS, and I just had to play around with numbers for me to stay on it.
The whole recruiting it was as I mentioned before by VFS choosing the people for each role, but the funny thing is that a lot of people didn't pitch for our show but everybody clicked together, and we ended up having a lot of fun & getting attached to the show.
The cast was a whole other story were we had a bunch of people come in for the first round then we cut it down more than half for the second one where we had a chemistry audition that lasted around probably 5 hours doing and finally it came down to their talent & charisma that we chose Sara Dunn (Toni), Phil Trasolini (Helliot), Adamina Carden (Phoenix) & Tamara Thorsen (H'eden).
The shoot was two weekends made up of 3 days (Saturday, Sunday & Monday) If I remember correctly haha.
How is shooting a web series different than shooting a film?
In a short film you're usually worried about making that your opening is strong & your ending is brutal for people to make a last long impact, but in a web series you have to keep it short, exciting and make those dramatic beats, so people want more because your story is not finished like in a short film.
So even though in a film you have this cool shots and the mindset on making this impacts, there's not the pressure like this web content that you have to make the person watching to give you his whole attention for 6 minutes straight and be able to pull that off in a basis.
What was the most difficult challenge you encountered while producing Oh My God! and how did you overcome it?
I was finding locations in a place where I'm a newcomer haha that was a good challenge, but I can thank Jamie Henry and Max Chen for allowing us to come to their places and give legitimacy to the settings the story demanded.
Pretty much the paperwork because last time I was splitting it with Lu in our first project, but now I was on my own, but both my 1st AD's Athulya Radhakrishnan & Christian Robinson kept me focus & organized to pull this off.
How do you generally deal with the stress of crazy schedules and having to put-out-fires all the time? Do you have any tips on how to deal with such difficulties?
It's kind of like playing a video game in real life because you have quick time events, missions, objectives…at least that's how my mind works when making all this that for a ton of people super dull and exhausting.
And mostly to deal with this problems is to talk with your team or the elements surrounding it to see the possibilities and capabilities to solve the problem in hand is just how my mother says "Every problem has a solution except for death because….well your dead".
Did you ever refuse to take on a project? If so, why?
Yes, it comes to different things:
1. Lack of challenge: Every project that I approach I need something that makes me grow either a person or producer by facing problems that I need time to think and resolve. Too simple stuff is not rewarding or stimulating.
2. Lack of originality: Projects that deal with somebody that is a ghost, illusion, projection that is not there or at the end of the day it was all a dream are no-no projects for me. It has been done to death, and I think there's still a lot of stories to be told and a ton of voices to be heard.
3. No Creative Input: I'm a creative producer, so I want to question and be involved with the story, the look, shot list.
If you want me to build your budget, spend it as you want to hire me as a line producer but don't bring me in into a project where I don't have say since I'm stuck with that project for years meanwhile you've already moved on.
4. Too many projects at once: I want to give attention and respect to each project so if I'm overdoing it and it's not possible to schedule correctly, I don't want to fail your project.
But most of the time I'm willing and thankful to being considered to be integrated as part of the team for each show.
If you could speak to an earlier version of yourself, what would you tell young Rodrigo?
It's super cliché, but I would say nothing at all because I think my persistence and my way of seeing film comes from all the failures, deceptions and letdowns I went through so I would stare awkwardly to make him uncomfortable and keep him at the edge of his game.
What are you currently working on and where can our readers follow more of your work?
I'm fortunate enough to share that right now we're on the post-production of our short film "Filum" directed by Claudia H. Barragan that deals with a new and inspiring story full of music.
We're in the pre-production of an experimental/drama called "Red Lux" that deals with the entertainment industry as a factory of people with an expiry date, so I'm excited to be doing this project alongside Tamara Thorsen (H'eden in Oh My God!).
And in between all that Episode 3 of Oh My God!, developing a feature film with the fantastic writer Liam Sullivan, a dark humor animated series set in space. All of these projects and more than I wish to bring to Festigious eventually as they evolve.
Right now my Instagram @readyatzero is the easier way to keep following the projects I'm involved, but eventually, there will be a website. Hopefully, it's ready for our next interview.
Would you like to add anything or thank anyone?
Cast & crew because this show wouldn't exist or be making these festivals without them.
A huge thanks to Jayme Pfahl & Arun Fryer for allowing me to produce this show.
But also to our readers stay tuned we’re working on Episode 3. I'm keeping this show alive as long as I can, and we want you along for the ride. Thanks, Festigious as always for the incredible reception, interest, and commitment to our projects.