I first got in touch with Yuribert Capetillo Hardy of YoSoyVideo when I found his breathtaking short film Roller Coaster chosen as a Staff Pick over on Vimeo. Since then I have been watching in the hope that there would be another gorgeous short coming out of his editing room. With the release of Strained Lebanon, it was the perfect time to reach out for an interview.
Hardy is a Cuban-born filmmaker who is currently based out of The Netherlands, where he lives with his wife and daughter. His client work ranges from weddings and fashion to documentary and music videos. However, it is his personal projects that really strike a chord with me, and I sat down with him to discuss just how he approaches creating these emotional representations of the places he visits. Over the course of our discussion, five key factors emerged. In his own words, those are “information, story, technique, humanity, and equipment.” Let’s take a look at what he means by these.
“Before I leave home and visit another country, I really want to be informed,” begins Hardy. “I try to understand the country, culture, and what’s going on now.” Like most modern quests for information, his starting point is always Google. He’s looking to get an idea of what people are talking about with regards to his destination. Then it’s off to Wikipedia for the demographic details. From there, news channels and YouTube inform him more of the current state of affairs. What is trending on YouTube? What have people created about this place? What are travel vloggers doing? He notes that Al Jazeera provided a good overview of current issues in Lebanon before departing as well. Checking the news about your destination is not only prudent for your own safety but can inform you of potential narrative ideas for your work.
The narrative is key to any video production, and Hardy’s shorts follow a clear story about the people’s lives in his destination. He emphasizes that although he tries to form themes that he will keep in mind while shooting, the final story is a constant work in progress while he is filming and editing. This is necessary with the candid nature of his work.
“You can compare it to a puzzle,” explains Hardy. “It is a mixture of the expectation I had and the reality I saw. Then I put it all together following a creative theme.”
Technique (Creative Ideas)
Technique is the key that brings Hardy’s ideas to life. Before leaving for a trip like this, he always researches and practices his techniques. He makes particular note that he is not a drone pilot and, thus, the opening shot of the film over La Raouche required him to practice dozens of times before arriving in Lebanon.
What fascinates me about Hardy’s films are the transitions and how he manages to keep everything on screen just long enough for you to get a sense of it before whipping away to something related to continuing his story. I asked about this because it feels so elaborately planned. Hardy’s answer was full of candor and preceded by a short laugh. “The shots are seamless because I shoot a lot. Really, I shoot a lot of footage.”
I think this is a good takeaway for all of us, stills photographers and filmmakers alike. Shoot a lot. You may only get one chance on location to make all the imagery you hope for, so make the most of that time. Make the same shot with different transitions or compositions. For stills, compose in different ways. Go home with plenty of options.
Growing up in Havana, where people always depended on one another for support, Hardy learned the importance of being sociable. This shines through in the people he includes in his videos. “It doesn’t matter how good your cameras, techniques, or planning are. If you cannot get along with people, you will not get the shots.”
Hardy shares that he was somewhat worried as this was his first time to the middle east. Despite all of his research, he really had no idea how things were going to go. So, he followed his usual pattern of looking people in the eyes, shaking hands, and doing his best to communicate in the local language. He said that most of the time this went really well, but you have to keep your eyes open. If one person isn’t comfortable with your presence, it can ruin the situation for everyone. “You have to trust your gut,” he says.
With a project like this, you are always on the move. You need to be nimble and able to shoot at a moment’s notice. Packing all the gear you might need for a full production simply isn’t an option. From personal experience, I know how tough it can be to leave gear at home that you think you might need, but less is usually more in a situation where you’ll be trying to experience a place as well as make photographs or video.
When it comes to gear, Hardy has just one piece of advice: try to have multifunctional gear you can travel with easily. He suggests taking a small body that is capable of shooting raw or log footage. He mentions that he still uses his "old" Canon 5D Mark III because magic lantern allows him to capture full-frame raw footage. That will give you the most options when you get back to the editing room. Hardy's kit for the Strained Lebanon video was as follows:
- Canon 5D Mark III
- Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 Mark II
- Canon 14mm f/2.8 Mark II
- Canon 50mm f/1.2 L
- DJI Ronin M
- DJI Phantom 4 Pro
- Zoom H6