The young Brazilian animator and director Daniel Semanas is a beacon of light for creatives trying to traverse this treacherous cave with their artistic integrity intact. Though he has worked extensively for companies as huge as MTV, his most recognizable works (and there are already several for the 25-year-old) were created away from the prying eyes of the board room, on his own terms, often at home, frequently with some of his closest friends.
Like the artists he admired – Little Thunder, Vanya Zouravliov, Tatsuyki Tanaka and Katsuhiro Otomo – Semanas’s early works were exuberant and colorful, but with a sinister energy that resonated long after viewing. While studying graphic design at Senac São Paulo, he produced a short fi lm called “Allamanda,” a dreamy trek through the bored existence of two female apartment dwellers. The film’s collage of eerily beautiful visuals, discordant music and real-life sound effects caught the attention of former Lobo director CISMA (Denis Kamioka), who became Semanas’s biggest fan, hiring him to work on animations and concepts for his films through Colméia/Margarida. Later, when he went to work for production house Paranoid BR, he brought Semanas along for the ride.
Each Semanas spot is wildly different from the next, but all are united by a fi ercely independent spirit, the sense that the visionary behind them is doing exactly what he wants. “Live-action or drawing techniques are different, but more diffi cult is the concept and sensitivity to create something real,” Semanas said. “It comes well before the technique. Filming or animating is the easiest part.”
The spot shown here, a tiny, homemade project called “Deaths,” was for the radio station 91 Rock. Seeking to make a kind of PSA that would promote their brand and celebrate their music while also warning of the dangers of drunk driving, 91 Rock offered a ludicrously tiny production budget of 5,000 reais (or about $2,500) for the project. Semanas rose to the challenge. He recruited his artist friends Paulo Stoker and Guma (the latter of which had never created animation before) and the three of them hunkered down in the home studio of Stoker’s apartment, where they “spent a month sleeping little and working hard,” Semanas said. “We did everything our own way, without storyboards and without using Ctrl + Z. In the middle.”