Artists suffer for their craft. For every self-important/self-indulgent creative type there are a thousand who are working in conditions that most of us would prefer to avoid. All of this is done for the sake of the creation of art. Cinematographer Ricardo Campos took this idea a bit too literally when working on the film “Sweet Dreams.” Because the story and the film’s cast and crew were so intriguing to him, he agreed to take on the DP position which was filmed in the North East of the US…overnight in the dead of Winter. A weekend shoot at the Beverly Hills Hotel this was not. While he admits that the experience was quite uncomfortable in terms of climate, the end product is what keeps him remembering more of the good than the bad. “Sweet Dreams” is dark and unsettling, which is an apt description of the physical sensation of making it.
The process of creating art can sometimes find itself positively correlated to the message it’s delivering. For a film such as “Sweet Dreams” this may not be a comfortable experience but channeling their emotions into their work is the positive manner by which artists deal with these occurrences. Like the postal service motto of old; neither rain, snow, freezing cold, or dark of night (all of which frequently occurred on this shoot) would deter Ricardo and the crew/cast of this film from their work. When the camera wasn’t rolling, it was quite common to find twenty or more people huddled together in a pop up tent with a heater. This energy and sense of desperation is palpable in the film. Eduardo Alcivar (director of “Sweet Dreams”) notes, “From the beginning of this project I knew it was going to be a difficult one to make but very rewarding. For starters, we began production on this show in the middle of winter in the North East which is as cold as it sounds. In addition to that, we were shooting overnight exteriors in the middle of the snowy woods so as you can imagine, things were a little more complicated than usual. I reached out to Ricky to shoot this project because he and I had been wanting to shoot a narrative piece together for a while and I thought that Sweet Dreams would be the perfect opportunity for that. He is a very driven professional. Once he understands what is needed there is no stopping him. He brought a high level of abilities and professionalism to the shoot that spoke to many of us.”
The story of “Sweet Dreams” takes place over the course of one freezing night in the outskirts of New York. Two women, Carmen and Janie, are trying to discard a body. They are both call girls who work for a boss in the organ smuggling black market. Later that night when they find a suitable location and open the trunk to take the body out, they realize that the man inside is still alive. It becomes immediately clear to Janie that this man [Henry] and Carmen know each other and have been having a relationship. After a long argument in the snowy woods, and a message is sent to both of them by their boss with instructions to kill each other, both girls end up dead alongside Henry.
While everyone in the cast and crew had their hands full dealing with how the environmental conditions on set made them feel, Campos had to contend with how these factors affected what he was able to witness with the camera. Being aware of the possible outdoor conditions, Ricardo kept his lighting design decidedly simple but effective. A china ball on a boom was used as a floating key for the interiors. For the exteriors at the gas station scene, vapor lighting was used to match the practicals. Overall the lighting has a great deal of contrast and is punchy, as soft lighting would not be congruent with the feel of the film. Ricardo’s preference for natural organic imagery was the Alexa camera.
Fans clamored over this cutting and dark tale, which Campos confirms is always the goal. He concedes that he was quite happily surprised when the film was accepted to the 2017 Festival International de Cannes and was shown in the Short Film Corner. Cannes is perhaps the most prestigious festival on the planet and having your work accepted there communicates inclusion into a very noteworthy club. Ricardo states, “It was a huge honor to have the film show at the short film corner there. It was also amazing because it led to so much more work afterwards.”