Filippo Brunamonti on giving justice to narratives through filmmaking
Visual stories are what we do best. We’ve spent time on the ground — working behind the camera, interviewing subjects, mapping character arcs — and in the office, dissecting creative, scheduling production, and aligning budgets. For Filippo Brunamonti, a Senior Video Producer at Blink, this knowledge both on- and off-set drives the final impact. With over 200 Google video productions under his belt, executed in tandem with his colleague Anaka Kaundinya, he has garnered the respect of his peers and the industry as a whole.
“I grew up in a family of architects, bankers, and physicists,” Filippo remembers. “I see Google’s Visual Lab as a cultural hub that represents all the colors of my childhood. James Mulcahy — Executive Video Producer at the Visual Lab — was the catalyst; the one who introduced me to the spectrum of Google productions.”
Since the beginning of the partnership that has spanned over 4 years, the video team has been devoted to high-end narrative non-fiction and documentary storytelling. “Our team of video producers has effectively become the Lab’s hands, eyes, and ears on the ground, making sure Google’s global needs are met and its reach expanded. Blink’s New York team has managed crews in 28 countries, 19 languages, and every possible time zone, relying on local expertise and access to ensure seamless execution and a quick turnaround.”
In less than 48 hours, Filippo and Anaka have assembled, locked and briefed crews that are on standby, ready to shoot anywhere in the world. “We have produced short 4K docs on topics ranging from wheelchair accessibility in Jakarta and London to solar panel installation in post-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico. Our fixers, directors of photography, and drone operators have shot educational videos for Google’s growing Local Guides community in countries like Russia, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Brazil, and Nigeria, and documented how Google is helping put Haiti’s small businesses on the map.”
This global production work has the ability to push storytelling in a multitude of directions. “Working closely with Google’s Visual Lab and having the opportunity to actually operate from its Chelsea headquarters has placed me in a process of challenging my own beliefs in regards to narrative-driven visual storytelling. Producing a video for Google, indeed, means doing justice to the narrative that is in front of us, without fictionalizing it, and respecting all the different cultures we come into contact with. Additionally, we consistently push the people, not “characters,” to build their own stories.”
“One of the most engaging experiences this year,” Filippo recalled, “was assisting Molly Moker, Senior Content Strategist and Video Producer at Google, in launching a new Google Maps feature to help the visually impaired with navigation. Along with a trusted Japanese team of videographers, we told the story of Wakana Sugiyama, a Tokyo-based business analyst at Google who is blind — she worked with the Google Maps team to develop a more helpful, and convenient navigation solution.”
“I think the sense of space in a project like this is a key factor. We spent weeks looking for location options for Wakana and reaching out to spots such as Nakameguro (the neighborhood best known for the narrow, cherry tree-lined Meguro River), Kamakura Farmers Market, Enoshima Railway, Roppongi Hills, and the Japan Braille Library. The video’s narrative trajectory turned out fantastic and has been picked up in Forbes.”
Another production that saw the team challenge traditional storytelling methods surrounding social impact and awareness is a piece about Google’s Project Sunroof. “Google Earth asked me to source a local fixer/producer to work on a short doc showcasing the movement to power Puerto Rico with the sun in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. First, I got in touch with scientists and engineers who could help me to understand the government’s plan to transform its hurricane-battered electric grid to rely entirely on renewable energy by 2050. Google needed someone who would be comfortable knocking on doors to meet residents, especially of rural communities, and ask them to talk about their experience of the blackout. Blink’s talent, Marcos Pérez Ramírez, previously worked on a documentary about the Puerto Rican housing crisis for Al Jazeera, and was not only familiar with the entire island but also aware of all the economic recovery efforts on the low-income communities (the hardest hit by the natural disaster).”
“I’m thrilled by this work that elevates and challenges our abilities as international producers. Last summer, I actually worked on a project for Google Earth in Colombia, the first country where the Google Earth pilot project is being used. Alongside a crew coordinated by Pablo Tourrenc (recommended by our Community Manager, Kyla Woods), based in Bogotá, where he co-founded the production company Fixer Colombia, and Tomas Chaves, we connected with experts from the Humboldt Institute for Research and Wildlife Insights to analyze cutting-edge wildlife trap technology and their data collection and usage in Colombia. The two-week shoot, locally produced by Fixer Colombia, occurred in Bogotá, the national parks of “Serranía de la Macarena” and “Caño Cristales”.
“For decades, the government’s war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (the guerrilla army known as FARC),” Filippo explains, “made that a risky place to go. My colleague Anaka and I had several in-depth conversations with the local team about security, permits, climate challenges, health issues, and all of those common concerns that arise from shooting in the jungle. Everything ran smoothly. We got a better sense of Colombia’s biodiversity and a new perspective of the Cauca region, where guerrillas have been defending drug routes for years. The Colombia documentary will be on the main YouTube page soon!”
Thought of the day: It is important to be transparent and to talk to a group of people that have in-depth knowledge in the region you are working. Look at all the elements of the brief, break them down, create a makeshift production calendar that works backwards, and get on the phone with people who can guide you with your storytelling.