Get to Know the Trajectory of Sincronia Filmes

By Milena Sardoz

Emanuel Mendes and Francisco Costabile are sitting on the not so comfortable chairs of a near-corner bakery on alameda Ministro Rocha de Azevedo, between avenida Paulista and alameda Santos, in São Paulo, Brazil, that summer afternoon of 2010. They both talk very seriously about opening their own business after some frustrating attemps of founding a production company – together with some other people connected to them –, in a creative process that had been extending itself since mid-2009 and that it probably would have transformed into a very interesting film. Coming both from the short film world – Emanuel with two shorts in the bagagge and Costabile also with two more in partnership with another director, Elcio Verçosa Filho –, they were outlining what would become Sincronia Filmes, a multimedia company that would work not only with film, but also other medium like television and advertising, besides becoming, in a not so distant future, a totally independent distributor, and at the same time thinking how they would actually start, producing something for real. They got to the conclusion that they should write, produce and direct a new film, a new short, a sort of return to their beloved cinema, the movies, and that this film would enter the company’s CV as soon as all the paperwork and bureaucracy would be all set.      

Costabile (left) and Mendes during the shoot of “The Man Who…”

An anecdotic summary like this one above, nevertheless, does not give the true idea of how such endeavor actually happened: between the seed planted by Emanuel with Costabile until the actual foundation of Sincronia Filmes – which had numerous names before getting to the definitive one, from Camera Nova to Locomotiva Filmes, from Sincroniza Produções to Criterium Films (in homage to Emanuel’s much beloved Criterion Collection, the American Blu-ray and DVD distributor) – a lot of water went under that bridge. They met lots of new people, distanced themselves from others, almost got other business partners, went after other businesses (like the startup beeyou, which did not materialize, but which is still alive) until finally seeing the light of projection of that short film they had been developing for months with colleagues and friends coming from various backgrounds, including from the old MTV, where Francisco was employed as a video editor. The film – called The Man Who…, just like that, with ellipsis, a name suggested by the short producer, Julia Maury, who was the girlfriend of the director, Yuri Tarone, and a movie that talks about madness – unfortunately had a brief career, screened on very few places. But historically it marked the birth of Sincronia, since Emanuel and Francisco realized, at least in that particular moment, that the co-production was not only a creative way of starting, but an essential one for the company achievement. From that film on, other works started to pop up, like Living Statues, directed by the young Mirrah Iañez, a highly awarded 14-minute documentary short about the so-called street artists in São Paulo who dress up as statues; The Criers, a comedy minisseries made for the internet in order for Sincronia to get into what is mostly known today as other screens; and mainly It’s Almost True, a mix of comedy and documentary written and directed by Emanuel (in collaboration with friend André Campos Mesquita), which was more or less like the icing on the cake – at least in that part of the way.

And if the difficulties and storms inherent to this market did not bring down the two filmmakers – besides the disloyal competition some projects were created but then abandoned; they almost got a partnership to make their first animated film (with an animator from Santa Catarina); an award from TV Cultura and Secretaria de Cultura in São Paulo for writing a feature film screenplay (that was written but never shot) –, this only proved the obstinacy and the trust that they were on the right path, and that they should do their work according to their values, principles and in unison with what they believed in, even though those very same difficulties contributed for Francisco leaving the company in 2014, since he realized that writing scripts was his thing (forming an eventual partnership with the actress and writer from the far away film for TV Cultura, Erikah Barbin), leaving a void in the society with Emanuel that almost made him close the company for good, if it weren’t for his tenacity and stubbornness, believing in him and in his work. His commitment in making Sincronia a model of a company, in order to produce their own films, and the films of others, independently, and trying to transform the five areas in which they had proposed to work on (and which explain the company logo design) was what motivated him to go ahead, even though in loneliness and having to solve everything all by himself.            

Janaina Zambotti

But this would fortunately be a temporary situation – since some time later in 2015 Janaina Zambotti embarked on the adventure, a young and tenacious events producer who shared with Emanuel the same persistence and stubbornness in taking ahead various responsabilities. Even though she had never worked in the audiovisual world, and never produced a film before, Janaina rapidly adapted herself to the environment, making some substantial changes in the company modus operandi – for example, making Emanuel understand the importance of a press release company partnership – and mainly helping out the founder to conduct the business as a startup, with an offbeat atitude, a fun work environment which stimulates team work and growth, encouraging creativity, no matter what size Sincronia would become in subsequent years.    

Years by the way that were marked by some changes, lessons, and expansion of work areas – just what Emanuel wanted. Together, the duo operated the creation of an internal advertising agency, called Babaorum Publicidade, to take care not only of  Sincronia’s image but mostly of the campaigns for clients which, little by little, would come their way, thanks to the word of mouth about the quality of their work. With conception and design by Babaorum – a small company which congregates some creative people who are friends and/or collaborators of both of them – and achievement (at least when it comes to advertising films) by Sincronia, the duo elaborated the best of worlds, without the need of third parties, without establishing false partnerships inside a market that, they both know, is restricted by the famous clique and by usually closing doors to those who are starting up or do not have friends in positions of power. Through the agency they have targeted a niche under which they lay their attentive eyes every day, the startup and small businesses market, simply because they have a more open minded attitude, take risks, a characteristic of both Emanuel and Janaina.   

Filming “The Social Technology” in South Africa

And together they too developed the first feature film project produced by Sincronia – the documentary The Social Technology –, which was not only entirely financed by a private American company (a laboratory) instead of using public money that comes from the government or public film contests (very common in Brazil and which, according to Emanuel, only serves to close the access to professionals who do not have friends there), but also gave Sincronia its ace in the hole. With the film, all shot in South Africa, talking about entrepreneurship in the digital age, violence against women and fight against AIDS, the production company not only controlled all the aspects of production, since the inception of the idea, hiring a crew and general conception as a whole, but it also turned, with the blink of an eye, into an independent distributor, albeit a small one, releasing the film on movie theaters (via the Itaú Cinemas chain), and later on on the home video market, with the creation of the Sincronia Filmes label – under which Emanuel, very enthusiastically, got inspired by his much beloved Criterion Collection. That enabled the duo to go on working for this market – again, mirroring the excellency of some the world’s best home video distributors, not only Criterion –, releasing, in the next year, 2019, the restored version of the Brazilian film classic Happy Old Year, in a deluxe special edition with relevant extras produced especially for the disc by Sincronia. The plan is to continue the work – both for Sincronia original content (films, series, TV specials, musical specials, etc) as well as with the ones they acquire, via the copyright license –, and investing in new artists and talents (just like they did with Elzo Henschell, with whom they’ve established a creative partnership extending to music videos, shows and others).       

Work has not stopped for Sincronia Filmes, with the production company closing deals for solidarity campaigns, like the ones they did in 2020 for Fenabrave, the entity that congregates the car sector lot in Brazil, besides signing a contract with Baby Care, the Brazilian child health care startup for whom they’ve created a beautiful campaign emphasizing the company’s value proposal, and others with which they are still negotiating – until the closing of this essay there were two, one for the food sector and another aimed at clean energy and recycle trash.  

At ten years of age, celebrated in this August 2021, Sincronia Filmes has just started, in the words of its very creator – there are far too many film, TV series and multimedia projects cooking up in the company. Emanuel Mendes and Janaina Zambotti face the difficulties and uncertainties of the area with the strength of sailors fighting the worst storms, because they know, as in the old saying, that a tranquil sea does not make good sailor. By continuing investing in the excellency and innovation of their work and in the value of their principles, the production company distinguishes itself from others, firming up as the eternal startup escaping the tradional and always seeking a disruptive operational model.

Milena Sardoz is in advertising and is a contributor to this site.