Q&A with Roger Carvalho, Founder of Snoovies
Wednesday 5 October 2016, by
Snack Movies and Life Online
If you make or watch short films, you should be familiar with Snoovies by now. Created in 2013 by three London actors (Roger Carvalho, Karsten Huttenhain and Viana Maya), this free App showcases quality short films (aka “Snoovies”) on all mobile devices, tablets and smartphone alike. With a gorgeous homepage that puts short films in handy “make me... (smile, laugh, cry, think, tremble)” categories, the trio recently won the Platinum Award for Best Designed Mobile App.
We caught Roger Carvalho (now based in LA) on his way to TIFF to find out more about the Snoovies philosophy and making film in the online era.
Mydylarama: So tell us a little bit about how Snoovies started?
Roger Carvalho: So...before I went to drama school and became an actor, I was in IT management. I studied business and I have some programming development skills. I was working for some telecom operators, and built apps for other companies. I met Karsten and Viana in drama school, and afterwards we kept in touch about whatever production we were working on. Plays, Screening nights, etc.... We ended up seeing a lot of quality short films together. And we thought: it’s a shame we all make these amazing works that are only seen by a handful of people and then we all move on to other projects. It’s all about you know, experience and trying new stuff, but never really about releasing a film for the general public...and I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if I could combine my passion and my experience in the film industry with my technology background. So I reckoned, there’s a lot of people out there that travel to work or spend a large portion of the day waiting, playing around with their phone, with their tablet... Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could give them a cinematic experience and at the same time increase the exposure of some filmmakers and actors? That’s how Snoovies came about.
M: How about the name?
RC: Snoovies stands for “snack movies”. Whenever you only have a few minutes but you would like a proper cinematic experience, you can have a ‘snack’ movie. A Snoovie.
M: It’s a great name. How did you come up with it?
RC: I don’t fully remember, actually! Short films have been around since the birth of cinema, and never really took off. I knew that it was going to be hard to get people excited about short film, so I purposefully decided to rebrand the short film in a way that it would appeal to people who had never gone to a film festival before or have never seen a short film. And the idea was: what is the difference between a ‘film’ and a ‘movie’? I think that’s how we came up with it. When we say we go to see a ‘movie’, we expect Hollywood and explosions, action, famed actors, oscars and ‘bling bling’... And when we say ‘film’, we just think about something ‘artsy’... You know what I mean? ‘Film’ is instantly put in that angle of... It’s for those ‘weird’ artsy people. Whereas ‘movies’ feel more geared towards the general public. Because of that, I wanted to create a new word for short films that rebranded them as short movies.
M: Tell us about your early days...
RC : It was actually really hard! We started out as a magazine. The reason why we did that was two-fold. First of all, we wanted to be different. We knew we would never be like Netflix or Amazon, or any proper platform with millions and millions of films, because we simply didn’t have that catalogue. So we thought: let’s do it in a magazine format. We could showcase the films, while at the same time tell our audience more about the filmmakers and the actors: we could introduce them to the public. Interviews, behind the scenes and that kind of stuff.
M: How was sourcing the first films?
RC: Getting the first film signed up was tougher than we’d thought. A lot of filmmakers were kinda like “So, how many users do you have?” and we were like “well, we don’t have any users coz we’re just getting started”. Their response was often like “well, we don’t really wanna bother, coz we might get distribution or we might get this and we might get that...” so a lot of filmmakers actually snubbed us at the beginning. But other filmmakers did want to give us a try and work with us. So we did ‘issues’. We featured 6 or 7 films every two months as a kind of magazine edition. Films that shared a topic, a ‘feel’... We did that for a year, from 2013 to 2014.
M: What happened in 2014?
RC: That summer, we decided to make the App a bit more general, and we released a new App that was closer to a Netflix model, where we just had loads of different films in different categories and people could watch whatever film they felt like. That’s what we’ve been doing since then.
M: Ah yes, the new format is great, and congratulations on winning the design award! Looking at it there’s something really cool...those little icons you have: “make me think”, “dazzle me” etc. How did that come about?
RC: Yeah that was interesting! When we worked on the catalogue, we realised that because short films tend to be experimental or ‘odd’ in some way, they don’t necessarily fit the ‘general’ movie genres. We thought about the normal genres like comedy, action etc. And we realised that a lot of short films are kind of like... they’re not fully comedy, but they can make you laugh... you know what I mean? So we asked ourselves: “how do we describe the genres?” And we came with: instead of comedy let’s just say “make me smile”. Even though a film wasn’t comedy, if it put a smile on your face, it fitted that category. And a lot of films could get you scared or get you thinking, but didn’t fit an existing genre.
In terms of design, we believe films are beautiful. Film is an art, a craft. These cinematographers do amazing things... They capture these moments, they capture these colors. Something that is very difficult to replicate in any other art-form. So what I did with the design of Snoovies... For every film that we feature, we take snapshots and stills, and we use them to influence the design. So whenever you pick a film in our app, you see the background of the App turn into the film, you see stills fade in and out, and the icons that you tap to play the film or to watch the behind the scenes are basically scenes of the movie. That is what makes the App so well designed. Because the films are beautiful. Whenever you pick a Snoovie, you really feel you’re already in the film before you even start watching it.
M: From a filmmaker’s point of view: say I’ve made a film, it’s ready to go...how do I get into Snoovies?
RC: You just submit! We have different methods of submission. You can go to snoovies.com and submit your film there. We’re also partners with some of the bigger websites that offer automatic submissions to multiple festivals. We’re on Film Festival Life and some other sites. We have a very simple form of curation. We’re three founders, so every founder watches every film that is submitted objectively, and if two of us like it, it goes on. That’s our curation process. The film needs to have a strong beginning, middle and end, and it needs to have some sort of twist or surprise within it for us to feature it. We don’t do documentaries by the way. We want to feature those eventually, but right now we focus on fiction.