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article on and. director robert dos santos by news24

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

There are always a hundred excuses not to do something. But really, it's never too late to change your life and be who you want to be.

At 30, Johannesburg-based attorney Robert dos Santos ditched his legal robe for a seat in the director's chair. And three short years later, with more than 30 local and international nominations under his belt, Dos Santos proves that it's never too late to pursue your dreams.

South African Director Robert dos Santos in black and white
Director Robert dos Santos

Earlier this year, the award-winning director cemented his place in the industry, winning the Best Advertising Short category at the Best Global Shorts festival - a festival that curates and screens the best of all shorts across the globe - for his latest cinematic offering, To the Stars.

To the Stars is a short film and television commercial created for Restonic by Dos Santos, telling an inspirational story of growth and achievement through dreaming big and shooting, quite literally, for the stars. To The Stars lived up to its name by going for the stars and racking up an additional seven award nominations worldwide.

In addition to the Best Global Shorts festival, To the Stars was selected to participate in seven festivals worldwide - San Francisco Indie Short Festival, Sydney Indie Short Festival, Paris International Short Festival, Dallas Film Festival, Dublin Film Festival, Stockholm Short Festival and the Philadelphia Film Festival.

Following and reaching your dreams is a concept the now Cape Town-based creative is well versed in, having given up his safe career in corporate and commercial law three years ago to follow his filmmaking dreams.

Speaking to Channel24, Dos Santos talks about his early interest in filmmaking: "I received a game when I was about 10 which allowed you to create short animated films. The programme had preset sound effects, music, voice recordings, animations, grading, and an edit suite.

"I spent years just playing that game over and over and making my own short films. I also developed an interest in storytelling and writing at about 7 or 8 years old, and this continued through life. These two eventually merged to write for the screen."

For most of his adult life, Dos Santos' filmmaking aspirations took a back seat. Until, while working as an attorney in a corporate and commercial law firm in Sandton, he attended the AFI American Film Market and, as he says, his "fate was sealed". Simply put, one day he decided to give up law and follow his dreams to become a filmmaker. With no experience or formal training, he went from arguing in court to handing out coffees on set.

When asked about the challenges he faced early on in his career, Dos Santos says: "My perception of people's perceptions."Fear of failure, in itself, is debilitating. And there are many reasons that people give up on their dreams. To that, dos Santos says: "Do what makes you content. Forget everyone else."

The award-lined road to success was not easy, and Dos Santos admits there were "too many mistakes to mention". However, he adds: "I love making mistakes. I make them every single day, and that's half the fun. Learning from them and learning how to make better mistakes is where happiness is." Despite his failures, Dos Santos says he realised he had made the right decision the moment he committed to his new career path.

Steeped in the cinematic storytelling of auteur directors such as Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan, he specialises in bringing a strong narrative vision and cinematic touch to all of his projects. And the 34-year-old, inspired daily by the "need to squeeze the juice out of every moment", is currently preparing to direct his first feature film.

What mindset roadblocks are standing in your way to success?

Written by: Graye Morkel

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