What was your research about?

“I looked at film tourism in vulnerable places in Brazil. For instance, favela tourism became quite popular after the film Cidade de Deus, or City of God in English, came out. Most research on film tourism is more focused on the Global North: Europe, New Zealand, Australia, the US. Often it is very optimistic about the benefits that film tourism brings to local communities. Take Downton Abbey, or Braveheart. However, for vulnerable communities, where film tourism arises more spontaneously, it’s not a given that popular audio-visual projects have a sustained beneficial effect.”

What were your main findings?

“Community members often meet film initiatives with optimism. They see these projects as opportunities for local development, and sometimes as a reason to be proud of their neighbourhoods. They wish to collaborate with filmmakers and hope to reap the benefits of film tourism, also after the project is executed.

“That is often exactly the promise that policy makers or films professionals make at the start of audio-visual projects. And yes, the communities profit while the project is conducted. Restaurants and hotels are full. Some people are hired as extras. But contextual characteristics and the power dynamics between the people involved in the project can preclude wider community participation. When the film professionals leave, the hotels and restaurants are empty again, and the community is left empty-handed.”

I can imagine it’s difficult to get in touch with people in these vulnerable communities. How did you go about that?

“For each case study, I had contact with key figures. They would bring me to the places and introduce me to other people. That was a good way to build trust. For instance, in the favelas I contacted local tour guides, and through them I met people I wouldn’t have been able to find on Google, such as the main location scout for the telenovela I Love Paraisópolis, or local artisans and community leaders.”

Did COVID get in the way of your research?

“Luckily, I had managed to do most of my field work already. My third case study was the Alter do Chão Film Festival. Initially I went there to give a seminar about my research. While was there I observed the relevance of the project and I decided to include it as a case study. I met several interesting people. That really helped when we had to do interviews online later during the pandemic. The festival is in the middle of the Amazon, so not everyone received internet steadily, but overall it went smoothly.”

How did you know you wanted work in academia?

“I fell in love with academia during my masters. I studied journalism in Brazil, that was quite practice oriented. After that I worked as a press agent at Rio de Janeiro’s municipal tourism authority, and as a copywriter at an advertising startup. Then I came to Amsterdam to do a masters in media studies. It was the best decision. It opened up my mind. The discussions we had in class about articles were very enlightening and exciting. Media is something that I love, and I really enjoy discussing it through the lens of theories and concepts.”

Any highs and lows during the PhD trajectory?

“I found a great support system at my department of Arts and Culture Studies, full of wonderful colleagues, supervisors and peers with whom I could share my successes and failures. I also noticed I really like teaching. Here in the Netherlands PhD’s have a lot of responsibility in terms of teaching. You learn a lot by being put in that position. Though teaching at the beginning of the pandemic was a low point. I was teaching to a screen full of black boxes with names. It was difficult to stay motivated.”

I saw you managed to do interesting activities next to your PhD. You were on the selection committee of the International Science Film Festival in Nijmegen. How did that go?

“I had to watch ninety science films, not all feature length luckily. It was so much fun to discuss with the other committee members whether the films were fit for the festival or not. I like academic work, but I also like to have something more practical on the side. It was good to take my mind of the research for a bit and to stay grounded.”

So you’re not sick of films yet?

“Definitely not. Film is such a beautiful way of telling stories. More than a media scholar, I’m an avid media consumer. I watch way too many series and films. I try to go to the cinema at least once a week. Occasionally I engage in film tourism myself. When my mother came to visit from Brazil, we did a Game of Thrones tour in Croatia. It’s great when I get to combine my interests as a fan and a researcher. It makes my job even more fun.”