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What’s this film about? – Servicios Públicos, a sci-fi short film


What’s this film about?

Servicios Públicos is a science fiction short film along the lines of Orwell and Huxley, that depicts a day in the life of Angel Samsa, a petty thief  that dares to defy the authoritarian government of a stylized and gritty version of Bogota, Colombia.

The production design is aimed to place the story in a world that looks decisively futuristic, with its flying taxis and talking, intelligent robots, but feels somehow a vestige of a past long gone, with heavy nods to early 20th century modernism and technology. We wanted to create a world that can’t be identified with any specific time period. Past and future in the same frame…

I’m a huge fan of early silent film and have always been in love with that dreamy, winsome look and feel of the classic black and white movies of the 20’s and 30’s so I have to say, Servicios Públicos is also a personal homage to classics like A trip to the Moon by the George Melies and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.Everyone that has seen the test footage so far immediately relates to Sin City, but though I admire Robert Rodriguez’ fantastic film, our influences go way back further in time.

This story is set in a dark, cluttered version of Bogotá under the control of a totalitarian regime that relies heavily on technology to exercise the rule of law. Citizens are surveilled by ordinary home appliances that can turn into sentence executioners when subjects are caught in flagrancy. The dirty work is done by the same objects that surround us everyday.

The main crew on Servicios Publicos consisted in Daniel Roa as Production designer, Rodrigo Lalinde as Director of photography, Camilo Gutierrez as vfx supervisor and Benjamin Pineros as Director.

If you give it a thought, it’s not something very far from what’s happening right now. At this very moment, your operating system registers your keystrokes, search engines know what you read and social networks recognize your face and can pinpoint your exact location. The most scary thing is that opting out is not just a matter of shutting down our computer anymore. We are tracked with our phones, with our sneakers, while in our car and even with our fridge. What I wanted to do in the screenplay was to extrapolate this techno craze and put it in hands of an all powerful, totalitarian state. Technology in service of society control. NSA anyone?

Early concept art and photos of our first shoot using a miniDV camera

We were able to take the screenplay all the way into principal photography thanks to funding from a $10.000 government grant. We won it by submitting a little vfx test we did at an abandoned recycling plant, shot with a Canon XL1 with a budget of more or less $300 bucks. We used like 5kw of light and a crew of six friends, including our gaffer/actor. We had to learn 3D Max from scratch, and composited the 3 minute test in almost 5 months.

Looking back at how everything began I realize we really built a dream out of thin air. We were just a bunch of film enthusiasts wanting to make cool films but not really knowing where to start really. We didn’t know shit about storytelling, visual effects or 3D. But the test turned out nicely and encouraged me to think that our vision was very possible at a larger scale.

Images from the definitive HD shoot.

Since principal photography, I’ve been working on this film almost single-handedly between lousy day jobs and tedious freelance work. I haven’t been able to settle down either professionally or economically because this project is like a bad debt pulsating everyday at the back of my head.  But this ten minute film with its 6+ million polygon locations, and 60 special effects shots is a fond reminder that nothing in life is impossible. And gives to every day a meaning beyond paying the bills.

Our greatest feat ever would be to make other filmmakers relate to our story and be able to inspire them somehow with our experience. This blog is for all of you out there working behind McDonald’s counters, freelancing on potato chip ads, or editing Bar Mitzvah videos, for whom life is much more than a day job, and constantly get caught daydreaming about making awesome films, and entertaining the world.



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14 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “What’s this film about?”

  1. Carroll B. Merriman June 11, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    I just stumbled with this website by mistake, but had to congratulate you for all the passion and hard work you exhibit on your writing. I am not a film buff, but will constantly check on this blog for more updates. Good luck!

    • Benjamin Piñeros June 21, 2011 at 9:48 pm

      Thank you very much for checking our site. We hope to have you as a regular visitor. We’ll put a new article each week, so stay tuned!

  2. Carlos Rojas June 21, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Hello i´m soo happy for this page and i want to congratulate all the people that work in this film. This is a example of that all hard work in this 8 years. I am so happy of this page and i will constantly check it. I cant wait to see the movie. For all the people i am the crazy guy that shave his head and wear leather skirt. i am so proud of this proyect.Congratulation Benjamin, Camilo y Daniel my old friend.

    • Benjamin Piñeros June 21, 2011 at 9:53 pm

      Man I’m so happy you found the site! You are indeed crazy for letting us put you in a skirt, and a true responsible of everything we did. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your time and extra patience with us. You are a good friend and a legit part of the team. I still can’t look at your costume without laughing.

  3. Jason Todd June 21, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Holy cow, is this for real? Your story and the images are frankly impressive but nobody has heard of you before. I’m from New York, and I never thought people down in Latin America could do such incredible projects. I still can’t believe this can be done for that budget. You are bullshitting right?

    • Benjamin Piñeros June 21, 2011 at 10:11 pm

      Yes Jason. This is real. As real as my sore eyes and empty pockets. We expect to add a new post every week, so stay tuned for more updates. Our film is just one, amongst lots of cool projects being made by Latin American teams. You should check out the impressive Colombian short “En Agosto” and the Uruguayan sensation “Panic Attack”

  4. Carlos Suarez June 23, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Ñatin, i´m fuc”$%/&() proud of you mate!!! this dream became in my dream too, i´m quite sure this film will be a national success, this website is incredible and i´m already fan of “servicios publicos”, congrats parce!!!!

  5. Camilo Gutierrez June 24, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Muchas felicidades mi hermano por este gran proyecto que muy pronto va culminar y dar frutos por el trabajo realizado.Felicidades y mucha suerte.

  6. azrael July 5, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    For a short film, this is highly impressive. I’ve only seen this kind of display in feature films.

  7. babushka April 28, 2012 at 6:02 am

    Pure inspiration! Keep it up!

    • Benjamin Piñeros April 30, 2012 at 9:07 pm

      So honored that you liked our little story! Thank you very much Babushka.

  8. Emma Hextall March 24, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    This is such a heartening story. I am in my final year of college and I really wish I could bring myself to have the resolution to begin an endeavor like this. Thanks for putting this out there. It’s tremendously inspiring. Wish you all the luck with your film Benjamin.

  9. Paul April 3, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    What a journey and very inspiring to all around that dreams are possible! Good luck Everyone!

    • Benjamin Piñeros April 5, 2013 at 12:14 am

      We can’t thank you enough for your kind words and affection towards the project. You are also a part of this journey. Welcome to the team Paul. We’re looking forward to your artistic contribution to the film.

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Benjamin Piñeros was born in 1978 in Bogotá, Colombia but lived his entire childhood in NYC.

Fed up with working in the advertising world, one good day he threw everything to hell and decided to make a film on his personal computer. Now he has a huge credit card debt, no girlfriend and no income. Well, at least he has this blog...

He's a self taught filmmaker and 3D artist in love with all good sounds from Bach to David Bowie. He writes first drafts on paper, hates smartphones and wants to learn to play guitar someday. You can contact him on Twitter for multi-million dollar screenplay deals, indecent proposals or if you just want to have a nice chat about movies.