Operation Chrono

“Operation Chrono” is a narrative short we made in partnership with the mobile game Free Fire for the release of footballer Cristiano Ronaldo as ‘Chrono’, the game’s new character. It was entirely shot in the Jardim Peri slums of São Paulo with local non-actors, and it features a 17000 ft² wheat paste mural created on the top of more than 70 roofs in the neighborhood.

Director’s Vision

Operation Chrono is an exploration of the passion the game Free Fire inspires. Our goal is to show how much of an impact the game has on children’s lives.

Our initial approach was to create a film around the urban art installation that would be created for the release of Chrono, the new in-game character based on footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. Luan Cardoso of Nalata brought the idea of a “horizontal” mural using wheatpaste posters on top of the roofs of houses. Free Fire is popular in the peripheral neighborhoods of Brazil, so the Jardim Peri slums were chosen as our location. It helped that it already had a connection to soccer since Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus was born there.

Through our initial visits to the place, we got to experience the reality of the young kids who lived there. Because of the pandemic, they spend their time either playing soccer or Free Fire. That scenario inspired us to write a short film, a fictionalized version of how the mural was put together, and bring the children into the spotlight. In the script, a young Free Fire player would have a vision during soccer practice, and in a futuristic neon-light fever dream, discover the new character Chrono. We presented the treatment to the game developer, Garena, and they pretty much approved it right away. The only suggestion they gave was to put some of their influencers in the film, which was a great idea. These are professional Free Fire players, celebrities with millions of followers, and they caused havoc just by showing up on set. We fit them in the story as cameo appearances, and the fans loved it.

We knew we wanted to use local kids for the cast, so we held screen tests and chose the kids more comfortable in front of the camera. Since none of the kids had ever acted before, we approached the shoot with a more playful and improvisational style. We avoided overexplaining things and made them feel like the whole thing was a game.

As for the technical aspects, the film was shot with the Arri Alexa Mini LF in 4.5K, in 2.39 aspect ratio, and with Leica R lenses. The shooting was a bit challenging as far as moving the lighting and grip equipment, due to the narrow pathways and cramped spaces, but our DoP chose some versatile LED lights such as Skypanels, Astera tubes, and the Arri L7C and used their smaller form factor to our advantage. We even had a 1000W light flying on a DJI M600 drone for the night shots, which was awesome and an event in itself.

Overall, the feeling we are left with is that we can bring a positive impact with our work. The whole project brought good things to the people of Jardim Peri: aside from the attention they get from being in a Free Fire film, we renovated the roofs of over 70 houses to make the artwork the right way and brought a lot of donations for the local NGO. We’re rarely involved with films like this, and it became a great Christmas present for everyone involved in making it.