How much would you sacrifice to achieve your ambitions?

Told via a surreal montage of strange and shifting images, Sell Your Soul (SYS) depicts the psychological journey of an up-and-coming artist as he moves through the various stages of his career – revealing fantasies of fame, glamour and success.

SYS combines it all. It’s an experimental, genre-bending dance film, a horror flick and a music video all rolled into one. Director Ignas Laugalis (Beggin’, Dusktime) explores the moral implications of achieving artistic success in a world dominated by social media and the pressure of the attention economy. We had the chance to ask Ignas a few questions about the film, check them out below.

Can you tell me a little bit about SYS, how did this film come about?

SYS came about during the Pandemic, I was introduced to Jafaris through a close friend over a zoom call. We initially connected to work on a different project, but as we were in lockdown during the pandemic I brought up the idea of just meeting up one day to shoot something and see how we would get on together, Jafaris was down. I spent the next day thinking of some vague concept for us to shoot, I looked over old ideas I had written in my notebook from years back and came across this “losing yourself to dance” concept I had, simultaneously I was listening to the Moonlight Score once Boris Gardiner- Every Ni**er is a Star came on and making the “Star” connection to Jafaris as an Artist, the whole short flashed before my eyes. What started as a very vague concept/idea now had so much depth and weight behind it. And as with all things with creatives, you begin to love an idea so much that all of a sudden the project starts to get some legs and a lot more people got involved to help out, which I am very grateful for as this was a string shoe self-funded budget short.

The film’s first shot seemed like a seamless one-take, were there any hidden cuts?

So yes the first shot was intended to look like a seamless one take, when working closely with Tobi Balogun the movement choreographer we both agreed from the initial meeting that we didn’t want this to be just Jafaris dancing and we wanted to give his movement a lot more meaning. As a result, we explored the space a lot more and took advantage of it. We wanted the audience’s attention to be fully engaged with what was happening on the screen which is why we went for this steady cam one-take approach. But yes every time the camera passed a doorway there was a hidden cut.

Tell us about the different settings and scenes, and the art direction behind them.

So this short film has 3 very distinct clear parts to its story structure. Number one, being Jafaris in his dreamy stage where he glamourises/fetishises the stardom aspect of the entertainment industry. This section represents artists of all backgrounds in their development and growth stages where they master their craft. In part two Jafaris signs his soul away to the devil, all morals and dignity have been traded away for the celebrity life he has always wanted. Which is why we chose to go with a very visually powerful and disturbing imagery of him basically killing himself. Part 3 is Jafaris on TV performing to the crowd of his dreams, we see that his appearance has been visually altered to fit the status quo of the industry, there is nothing interesting, or innovative about his performance, and there is lots of cuts thrown in to hide the mediocre performance.

What do you hope people will take away from SYS?

The few people with who I shared this short all had different meanings and takeaways from each other that they took from the project. I think it’s great because the purpose of this project was to give an experience of our man character rather than try spoon feed too much information. This more ambiguous style of storytelling allows the audience to fill in their own gaps. So I really just hope it leaves people with a moment of thought after.

What are your favorite films?

Well, my favourite film of all time is Requiem for a Dream, after that, there is too many close seconds, But I’m a massive fan of Darren Aronofsky, Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan and Edgar Wright all of their work is really inspiring to me and I grew up on their films.

What are your favorite short films?

There really is just such an amazing amount of short films out there that it’s really hard to pick a favorite. Fauve by Jeremy Comte was an amazing short film that left an impact on me long after I finished watching it so I will just say that one.