Monday, February 21, 2011

Carnival in Rio has lost one sparkle...

There are times when you receive a surprise, so unexpected, it instantly seems a gift. My introduction to Zaira Brilhante was one such moment. Her first contact was merely a hello, but has opened a doorway with a gorgeous view. She is the founder of an online culture expo, which touches all aspects of entertainment, and she is building a literary showcase within that new site. She said hello to me, because of a book.

Let's get one thing out of the way, so it won't clutter the discussion:
Guys! She's engaged.

Partnered with her fiance, this Brazilian Journalist, Filmmaker, soon-to-be Literary maven, has created Cultzine. I have warned Zaira, my connections in the self-publishing world are growing into a monstrous network. When I broadcast that she hopes to meet authors, and learn of their experiences...a flood will come. (I bet that in Portuguese, a maven would be...maven.)

Connected as we all are, some of us with addiction-like passion...we prowl in desperation for a new outlet. Imagine being showcased alongside every current event in entertainment the world over. Yes, people browse the Internet for books, but how many more browse for Music, Theater, Movies, etc.? Oh, yes.  Millions and millions more. A single click aside from those attractions on Cultzine... a button with our name upon it... Zaira's doorway to something grand for every name mentioned. The world will be at our feet.

Ok, that's hyperbole. But, it will be so cool! So cool! I'm about to say groovy. (for Brazilians living in England, who are younger than a few of my pairs of shoes...groovy means very, very nice.)

Tell us, in twenty words; who is Zaira Brilhante
Zaira is a Brazilian Journalist passionate about filmmaking that decided to move to London to direct films, is it 20?
Exactly 20. You've passed my test; you are a journalist.

With whom are you partnered, to create
My partner in Cultzine is my partner, full stop. My husband to be Olly Hunter, who is also a journalist.

Do you have links to any of your filmwork?
Yes I do, but they are all short films or extracts of short films. On my director's website, you can check the latest productions I worked on. Here is the link to her IMDb director's listing.

How long have you lived in London?
I've been in London for the past 3 years

Is the Literature category of your baby?
Cultzine is my baby. I love Literature and Cinema, so I think I can say they are both my favourite topics to write about.

I know you have been crushed under other work - when do you plan to begin publishing literary content to that section of the website?
As soon as possible. To be honest, we are running behind schedule, but this upcoming week we should have our first two Literature articles published.

Name some of your favourite authors.
I love most Brazilian classic authors, but Carlos Drummond de Andrade is by miles my favourite. I am also a big fan of Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa. I think to say Shakespeare it is a given, but I love him. Contemporary writers, I love Brazilian Luis Fernando Verissimo, but I read everything, really. And I admire a lot what J. K. Rowling did with Harry Potter, how she kept it fresh, differently from all these other "sagas" that I don't need to mention the names but most of them only money makers.   

Which do you prefer, a printed book or the new electronic formats?
Printed, always printed. I love to go to bed with a book, to sit comfortably on a sofa and feel the paper on my hands. Call me old fashioned, but I love to look at a bookshelf! The same with my cds and dvds... I  do understand electronic formats make it sometimes more accessible, but I still prefer the paper version.

What publications have featured your writings?
Wow, that's a tricky one. If you think as a Journalist, the list will be big... But recently, besides Cultzine, I write also for Jungle Drums Magazine and website. Recent articles here; here; here. 

Are you a story teller, or a journalist?
Mainly a Journalist, but if you think of filmmaking as story telling, then I would have to say both, as I do write scripts.

Have you traveled extensively? Ever been to America?
I've traveled a bit, but I wouldn't say as much as I'd like to. I've been to America, actually, I lived in a tiny village called Wilmington, in the South of Vermont for about six months and I had the opportunity to visit Boston, Albany and New York. In Europe, besides the UK I've been to the classic touristy spots, Paris, Rome... But I did go on two trips I loved, in one I crossed Norway from Oslo do Bergen on a train, stopping in small towns and villages on the way, and on the other I went from Dublin to Kilkee, in Ireland. 

What would you like to do with the Literature section of Cultzine?
The idea of CultzineWith the Literature section, in particular, we don't want to only review books, but to give authors an opportunity to talk to their readers through us.

Will you have weekly features, or monthly features?
It is more likely to be weekly. We started less than a month ago, but what we are aiming for is to have an article a day and a feature a week.

Can you outline your requirements for submissions to your website...
If it is about culture, if it fits in anyone of the tabs in our menu, then it is more than welcome. Of course, we don't want it to become a self-promoting thing and we will look carefully at the tone of any article we receive. But other than that, we are open to every suggestion and our team of editors, that is what we are working on at the moment to define, will make sure we keep up with the quality journalism standards we want.

What other website links can readers use to find you?
Well, I have my filmmaker's website: There is a blog on this website that I've been using recently as a portfolio tool, so everything I write that gets published on other vehicles is linked there.
I also found this cool site. 

Cultzine trumped quite a few other publications with the Oscar nominations this year. How were you able to pull that off? Is it a journalistic secret?
Haha, there is no secret, everybody knows today that with online journalism you need to be quick on the draw. I believe we were lucky to be able to watch it online (a few years ago that wouldn't have been possible) and, being an independent project, not to have the text passing through the hands of editors and IT teams before it could go online. But I didn't do it alone, Olly helped me. It was amazing teamwork. As I was putting together the article and doing all the blogging business, he was there telling everybody we had the information. 

Where in Brazil is home?
Rio de Janeiro, the most beautiful city in the world to me!

Have you danced in Carnival?
I have! And don't think because I am Brazilian this is a given, because it was completely random. But one Carnival I had a call from a friend that had a spare costume offering it to me and I thought "why not?" And there I was, hours after, dancing in the middle of the parade. But it was never something I would have planned, although I enjoy watching it, I usually see Carnival only as a long holiday to enjoy with a group of friends. 

What is your favourite music?
I like so many types of music, hard to pick one. But I can say my favourite group is Travis and that the album I can't stop listening at the moment is 21, by Adele.

As a film maker, where are the best films being produced now? Is Hollywood really out of ideas?
I don't think Hollywood is out of ideas. I think producers don't want to take risks anymore. It is all about going with the safe option, the money maker option. The same happens all over the place. It is hard to get studios or funding bodies to give a chance to first feature directors/producers. But there are many good films being made independently. I think the UK at the moment is a great place to be, I am still betting on it. But I recently watched a great independent American feature called Chronicles of a Love Unfound, by LA director Michael Eugene Peter, that proves there are lots of good ideas surrounding Hollywood, people just need to buy it.

What type of books do you read?
Everything, no prejudice. But nowadays I've been spending most of my time reading filmmaking books.

Are you completely immersed in as a business, or are you merely following your passions?
There is a business side to it, but we are at the moment seeing where we can get with it. Cultzine is a mirror of a previous successful experience I had with a very similar website in Brazil called Re-vista!, unfortunately when I left Brazil I had to leave it behind and the project died after a few months. But we managed to establish ourselves at that time as one of the first cultural online magazines in the country and after a while we moved to the events business as well, organising films screenings, exhibitions and promoting small concerts of independent bands that had featured in the magazine. I started Cultzine intending to follow Re-vista!'s steps. But I was naive enough not to think that today, more than ever before, when you're writing in English on the web, you can't think local. Although 63% of our readers today are from the UK, but there are still 37% percent, mainly from US and Brazil, that we cannot, by any chance, ignore.  

Thank you, so much Zaira, for taking this time with me today. I had warned you how many connections I have with outstanding authors. Are you prepared to be flung to the world of passionate writers?
I am!! Bring it on!!

Here are some peeks at the site; links galore...
Olly Hunter
Journalist with a passion for sports, film, music and to his fiance's dismay, Football Manager. Olly also writes @ and

Zaira Brilhante
Journalist, producer and director that moved to the UK in 2008. Loves films, theatre and music and web design. Zaira also writes @ Her filmmaker website is

Cultzine could brag of having the quickest fingers to the keys at the recent announcement of the Oscar nominees; they published the names with lightening speed, turning more than a few heads in doing it...

The site has a lean, savvy look to it; designed to be more click friendly than other entertainment sites. The lack of pure clutter is astonishing. 

Zaira will pilot the Literature segment, when she has built a bit of a foundation for it - chiefly, connections to authors who interest her, or who show some sparkle of their own which will attract others.

I look forward to seeing this effort take off, to see where Zaira will be led. The tides are swift and strong out here. We wish her all the best.

From her personal website...


  1. Another very interesting interview, Joel. I like the fact that Cultzine is opening its doors to authors, it sounds like a fascinating venture.

  2. Interesting...

    As far as stories and film:

    Francis Ford Coppola said that he'd much rather read short stories for film ideas than scripts...


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