Interviews » MOTELX 2017: Nine Directors, Five Questions

September 6, 2017 by Ellis Dixon

MOTELX 2017: Nine Directors, Five Questions

One of the MOTELX Festival‘s highlights is the Award for Best Portuguese Horror Short Film. We’ve had a bite-sized chat with the nine directors vying for the coveted prize to hear about what brand of terror they’re bringing, and how they brought it to the big screen.

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Hugo Malainho: Entelekheia

What inspired the idea for the film?
I wanted to make a movie about a psychopath from his perspective and not from the point of view of the victims.

How long did it take to conceptualize, shoot, edit, and finalize it?
It was a long process with many different phases and some interruptions (for professional reasons). It took more than two years to conclude the whole project.

If you could summarize your film in only five words, what would you say?
Suspense, Art, Social Criticism, and aesthetics.

What’s one thing you learned from the experience?
It’s impossible to choose only one thing but…above all, I learned that if you truly believe in an idea you can make it happen.

What attracted you to the horror genre?
I am a lover of the horror genre. I like to feel nailed to the chair and feel the adrenaline rush from a good suspense scene.

Diogo Lopes: #blessed

What inspired the idea for the film?
The inspiration came from watching people’s behavior on social networks. I created a satire around this world to see how apparently normal would react to being dragged into extreme and unusual situations.

How long did it take to conceptualize, shoot, edit, and finalize it?
It took about two months from the time I had the idea to the moment the movie was complete. I wrote the script in a short time and the shooting lasted only three days. The longest part turned out to be post-production.

If you could summarize your film in only five words, what would you say?
Stupid people to do bad things. Or bad people do stupid things. It works both ways. It’s six words, but I think it sums up the movie and the characters’ motivations pretty well.

What’s one thing you learned from the experience?
Make sure everyone involved with the project believes in it. This will automatically cause everyone’s level of commitment to increase, which makes up for half of the task.

What attracted you to the horror genre?
I’m not a fan of all genres of horror films but I have always had a fascination for psychological thrillers. The most interesting thing to me…is the construction of the characters and how their mental instability help shape the story.

João Silva Santos: Mãe Querida

What inspired the idea for the film?
As strange as it may seem…the idea came from the song “Mãe” by Xutos & Kicks. The 2004 live version on Youtube took control of my computer while I was writing the script. I’ve always wanted to do a rock opera style of Brian De Palma’s “Phantom of the Paradise”, and although “Mãe Querida” has evolved since that original idea, there are still elements and sequences that survived up to the final version.

How long did it take to conceptualize, shoot, edit, and finalize it?
I started writing the plot in July 2016 and pre-production began around October or November of the same year. Those months were very troublesome because only then we realized how ambitious the film was, so it took until January of 2017 to start looking for locations and finalizing our cast. We shot the movie in five days at the end of February, and the post-production period began a few weeks later. The film was finished during the first week of June, ready for MOTELX submission.

If you could summarize your film in only five words, what would you say?
Treat your mothers well. (Note: in Portuguese, you need five words to say this.)

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What’s one thing you learned from the experience?
I didn’t learn one, I learned three: pre-production, pre-production, pre-production. From the search for locations to the visual design of the short film, it’s never too late to spend more time planning for the film…think about how practical it is to film in a given place, how to develop a sequence created to live a soundtrack that doesn’t exist yet…I’ve learned to work with people I trust to make my ideas real.

What attracted you to the horror genre?
Above all, variety — to see blood and breasts in a crude exploitation on film, to sweat to screams and jump with fright…to drool at beauty…,to explore what moves us (and that kills us, probably simultaneously) as people. No other cinematic genre offers what terror gives us.

Hugo Passarinho & Henrique Costa: O Candeeiro

What inspired the idea for the film?
The honest answer is friendship. The original idea appeared from an afternoon of playing soccer in the street. [Henrique and I] were discussing…that would be awesome to make a 3D animated movie, which was not a mainstream technique yet, where the main character would be an immovable yet omnipresent object: A lamppost.

How long did it take to conceptualize, shoot, edit, and finalize it?
Twenty years should be time enough no? Back then we started fast, the first 3D drafts of the characters were miles away from the quality we were able to deliver in the final cut. The main idea took us around five minutes: a central silent character that would move the plot forward, a cop, and a dog…From there we started to develop the characters some more and in between, we pursued our careers, Henrique kept doing small films and teaching and I devoted some time to cyber art and then fully to design. Looking back, it was really bold to try to make such an enterprise between two people with the computer processing power from back then…We were both in love with cinema and animation in particular, so I’m glad we didn’t consider [the lack of technology] a barrier.
Three years ago we decided to bring the project back to life. We had more experience and enough free time to devote to finishing it. And here it is, 20 years later.

If you could summarize your film in only five words, what would you say?
A dog, cop, lamp post horror.

What’s one thing you learned from the experience?
In the immortal words of Gandalf the Grey, “A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to.” We can take a while to get there but that’s the exact time it takes to get there. Wait for our next project and you’ll see. Maybe in another 20 years.

What attracted you to the horror genre?
We could say magnets but it would be lying out loud, we aren’t all made of metal after all.

Gonçalo Almeida: Thursday Night

What inspired the idea for the film?
The music of Brian Eno, notably the album “Thursday Afternoon.”

How long did it take to conceptualize, shoot, edit, and finalize it?
I wrote the script in September 2016 and started filming at the end of October. The compilation of images, sound, and music was done in Portugal and in London between November 2016 and April 2017.

If you could summarize your film in only five words, what would you say?
I’m not very good with words, so I try to make movies with the least possible dialogue. That being said, here it goes: loneliness, emptiness, uncertainty, fear, unknown.

What’s one thing you learned from the experience?
I learned that making a movie can be fun, especially when you’re surrounded by people you love a lot.

What attracted you to the horror genre?
I’ve never asked myself this question. I have always been naturally attracted to films with atmospheres of mystery, since I think cinema is better served as an artistic medium. I think a film based on imagination and not on the reproduction of what is supposedly “real” allows for more experimentation. I feel more comfortable and enthusiastic working in this realm of the imagination.

Guilherme Daniel: Depois do Silêncio

What inspired the idea for the film?
There are several roots to the film, one being the desire to make a film inspired by painting.

How long did it take to conceptualize, shoot, edit, and finalize?
From the beginning of the whole process to the finished film, maybe about a year and a half.

If you could summarize your film in only five words, what would you say?
I can’t! I’m too attached to the film to reduce it to five words.

What’s one thing you learned from the experience?
One thing I already knew, but what really became clear to me when making a movie is that anyone who works with you has an influence on the end result. For me the best thing about cinema is that it is a collaborative art.

What attracted you to the horror genre?
It’s so much fun to shoot horror, especially when you have a taste for special effects.

Luís Campos: CARGA

What inspired the idea for the film?
I wanted to portray the lack of hope that prevails in the younger Portuguese generations, as if our country was doomed due to economic constraints. By crossing paths with the peculiar seaside landscape of the Cortegaça and Esmoriz regions, I started unveiling a fictional story that combines a few elements: cargo trains, fishermen, oppressed children, and a fantasy about movement and migration.

How long did it take to conceptualize, shoot, edit, and finalize it?
Due to the lack of resources as we produced the film on a shoestring budget, we shot in August 2016 and then the post-production happened between Portugal and The Netherlands (where I was living) until November 2016. Considering that I started developing the story and location scouting somewhere between 2014 and 2015, we can assume it took about two to three years for overall completion.

If you could summarize your film in only five words, what would you say?
(Harsh) Tale of Two Brothers.

What’s one thing you learned from the experience?
Since my previous short film was made eight years before “CARGA,” when I was still a student in film school, I have learned one thing for sure: I must not take that long to be back on set. I love filmmaking too much to survive another hiatus.

What attracted you to the horror genre?
I’m more attracted to slow burners, psychological thrillers, and most of my upcoming projects intend to work under that “Genre-film” scope. With CARGA I wanted to experiment some elements of film language such as the tone, the mood or the rhythm and I hope my future films can again explore some of those dominant layers. My ultimate goal is to provoke sensations to an audience through the combination of crafted storytelling and a detailed use of film language.

Guilherme Trindade: Revenge Porn

What inspired the idea for the film?
We had already explored the implications of digital in “Offline” (RTP, 2016) and “Unbox” (2nd place winner of YORN MOTELX Microshorts in 2016). The seed for the film was just the invasive idea of being caught up in pornography (a common fear, my friends say). Pornography creates a one-sided voyeur relationship, but what if, like the chasm, when we looked at pornography it looked back at us? The short film ends up following another path, but this was the original fear that inspired it.

How long did it take to conceptualize, shoot, edit, and finalize it?
The first draft of the script was written one day. There were three days of recording, plus some loose plans for the ending. The final assembly was what took the longest, in all it must have been a week, but with almost a month of procrastination in the middle.

If you could summarize your film in only five words, what would you say?
Always be nice to women.

What’s one thing you learned from the experience?
Only one? The best thing about making movies is to discover things to use in the next. But the most valuable lesson was that the workers of the world must unite, who have nothing to lose but their shackles. I also learned how to work with latex.

What attracted you to the horror genre?
One of the consequences of sharing a culture and a society is that we also have a lot of collective traumas. Terror allows us to explore our traumas mediated by metaphor. We can use extraterrestrials, zombies, demons, or ghosts to talk about the unknown. Consumerism, racism, sexually transmitted diseases, rape…terror is hidden in the banality of evil.

Ricardo Leite, A Instalação do Medo

What inspired the idea for the film?
The idea for the film came naturally from Rui Zink’s book. We were living a phase where fear entered the house, so I found it appropriate to take the book and transpose it for a short film.

How long did it take to conceptualize, shoot, edit, and finalize it?
It was quite a long process; it took about a year.

If you could summarize your film in only five words, what would you say?
A simple and terrifying story.

What’s one thing you learned from the experience?
It’s always difficult to highlight a particular element, I’m at a very early stage as a filmmaker and I feel like I have a lot to learn, but I have a positive feeling about this experience. What I like the most in the process of making movies is that the whole team involved is working towards a common goal: telling a story.

What attracted you to the horror genre?
I’ve always liked genre movies, not just horror in particular, but what really appeals to me is a good story regardless of style.

Share your thoughts!


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