Frosty here. As most of you know, Collider is partner’s with the Brazilian website Omelete. That’s why you see their logo in all our videos. Anyway, sometimes we get exclusives and they run them…and sometimes they get exclusives and we run it. Like tonight. As you’ll read below, Érico and Marcelo interviewed director Fernando Meirelles for his new movie “Blindness” and the English translation of the interview is below. Hope you like it…
Érico: I’m Érico Borgo.
Fernando Meirelles: And I’m Fernando Meirelles.
Marcelo: With us, we have a very special guest, indeed someone we have great admiration for. Because we loved the film ‘City of
Érico: It’s an honor for us and a good way of showing, that Omelete TV is here. We are always looking at alternatives for the show, one of which is to have a talk show… and what better way to start than with Fernando Meirelles.
Marcelo: Here’s something interesting to start with (talking to Érico). You did an interview a few months ago with Dustin Hoffman.
Érico: I interviewed Dustin Hoffman two months ago and all he could talk about was ‘City of
Meirelles: For me at least. Although I have made international movies, ‘City’ is going to be the ghost that haunts me from the grave.
Érico: Not only in terms of business, I think. Forlani was living in
Meirelles: ‘City of
Érico: I reckon that helped opening many doors for you?
Meirelles: It’s interesting because the film has got a lot of plaudits outside of
Marcelo: I think that happened because of the language barrier. Still it’s a non-English production with subtitles. Here in
Meirelles: When you say the film was a hit outside of
Érico: Still the film might have helped to open doors in terms of projects being offered.
Meirelles: Yes, it did.
Érico: How do you choose a project?
Meirelles: I’ve had many projects, but coincidentally these I did were books I read and took an interest in the subject. The ‘Constant Gardener’ came first as a script then I read the book and became interested. But I still haven’t done a movie where the script is ready, so I just have to go and film it. Scripts, I get loads. So I am always trying to develop something. ‘Blindness’ and ‘The Constant Gardener’ were projects that caught my attention. I read the book and that was it. I don’t have enough experience to have developed a standard way of doing things. When you make nine, ten films, then a pattern develops. I don’t have one yet.
Marcelo: You follow your instinct, your feelings…
Meirelles: ‘City of
Érico: So you do these projects for one, two years…
Meirelles. Two years to the point that you cannot stand it any longer than you let it go, then I have to change the subject.
Érico: Someone told me you don’t watch your own movies. Is that true?
Meirelles: I don’t watch them. I only watch up until the point I have to. ‘Blindness’, for instance, I just came from Toronto some days ago where it was presented at the festival and I think that’s the last time I will watch that movie in my life. It was a great screening, great sound, the audience was amazing. There’s no reason for me to watch it again. I don’t know, maybe I will in 30 years when somebody presents an exhibition of my work.
Marcelo: How do you work with test screenings, those sessions where studios try to check how the audience feel about the movie? Do you use them to fine-tune the film?
Meirelles: I like screen tests a lot. In these screenings you get the audience in a theatre, show the film, then they answer a questionnaire. Then most people go home, leaving only a few to answer simple yes or no questions like those a game show host would ask. That’s something most of my contemporaries are really afraid of. But the studios use it quite often because depending on the result, the film can be re-edited to try to follow those opinions. Using it like this is not really a good thing to do. The times I used it in the last three movies was to help me understand if the ideas I wanted to show were really there. So before the test you can ask questions such as ‘did this character grab your attention?’, ‘did you understand why he got the key from there to bring it here?’, very specific things or general interest , such as when you felt tired of the story, at which point you got hooked… then you read the answers. When you are editing the movie, alone, for months, it comes to a point that something you thought would have great impact on the screen doesn’t have the same effect because you’re tired. Your mind has gone elsewhere. So it’s cool to present the movie to a fresh audience and check what works and what doesn’t. It’s expensive though, but it’s a great tool and I use it as much as I can.
Érico: In ‘Blindness’, you experienced that on the screen test. The audience was divided about the violence in the film. It seems the audience thought it was too violent, but the critics said it was not violent enough.
Meirelles: Actually there was no big disagreement. I showed the sixth or seventh version of the movie in
Marcelo: I read in an interview that you were talked about the difficulty of turning the book into a film script. The characters don’t have names, their past is not told or defined, the story just starts there. Did you choose an all-star cast exactly to create an empathy with the audience or did it just happen?
Meirelles: I think it helps. Actually, those are actors that I admire. I invited them and one by one, they accepted, so I thought let’s go! But you have a point because the story starts in a cold way, so when you recognize the actor, even not knowing the character, at least you have some reference, something you can hook onto. So that helps. Thinking about that, the film starts with the Japanese actor. The first ten minutes of the film you don’t have any big stars. Later I kept thinking if I should have chosen a star to do the first character that became blind. Instead of casting Yusuke Iseya, maybe I should have gone for Gael Garcia Bernal. Maybe then the audience would have been pulled into the movie earlier, but these things you only learn with time, after the movie is ready. It’s amazing when you finish the film and watch it, you think “Now I got the film, now I can start from the scratch again” but it’s too late.
Marcelo: Does your training as an architect help you in any way to make movies?
Meirelles: I never worked as an architect, but I reckon I think like an architect. Architecture has things in common with direction, yes, because the architect is someone who doesn’t know how to do plans for plumbing, electricity, foundations, structure… he calls everybody in. He’s the guy with the vision, but he needs all the other professionals to make it work. And the director is something like that, he doesn’t do the cinematography, doesn’t edit, doesn’t do the sound or write the score, doesn’t act, but he’s the guy who gets everybody involved and gives them a path to follow. You have to learn how to integrate people into the project and get the best from them.
Érico: I think there’s already been a seminal moment in your career that shows the difference between making movies outside
Meirelles: I think today they would go for a 3-D chicken. That would cost about $ 800,000 if you could find someone to do it cheaper.
Marcelo: How much did you spend on the broomstick?
Meirelles: Oh, the broomstick costs about three dollars at today’s prices – about a thousandth of the cost.
Érico: What’s it like when you go to
Meirelles: I’ve never worked in
Marcelo: You got some money from
Meirelles: If I am not mistaken, ‘Blindness’ benefited from $ 1.2 million from tax incentives offered to Fiat, department store C&A, money from the Brazilian development bank BNDES and the city of Paulinia but that’s only 7% of the total spent in the movie. I kept wondering if it was worth getting more money from
Érico: Isn’t the only way to be more democratic is to show your film to the masses on TV?
Meirelles: My production company has got a deal with Globo TV to produce TV shows. This is the seventh year. We did four seasons of ‘City of
Érico: Is your next project also related to Shakespeare?
Mirelles: Actually, I got involved with this Brazilian series because of a previous idea, a script that Jorge Furtado was writing for me, based on his own book. It’s the story of students trying to enact a Shakespeare play. But I haven’t even touched this film yet, it’s just what I would call pre-script. And I told Jorge that I would put it on the back burner for a while because I’ve decided to take some holidays from November to February. It’s been a long time since I managed to have some time off.
Marcelo: We were talking to some people from one of the major studios the other day about a poll done with a young audience in
Marcelo: There’s a young audience that wants to go to the movies to send text messages, talk on the phone, chat with friends, then annoying people like me come in and tell them to shut up so I can watch the film. As a filmmaker, how do you see this new generation?
Meirelles: For me I think it’s going to be a problem because of my way of making films that are not exactly orientated for the masses, for certain audiences. The box office for films like that is getting smaller all around the world because of internet. They have a different relationship with films. I don’t think art-house movies are going to disappear, but I think it’s facing a crisis. It’s interesting to know you call them ‘films for multi-taskers’. I think Nigerian cinema has something to do with it. Nigeria is the biggest film producer nowadays, making more movies that even in