Guillermo del Toro’s Lessons During his Master Classes at the 15th FICMBy: Gabriela Martínez @GabbMartivel
Mexican director Guillermo del Toro offered two master classes – one right after the other due to public enthusiasm – at the Teatro Ocampo, moderated by the editor of Sight and Sound, Nick James, and with the presence of Daniela Michel, general director of the Morelia International Film Festival (FICM).
The director of The Shape of Water gave some recommendations to all the young people who attended his master class and who are looking to become filmmakers.
Influences and originality
Guillermo del Toro affirmed that he does not watch films by obligation, referring to the films that people consider necessary to understand the history of the cinema. “The influences with this film are completely different influences than you would believe (…) As a Mexican, I have Ismael Rodríguez and Pedro Infante melodramas in my blood. Two of my favorite movies from when I was a kid are No desearás a la mujer de tu hijo and La oveja negra.” “Love for the monster comes from Mexican cinema (…) The communion between the daily and the fantastic, completely natural and not perverse, is Mexican. We live in a country where the sublime and the terrible happen from one second to the next. ”
In addition, he said that silent film was very important in the making of The Shape of Water, particularly for Sally Hawkins, whose character in the film is mute.
On the other hand, the filmmaker said that the only originality that can exist in art is the synthesis. “All that we want to say, in one way or another, has already been said. What gives an artist his own voice is the synthesis of those elements into something different, something that has a timbre like the voice and can become distinctive.” In this way, “influences can only be used once they have been processed through your own experience. Any culture unprocessed by our experience is useless knowledge. ”
The director took the opportunity to thank the presence of Alejandro Pelayo, director of the Cineteca National, and recognized the work he has done to rescue Mexican cinema.
“Perfection is the worst thing that can happen to you in both art and life”
According to del Toro, a filmmaker must have “the fragility of a poet and the resistance of a fighter” because it is a constant work race and the results are not immediate. The only thing young people need to hear from someone experienced is opportunity to do what they like.
An important part it is to learn how to debug ideas by always answering what, how, when and where of everything that will be shown in the film, “the more you practice, the more you learn to listen to the movie,” he added.
Del Toro said the project of The Shape of Water began six years ago, but he doesn’t conceive of filming it two years ago. “The voracity of cinema is so great to an intimate level that it steals your life and is a very poor substitute if you do not learn from these films, the good and the bad (…) I have learned a little bit from all of them.” He added that the idea for this film came from the reformulation of his childhood, “it’s a fairy tale for difficult times.”
He recommended that young filmmakers know their own biography and identify the side that is scariest to them. “Talk about things that hurt you, that make you feel ashamed, troubled, whatever; because that’s your voice. The things you can see as defects are your virtues. Virtue is a potent defect (…) Look very well, because youth disguises the virtues of defects. ”
“The primary duty is to know the history of this medium (cinema) and to know the language (…) The image is adjective and verb, the verb is the action, it is what happens; the adjective is how you rate it with your lens, your production design, your wardrobe, your performance, the rhythm and flow of the film.”
How to work with actors?
The filmmaker said that the first thing he does is a biography of each character with tastes, hobbies, how they perceive themselves and how they are perceived by the world, everything from birth to the beginning of the film. Each actor decides what information to take or discard from those biographies. The next step is the table work, where you do a reading, scene by scene, with the actors to talk about everyone’s relevance. This, according to del Toro, makes it is easier to give indications to actors through verbs and specific actions. One more recommendation was to take acting classes.
Watch the full master class by director Guillermo del Toro at FICM.