Arriaga brings skill, experience to mentorships
In his Twitter profile, Mexico’s Guillermo Arriaga describes himself as a bow-hunter, writer and director — in that order.
“Hunting influences all my work,” he says. “In fact, I would describe myself as a hunter who writes.”
But Arriaga, best known for his trilogy of screenplays, “Amores perros,” “21 Grams” and “Babel,” which catapulted him and former directing partner Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu onto the international stage 12 years ago, is also a mentor: He has spent nearly 30 years teaching screenwriting at universities while continuing to write novels, direct documentories and produce radio and television shows.
“My parents always told me that teaching was a way to improve on the world we find,” Arriaga says. Heeding their advice, he launched screenwriting master classes in August last year, which have taken him to Mexico City, London, Santiago de Chile, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo. He will hold a master class in Los Angeles June 9-10 before heading off to Buenos Aires, New York, Bogota and Lima. Plans also include courses in India, where he is set to produce a film.
After a public break-up with Gonzalez Inarritu, Arriaga began directing his own films, with his feature debut, “The Burning Plain,” playing at the 2008 Venice Film Festival, where it earned mixed reviews. Arriaga is next helming a short for the omnibus “Words With Gods,” one of four pics, each made up of 10 shorts, that will comprise “The Heartbeat of the World.” The four films will incorporate the themes of religion, sex, politics and substance abuse.
Arriaga conceptualized the omnibus, and is co-producing with Alex Garcia and Lucas Akoskin. Prominent international helmers, led by Emir Kusturica, Hideo Nakata and Amos Gitai, have contributed shorts.
Arriaga is also producing a Venezuelan romantic drama, “The Last Gift,” the feature debut of Lorenzo Vigas, whose “Elephants Never Forget” was a Cannes 2004 Critics Week selection.
In his master class, Arriaga presents the array of creative writing problems he has faced in his past films, and how he resolved them. “I guess my advantage over other mentors is that I can present and analyze my own body of work,” he says.
One analysis remains constant, however.
“The characters in all my works behave like hunters,” he adds. “They are always stalking, waiting for the right moment.”