The Argentine director discusses his upcoming film, ‘The Mystery of Happiness,’ co-producing with Brazil, the impact of TV and how he’d like his films to be viewed
Writer-director-producer Daniel Burman is more than a triple threat, he’s a pioneer. His and partner Diego Dubcovsky’s production company BD Cine’s investment in second-screen technology as well as its commitment to Latin American content production is broadening the horizons of the Argentine film market. A year after BD Cine and Brazil-based Total Filmes joined forces to co-produce movies and TV shows, Burman is putting the final touches to their first collaboration, the romantic comedy “The Mystery of Happiness.”
Tell us about your romantic comedy “The Mystery of Happiness.”
“The Mystery of Happiness” is a film about love, but it goes beyond it. It pushes boundaries and it explores the idea of loyalty and estrangement. Santiago and Eugenio are more than friends: They are lifelong business partners. They understand each other without words, they care for each other, they need each other. One day Eugenio disappears without leaving any clues behind. … Santiago and Eugenio’s wife, Laura, begin a journey to find him and end up discovering that they prefer to stay together in this quest rather than finding out what has happened to him.
What was your experience working with Total Filmes on your/BD Cine’s first co-production project?
It was a great experience. We have complementary styles. We come from markets that belong to completely different realities, which allows for an exchange of experiences that’s very profitable for both sides. Without a doubt, today Brazil is a natural ally for Argentina in film production.
What do you think is the role of the second-screen in the film-viewing experience?
This year our production company took a big step by joining I Am At, the first Argentinean company to develop second-screen platforms. As producers from BD Cine, we cannot remain oblivious to the change in the matrix of content production. We believe that the development of new technologies driving the convergence of the different ways of telling stories, and expressing ideas and emotions has tremendous potential. It is a huge challenge, which we want to be part of, to incorporate the changes in the habits that the viewer currently shows to language and storytelling.
Elsewhere, film is yielding to TV. Do you find that to be the case in Argentina?
That phenomenon hasn’t arrived in Argentina yet, and I think it has to do with the size of the market. Our local market is very limited and that doesn’t allow for the kind of investment in TV production other countries make. In fact, free-to-air TV audiences have dropped dramatically compared to last year. At the same time, part of that share is naturally migrating towards the social networks, the Internet, etc. Therefore, the equation is increasingly difficult for fiction production, unless we think up projects with a regional perspective. It’s a shame because I think TV is an extraordinary arena for training and experimentation for directors. Nevertheless, the state has fostered the independent production of fiction series and documentaries, creating a new production segment that didn’t used to exist. But on private TV, there isn’t much room for film directors and, in fact, many of my colleagues and I work on TV projects for other countries in the region because television is a TV we look at with fond eyes, even if we’re not part of it. Personally, I’m working on several projects for regional TV, conceived in a TV format from the start. This is a new phenomenon for me because up until recently, any story that would come to my mind, I would picture on the big screen and in one venue: the movie theatre.
How has the film market evolved there over the years?
As directors, we need to dominate our egos and accept the fact that we no longer decide how our movies are to be watched. We only decide what they tell. The multiplicity of windows creates a more dynamic and, to a certain extent, more democratic market, since in the absence of a unique outlet for our movies, we have options in terms of screening and that dissolves the power of the market players. However, when we dream our stories, we don’t need to be aware of that reality. On the contrary, as I write, I’d rather keep thinking the following hypothesis: My movie will be shown in a big movie theater downtown, with a full house, with the exception of two empty seats, which will be taken at the last minute by a couple who arrives late because they couldn’t find a parking space. The room goes dark and all those strangers join in the same wish: for the beam of light that lights up the screen to bring some joy, peace or some form of happiness to their lives, even if only for a little while. Yes, as I write and shoot, I prefer to imagine that rather than a teenage girl watching my movie on her smartphone while she takes a pee in an airport bathroom.