Brazilian screenwriter Manuela Dias, 37, makes her directorial debut with “Love Film Festival,” which she co-helmed with Juancho Cardona, Bruno Safadi and Vinicius Coimbra.
Dias penned and co-produced the romantic drama about a couple which carries on their long term love affair across various film fests. Pic was filmed over six years in four countries: Portugal, Colombia, Brazil and the U.S.
Dias’ writing credits include Coimbra’s “Matraga,” which won five awards at the 2011 Rio Film Festival, including best picture.
What motivated you and your directing partners to make this film? How did you split the work?
I was part of the jury at the Guadalajara Int’l Film Festival one year when I first had the idea for ”Love Film Festival” – about a young couple falling in love during a film festival and meeting up around the world over the years. It would allow me to join friends, watch films and travel around the world, which sounded perfect! So I wrote the script and started inviting people.
As a screenwriter in Brazil, you usually don’t have the final word in every artistic aspect of the film, especially the editing. I wanted to make a movie where I could make the final decisions, even as the writer. Since I had no directing experience, I invited Vinicius Coimbra to do the first encounter in Portugal with me, Bruno Safadi to do the second one in Rio, while Juancho Cardona did the third in Cartagena. I was on set all the time and they were very generous with me, helping to make the film I wanted. After six years, I felt I had learned enough to direct the last encounter by myself, so I directed the scenes in Chicago.
What was the budget?
We made the film for around $250,000 and we didn’t use a cent of tax fund money. Bear in mind there is a big difference between the money spent and the real budget, but because people believed in the project, they got involved despite the low funds. We were all partners somehow.
How would you describe your first directing experience?
I’m very familiar with life on a set. My mom is a producer and I used to be an actress from age seven to 19, when I finally wrote my first play and quit acting. So it was a very natural transition for me. Besides that, I was among friends. We were all moved by a great love for what we were doing so it was an amazing experience.
Do you prefer writing scripts?
If I had to choose, I would stick to writing. But I’m glad I don’t have to. Writing is a great plunge into the imagination, but directing, especially with a very low budget, is a delightful confrontation with reality.
But you know, maybe they are not that different. When writing, I have to visualize the scene, have the budget in mind, think about actors, times and the places where we’ll have to execute the scenes – and that’s directing in a way; what we write has to be achievable. On the other hand, when I was directing, I oftentimes had to rewrite the scenes and tap my imagination to transform reality into fiction again.
So, I believe that, at the end of the day, it’s all about exploiting our imagination to create stories that help us give meaning to life itself. Because of this creative urge, we’ll do anything: Write, direct, tell stories around the bonfire, sit at night around the TV or go to the theater. Imagination and reality are an indissoluble matter.
Would you direct again? If so, have you got other projects in development?
Sure! The same team from “Love Film Festival” is already engaged in two other projects. The first is about a young photographer who doesn’t believe that men went to the moon. The other one is a 4D audiovisual experience where the audience will go into the actual house where the story takes place while the actors will be projected onto screens.
What are you working on now? I see that you write telenovelas, too.
I’m always working on several fronts because each project has a peculiar timing and I’m a hyperactive person. So I’m working on a ten-episode series for Globo. For the stage, I’ve just finished writing “Berenice and Soriano,” a play for kids that is based on folk songs, and I’m about to begin another one. For the cinema, I’ve just finished a historical script titled “Malês,” to be directed by Antonio Pitanga, about the Muslim Africans who came as slaves to Brazil in the beginning of the nineteenth century, and a Macbeth adaptation to be directed by Vinicius Coimbra.