On The Set Of Mama, First-Time Director Andy Muschietti Taps Into Childhood Fears
You did this amazing short film, and a lot of filmmakers go out and make a short film, they use it as a calling card, and they don't have any kind of plan for what they want to do with the story. How much did you know story wise what you wanted to do with a feature film, before or during when you were doing the short film.
Andy: Actually it was a different story. We were writing a different screenplay, and "Mama" the short was sort of a style exercise, to support the project. It was a ghost story, also a horror supernatural thriller, but the story was not "Mama." We did this as a support piece and it finally became a short film somehow, when we put the credits on and sent it to festivals. We started to raise interest, and a lot of people were asking what was the story behind it. It's a big question mark. People usually were asking how was it possible that those little girls are that thing's daughters. So that motivated us for writing the story. Usually they were more interested in seeing what happened to the girls--
Barbara: Than in reading our screenplay.
Andy: Which wasn't bad at all.
How difficult was it to break this story? Because that original short is such a mood piece and such a great story, how hard was it to find the story that you wanted to go with?
Andy: It happened in one day. It wasn't difficult. The outline of the story just happens. It was like a spark, you find the idea and say "Ah." How do we turn this question mark into an interesting, long story? I think it can happen in an afternoon.
Barbara: We were in Madrid.
Andy: It wasn't really hard. It was harder to develop. Because of course, in the short film, it has this impact because it's so short. It's not surrounded by anything. There is a big deal of intrigue. In the movie you need to explain a lot of things and make a set-up and transit like common places, in order to tell a story with characters and drama. So I guess there's a big deal of pressure that you have to let go when you make a feature film. One of the goals is to maintain the impact of the short. The idea is to make that scene as impacting as it is in the movie, and of course change it, for all the people who saw the short film, when they saw the movie it would be disappointing to see the same scene. So there's a couple of twists in this version.
Barbara: For writing the feature-length, it was our friend Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, he said-- he was the guy that did the first part, he said "You have to do this into a feature length. This is ridiculous, you have to do it into a feature length." So we sat down, we said "Let's try it. If it doesn't work for us, we'll let it go, but let's give it a try." So we did, and we wrote a treatment in 10 days, because our agent was already showing people the short. And people were seeing the short, and the response we were getting was more toward the more graphic horror. We wanted to write a treatment to access interest from people like Guillermo that would embrace something different to a classic genre movie. We wanted to do something a little more complex with special characters. So we wrote the treatment really quickly, and after that Guillermo got in touch with us and that was it.
Guillermo told us that he has a meeting with you every morning and every afternoon. Can you tell us a little about those meetings and your relationship with him on this film?
Andy: It's great because Guillermo is a big reference, and the good thing about him is he's very demanding. He doesn't have any problem to say "this is wrong," or "I would have gone another way." He's very honest with that. He's very generous when it comes to advice. And he surprised also-- he told us he learns a lot from his proteges to say something. So it's a kind of a feedback. It's great to have him every day, and having his feedback. And sometimes along the way you can get lost with the confusion of what you're doing. It's a good thing having a response from a guy like him.
How long have you two been working creatively together?
Barbara: It's been working together for 10 years, and writing together for about 8. But we've always been siblings.
Andy: We lived for 10 years in different countries-- she started in L.A., and I was in Buenos Aires. And I moved to Spain while she was in London, and then together in Barcelona, where we started a company. And it was like that for 10 years.
At what point diid you feel ready to make a movie, or do you feel ready to make a movie?
Andy: I'm not ready yet. [Laughs] I guess it's something that just happens, and you're asking yourself. I guess I was more ready to make a film 10 years ago, when I thought it was easier. And now that I'm doing it I'm encountering all the little surprises and obstacles along the run. But I guess you never know when you are ready.
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