1. How did you come up with the story for the short film Milk?
A few years ago, I was visiting my parents in Brazil during the Christmas holidays. At the time, I had several siblings that couldn't be there with us.
One evening late at night, I went down to the kitchen for a glass of water. I thought I was alone, but it turned out my mother was there too, sitting in the dark and whispering into a telephone. The sight spooked me and helped trigger the idea. My mother was feeling melancholic that the other children couldn't be with her for the holidays; we all grew up and moved out.
These two factors - led me to Milk.
2. How long did it take to film Milk?
It was a two day 'Night shoot' over the course of one weekend. We also had an extra day of ‘prep’ at the location the night before.
3. What was the most difficult thing about writing the short film Milk?
If I had to pin-point an element, it would be the ending. I wanted to reveal the 'creature' and linger with it; not cut away the instant we saw it. I wanted to stay with the 'monster' and feel uncomfortable in its presence. Writing this sequence was particularly hard considering it goes against proven convention - "don't show the monster". I spend a lot of time reworking the end and it was the most difficult to write.
4. Congrats on winning Midnight Shorts Grand Jury Award for Milk, could you describe how you felt when you won this award?
It was a fantastic experience. SXSW is an amazing festival. I almost missed the opportunity to attend but thankfully I went and had to privilege of having the film recognized by the jury. I also got to see many other great short films at the festival, which was very inspiring.
5. What was your very first short film? What were the challenges you face and how did you overcome them?
This is a great question and hard to answer. I used to make short films with my brothers when I was younger. I think our very first short was an attempt at making a stop animation film with a VHS camcorder. We spent hours recording and pausing the tape; frame by frame. What is hilarious now but horrifying at the time, was that the camera required a second or two to start rolling. Which resulted in having much of what we shot – never being recorded. Essentially, we would press record and stop too quickly; the camera never at a chance to film anything.
I still remember rewinding the tape and hoping to see the fruits of our labor only to realize – we had nothing. I laugh thinking about it now, but we were quite disappointed.
Next time around we learned to respect the limits of our equipment.
6. What’s your favorite childhood memory about developing your craft?
My favorite childhood memory is my first time behind the camera as a director. It was a time when I decided to do everything on my own. Put a team together and shoot to my vision without limits. Really diving deep and learning as a go. It was a form a self-education that was wondrous. Everything felt new and fresh. Everything from simple camera moves to acting directions – felt like a discovery. I’ve been pursuing that feeling since.
7. How did you get involved in special effects?
The most basic explanation is that I wanted to be able create anything I envisioned visually without compromise. If I had an idea, I did not want to feel limited to my means. Visual effects were an outlet for creativity and problem solving.
I was also just fascinated by the craft itself. Like drawing or painting – visual effect incorporates a high degree of creativity and ingenuity.
At first, it started small with simple effects and slowly grew along with my filmmaking. Over time, it developed into a profession to make ends meet while I worked on my directing (which takes longer to establish).
8. What’s your favorite line from your favorite movie?
I have two.
“The way of the future.” – The Aviator.
“I have to return some videotapes.” – American Psycho.
9. What do you wish you had known when you were starting your career?
10. From Ohm, Maria Augusta, Cadavre Exquis 2010, Glide, Glimpscapes, Intruders, Voyagers, De Facto by K-72, and Milk, which one, so far, holds a special place in your heart and why?
Intruders holds a special place in my heart because it was a film that came out of a deep desire to make something for myself. I was hungry to direct a short after two years of working in VFX. I wanted to do something simple and within my means. Thankfully, I managed to get the right people around me and pushed forward even at my own expense. It was film that surprisingly took a long time to edit and to do ‘post’. But once done, I was genially proud that I made something unique. Also, it was the first film that revealed that my work had an audience.
11. Were there anytime during short film Milk you experience time schedule or project plan issues by unforeseen circumstances? If so, how did you overcome it?
Yes, we got delayed twice because we could not lock our location. It was extremely difficult to find the right house we needed for the film. This made it painful when it came to coordinate our team schedule. But I am thankful we took the time before settling.
12. Who do you admire the most in the movie industry?
The people and the diversity of the profession. I met so many great people working in film, I can genially say, many individuals that I admire and learned to respect.
As for the diversity of the profession – I could be one week in Lebanon filming a religious ceremony up in the mountains and the following week filming a monster film with two talented actors. The range of what is possible in the industry is both exhilarating and daunting. It is an easy profession to admire.
13. What is your favorite thing about directing?
Hard to say one thing but I do love the design element to directing. By design I mean the overall approach and principle given to a film by the director. Like an architect you can put together many detailed elements and then must execute them. I love preparing for a shoot and then going into production ready to adapted and make changes.
14. Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?
I like to draw and play piano. Sadly, a bit less and less over the years but it certainly an outlet that can be meditative and fun.
15. What would you like to do, in filmmaking, that you haven’t yet done?
A ‘period’ film.
16. Do you like attending screenings of your own work?
When the film is finished, I do like attending screenings of my work. I observe reactions to my material and compare it to my expectations; usually I am surprised by people’s reactions.
When it comes to screening a work-in-progress, that is a lot more difficult. People are naturally more adversarial and not everyone can provide constructive criticism. Additionally, it is hard to accept criticism – period; I’m still learning this.
17. What kind of routines do you tend to have writing or filmmaking? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I review my notes before arriving on set. That includes script, mood board, storyboard, etc. I like to refresh my mind with my planned goal; have it as a foundation to orient yourself – because things change and will change.
As for other routines – it is hard to say – I could spend hours responding to this point.
18. What was the last great film you saw? What was the last great book you read?
This is a very hard question. There are many great films but here are two that comes to mind.
I was a big fan of Michael Kohlaas (2013) by Arnaud des Pallières.
And more recently, Burning (2018) by Lee Chang-dong.
As for book, The Killer of Little Shepherds by Douglas Starr is absolutely amazing.
19. What are you currently working on?
I am very fortunate to say – I am currently working on the feature adaptation of my short film Milk.
I am also finalizing another short film I shot earlier this year and hope to release at the beginning of next year.
20. Congrats on James Wan producing the full-length film of Milk, have you met with James Wan yet? If so, how was the experience?
The whole experience has been thrilling and on-going. It's all extremely encouraging as an emerging filmmaker, it is hard to describe.
21. What are your thoughts on Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski writing the screenplay of Milk?
I could not have asked for a better or more talented writing team. I am really excited to be working with them. I am also a big fan of their film "Super Dark Times" directed by Kevin Phillips.
22. Last question, what is your favorite dessert and why?
Alfajores! Because they are dulce de leche filled greatness! Also, my go-to when visiting family in Argentina.