by Luke Hickman
Guillermo Del Toro has made a name for himself. Now, he's not only making huge movies of his own, but helping other filmmakers rise to higher levels. His latest production 'Mama' is boosting the careers of two other up-and-coming Spanish filmmakers break into the international market. Their little $15 million film grossed $138.6 million at the worldwide box office and will be available on Blu-ray on May 7, 2013.
'Mama' introduces us to the Spanish filmmaking siblings Andres and Barbara Muschietti. The idea for 'Mama' came from a chilling three-minute short film that Andres and Barbara made in 2008. Del Toro hopped aboard to produce their feature length version of the short, which was released in January 2013. After watching the short, which is available as a special feature on the Blu-ray, it's no wonder a feature was to follow.
Andres and Barbara Muschietti are two humble, personable, and very likeable filmmakers, hopefully their personalities and charisma translate in the following interview transcript.
Andres Muschietti: Hello, Luke!
Barbara Muschietti: Hi, Luke!
HDD – Luke Hickman: Hi, guys! How are you?
Andres Muschietti: Doing well.
Barbara Muschietti: Very good.
HDD: Being international filmmakers, I have to ask – where are you right now?
Barbara Muschietti: We are in our house in Barcelona ... and it's raining outside.
Andres Muschietti: It's not a great day. Being the beginning of spring, it sucks.
HDD: It's the same here. I live just outside Salt Lake City. It rained this morning and we even had a snow storm last week.
Andres Muschietti: During spring?!
HDD: Oh, yeah. That's why I feel your pain!
Andres Muschietti: Enjoy! (laughs)
Barbara Muschietti: (laughs)
HDD: (laughs) Well, thank you for taking time out of your evening to talk with me.
Barbara Muschietti: It's our pleasure.
HDD: We only have 10 minutes so let's dive into this. First off, I love that the original short film is included on the Blu-ray because it's fantastic. I hadn't seen it prior to watching the feature film, so it was a real treat. How did the short come about?
Andres Muschietti: It actually wasn't through the usual way. Instead of writing a story, it came up in a morning vision. I was just thinking in bed and this image came in my head. The whole sequence came in. I sort of sat on it because these sorts of things you don't give much focus to, but I thought, 'Maybe I could make this into a beautiful and horrifying short film.' I tried to make it make sense and to rationalize it – create the story behind it – but this was not the case. I thought, 'Why not make it without [a backstory]?' And it works! There's a shock behind the images of the film that I think makes it enigmatic. People want to know what the story is, so there's an important hook there. … There's the build up of the tension, the atmosphere. And that's how we came to it. I told my sister, 'I have this idea' – because we have have a production company here. We have been doing commercials for more than 10 years. We are shooting all the time and during one day of a shoot, when the shooting was done, I realized that - we were in this house on the outskirts of Barcelona – I realized that it was the house from the dream.
Andres Muschietti: Yeah! It was the exact house – it had the hallways, the spiraling staircase, the connection to the kitchen. It was exactly what my vision was. I said to my sister, "We have to do it." So she talked to the owner and the owner said, "Okay, but you have to shoot this fast. We're tearing the house down in two weeks." And we made it!
HDD: That's awesome. So let me make sure I have this right – when you made the short film, you didn't have a backstory to it at all?
Andres Muschietti: No, we didn't. It was enigmatic. That was the value of the movie. Watching it with an audience and hearing, "What the fuck was that? Why are they being chased by their mom? Why is their mom a ghost or a monster?" - some people think it's a zombie – but she's definitely not.
HDD: Was it difficult expanding this three-minute short into a feature length film?
Andres Muschietti: Well, it's complicated and complex, but I wouldn't say "difficult." There's a lot of work that we put into it, especially when they are a few parties involved. In this case, Guillermo [Del Toro] was involved and there was a studio, so the most complex thing of it all was making consensus with all of the parts. But finding the story wasn't difficult at all. As I was trying to come up with story of the feature film, I came across this video about a cheetah eating a monkey, a baboon. The monkey gives birth to a baby as she's being killed and so the cheetah starts to take care of the baby [cheetah]. That's a crazy story of nature, but it's true. It happened and it's a reflection of how things work in nature. I thought that was an amazing idea to carry on into a story, so I thought, 'That's what 'Mama' is about' – it's about two little girls who think that the monster is their mom and that's why she's there when they are abandoned. The idea of imprinting, which is the reverse of that, like when a baby looks up and the first thing that she sees she becomes attached to it.
HDD: That's crazy!
Andres Muschietti: I'm sorry. I'm extending too much!
HDD: No – it's great. I love hearing about it. So, how did Guillermo Del Toro become involved? Was he the one that provoked the feature?
Barbara Muschietti: The first person that really inspired us and encouraged us to go on for a feature is another director and friend Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. He basically told us, "You guys have to write a feature about this. Drop whatever you're doing and go for it." So, then we basically started shopping the project around. We had phone calls with quite a few people – with Sam Raimi's production house, with the Weinsteins, with Lorenzo di Bonaventura – but when we heard that Guillermo had seen the short, we knew that it was a match. The next day, he called us and said, "I'm going to help you make this movie. It doesn't matter if we make in English or Spanish or Chinese – I'm going to help you make this movie." And that's what he did!
HDD: Where did the decision come from for making the film in English?
Andres Muschietti: It was a hot week.
Barbara Muschietti: (laughs)
Andres Muschietti: Of course, I was concerned with jumping to a Formula 1 just like that, from a short film to a high budget – which wasn't really a high budget, but for us, we don't get to shoot with that kind of money and in English with Hollywood actors. It was tough, a challenge that we had to face. For a moment, we were thinking, 'Let's do it here in Spain. Let's make it small.' but Guillermo told us, "You're going to do this movie in Spanish in Spain and it's going to be a success and the Americans are going to do it as a remake."
Barbara Muschietti: With a much bigger budget!
Andres Muschietti: At that time, it didn't seem like something bad for me, but from a financial point-of-view, of course, the producers of a remake would make hundred of thousands [of dollars] more than us.
HDD: (laughs) Alright, I've only got time for one more question. Do you two see yourselves continuing as a sibling duo for the rest of your careers?
Andres Muschietti: Yeah yeah yeah. We are a duo. Barbie is the producer, I am the director and we intend to keep it that way for at least 20 movies.
Barbara Muschietti: (laughs)
Andres Muschietti: We'll see what happens after that.