Since the world premiere of Beira-Mar at the Berlin Film Festival this year, one of the most frequent questions we hear in Q&A’s and interviews is about how we direct films together. Is it too complicated? Do we have differences of opinion or argue much? Although we share very similar tastes and references, and met each other at film school where we were studying to be directors, we both immediately felt a strong connection around one particular thing: we both started our careers as actors, and see acting as the key element to tell our stories.
Nine months before filming “Seashore”, we began to look for our two lead actors. It did not matter if they had acting experience or not. Our actors just had to look like they were eighteen, be from our region – southern Brazil, which has a very particular accent – and the most important thing: be willing to engage in a long process of rehearsals and immersion in their characters’ lives.
A few weeks later, we came across Mateus, a young aspiring actor, who did not have any formal training. His experience consisted of only two short films. We did not want to do auditions (any actor who has been through an audition probably hates this method of selection), so we sent him the script and invited him for a coffee. Mateus showed great desire to act, to be able to express himself through other lives. But we were aware that it was a type of film that requires a lot of emotional risk taking, which can sometimes be difficult for a young actor. When asked if he would feel comfortable about kissing another boy, he replied “Never did, will be a challenge. But acting is always a challenge, right?” And then he left behind these issues and wanted to know more about rehearsals, film references and other things.
Finding Tomaz was more difficult. Now that we had one actor, the other needed not only to fit as the character, but also be a counterpoint to Mateus. The characters have been friends since childhood, and we had to believe it when we see them together. A friend sent us a facebook profile of an 18 year-old boy, who had captivating eyes and a shy smile. Another coffee. And Mauricio told us he had never acted, but had always wanted to. He said he saw a lot of himself in the character of Tomaz, and wanted to express those feelings. We always try to be honest and direct with our actors, so it was important to ask him up front: the film will have nude and sex scenes, will he be ok with this? He answered shyly: “I’m ok with that. I’m only afraid of my mother seeing it, as I just told her I’m gay a few weeks ago. I don’t know if she’s already ready for it.” We explained: “The film will be released in two years, at least.” He laughed: “Oh, then it’s fine.”
Technique is something very important for an actor, of course. But for our process, most of all, they needed to be willing to expose themselves emotionally in front of the camera. And to ask them that, we both had to create a nurturing and intimate environment for everyone. The four of us started to meet two to three times a week. We discussed our lives and feelings. We talked openly about adolescence, sexuality, the most intimate experiences we had each had. We were all very young (Filipe was 23 and Marcio 27). It was form of group therapy, really. We started to read the script together. Rehearse the first scenes. We took the boys to the beach where we would shoot, and spent a weekend there. We watched a lot of films, always discussing the actor’s role within each work. More rehearsals. When they were comfortable with their characters, we started bringing the other actors into the process.
After seven months of rehearsals, we started shooting. We shot the script in chronological order. We wanted them to live the same journey of the characters. During the four weeks of filming, Mateus and Mauricio slept in the same rooms their characters slept in. The boys lived in the same house we shot in, watching television in the same room, cooking in the same kitchen. They lived the lives of their characters. In the most difficult scenes, we asked most of the crew to step away, leaving the least people as possible around the camera so they wouldn’t feel intimidated. After each take, we would go to their side and talk quietly so that no one else would listen and they would feel comfortable. And after each successful take, we ran and hugged them.
We remember that at the premiere of the film in Berlin, Mateus said that many times he has memories of something that happened to him – a joke, a party or a conversation – and after a moment he realized it was actually part of the film process or a scene. Their journeys have merged and we believe that that is imprinted on the screen.
Three years after filming “Seashore” we have just finished shooting a series for television called “O Ninho” (The Nest), which also addresses LGBT and youth issues, and also mixes actors and non-actors, mostly between 16 to 23 years-old. We are now working on our second feature film project, called “GarotoNeon” (NeonBoy) which was awarded at the 2014 Hubert Bals Fund for script and project development. With a slightly older cast than “Seashore”, in “NeonBoy” sexuality will become the main subject of the story, and the focus remains on the acting. As young filmmakers, we have no certainties of many things – and we intend to continue to have more doubts and questions than answers. We choose the stay on an open field rather than defining a precise path to follow. What we know is that for both of us, if we were to summarize making films in an image , it would be the eye look of one character towards another.
Oh, back to the coffees we took with the boys at the beginning of the process. Although we liked the two, they needed to work together as a pair. They would share the experience on screen, and the film would be on the tuning between the two. After the individual conversations, we decided to take Mateus to Mauricio’s house, and put them side by side in front of the camera. When we were about to take a picture, one of them said something silly and the other laughed. And that is the first record we have of the “Seashore” process. And at that moment, seeing that picture, we were sure Martin and Tomaz had been born.
“Seashore” debuts tomorrow on DVD via Wolfe Video and many major retailers, and across all digital platforms including iTunes, Vimeo On Demand, and WolfeOnDemand.com.