“CARMO, HIT THE ROAD” writer-director, Murilo Pasta
[PREMIERE SCREENING: Friday, Jan. 16, 12:00 pm — Screening Room, Sundance Resort]
My story was shaped by the only force affecting cinema today that really counts: the financing aspect.
I’m a Third World filmmaker with no private income, no friends in high places and no godfathers in the filmmaking world.
The three notions that have guided me in this five-year journey, from Carmo’s conception through to being selected for Sundance, are: strategy, strategy and strategy.
What choice did I have?
So before I could even consider desired visual approach, casting possibilities, prospective budgeting levels, etc., I decided that my debut feature film would be a road movie.
Cos’ you can hardly go wrong with the genre.
If you pick the right location and a handful of interesting characters you’re halfway there.
Even though I was born and grew up in Brazil I had never been to the landscape that I chose to portray in Carmo. The region, Mato Grosso do Sul, is a state the size of California, located some 1,000 miles away from the big centers, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
As I spent 18 years of my life abroad, the first draft screenplay, written in 2003 while living and working in the UK, was thus entirely written with the help of a handful of travel guides.
So, there you go: Number one, I chose the genre; Number two, I picked the location.
But I still needed a story.
I duly found one in a Brazilian newspaper article.
It was the real story of a Brazilian country girl who goes to the big city in the hope of conquering the world only to end up working as an au pair for an upper-middle-class São Paulo family.
She returns to her hometown for a weekend… It’s Saturday night and she’s at a beer house with her girlfriends telling tall tales about her amazing life in the metropolis. She gets drunk. A playboy farmer chats her up. She goes to the beer house’s car park with him. They grope and snog in his SUV. A bandito on the run turns up wielding a gun, kidnaps the pair, drops the playboy by the roadside and continues in his vehicle with her. What follows is a tropical variation of Bonnie and Clyde with a lot more humor and a lot less violence. Bingo! I had my story.
I’m oversimplifying things but it was indeed more or less like that.
I wrote a story set on the Paraguay/Brazil/Bolivia border without having ever been there, surrounded by piles of travel guides on the kitchen table of my Liverpool flat whilst directing a British soap opera set in Lancashire. Exciting stuff.
I spent the next three-and-half years being a whore in every possible sense. Cap in hand, I managed to raise some $2 million dollars. But boy, did I compromise.
To begin with I changed the male protagonist — the bandito. He was originally Brazilian. We got some cash from Argentina and he instantly became Argentinean. We suddenly lost the cash from Argentina and got some from Spain instead. He swiftly became a Spaniard.
Among numerous other things, I had to accept an actor to play one of the main supporting roles who wasn’t my choice at all. He’s pals with one of the major investors in Carmo and he’s a big Brazilian soap opera star. He was rather gently pushed down my throat. In the original script his character was menacing, brooding, sinister. The guy is not an immensely accomplished actor, so I had to completely adapt both the character and the screenplay to accommodate him. A truly dark character turned into a comic one — the only route to make the actor possibly interesting.
Also two of the three lead investors would typically cough up in short and intermittent bursts, which meant we ran out of cash several times during pre, production and post. Carmo only has a proper ending sequence thanks to my credit card. We finished the movie with me putting all the production expenses on my card during the last week of the shoot. My Spanish partners paid me back later but at the time I didn’t have a clue whether I was going to see that money ever again. And so on and so forth. But I’m not complaining. How could I? Carmo somehow works. I’ve been picked for Sundance. Life is wonderful.
Sod them all.
My next film will be a romantic comedy in English, Head Over Heels, and I may end up being even more of a whore. With dignity. Cos that’s the only thing that really matters in this business. All the other discussions — well honestly, they’re academic. Little counts other than whether you’ll be able to raise the cash to make your movie and whether you’ll manage to keep your integrity and composure no matter how much compromising will be involved.