Guillermo del Toro, filmmaker
Technological savvy will carry storytellers into the future.Guillermo del toro is an anomaly in today's Hollywood. Thanks to a combination of perseverance, talent and a little luck, the Mexico native has fashioned a career directing studio tentpole movies like 2004's "Hellboy" and independent Spanish-language dramas like 2001's "The Devil's Backbone" that feature fantastic twists. His latest feature, Picturehouse's planned December release "Pan's Labyrinth," falls squarely in the latter camp. The story of a girl who imagines herself away from post-civil war Spain to an alternate world of her creation, the film debuted at May's Festival de Cannes to considerable acclaim from critics and fans and is emerging as an Oscar contender in the foreign-language category. Sharing his perspective as a bilingual filmmaker who is equally comfortable working inside the parameters of the studio system and in the international indie arena, del Toro spoke recently with The Hollywood Reporter's Gina McIntyre about the industry's increasing globalization and how technology will influence storytelling.
The Hollywood Reporter: So many groundbreaking advances take place within the
special-effects realm each year. How do you see effects evolving within storytelling?
Guillermo del Toro: One of the things I've been impressed with lately is that there are great artists popping up in Eastern Europe, in India (and) in Russia that can do the effects work for less money but, more importantly, with a less-hindered structure. It's all about the human touch for me. I think that, technologically, there will be better writing of code, and there will be better physics programs or development of fur. But what I find more important is the fact that people with a lot of creativity are being born into this field -- you're seeing kids that are half the age of the people who started the business doing things that are twice as creative. I also like the fact that filmmakers who normally don't get involved in those aspects are getting involved with them as creative tools.
THR: Which filmmakers would you say are doing the most groundbreaking work?
Del Toro: (James) Cameron. Every time Cameron comes into the field, he pushes the envelope five or 10 years, and then we all ride on his shoulders. There are other great filmmakers who use it but very few who really push it (forward). Cameron is in the trenches, digging -- I look up to him.
THR: As a director who has made films for English- and Spanish-speaking audiences, would you say more opportunities now exist for foreign films to be seen in the U.S.?
Del Toro: There seems to be. I think that it is a strange time for the foreign-film market: Movies either come out and go away really fast -- and they go to crowd the aisles in the DVD section -- or they become huge, great hits that go beyond what normally would be the art house market. It's a very valuable time for cinema right now: You're having to deal with new forms of watching it -- what with iPods and (PlayStation Portables) and downloading and (YouTube.com) and so many (other) things that are impacting the way we deal with cinema -- some of which make it more disposable, strangely enough, but some of them that make it more personal. We are right now, I think, in midflux of a new way of watching cinema and a new way of telling stories. I believe that the medium will change more in the next 10 years than in the first 1,000.
THR: What specific changes do you foresee?
Del Toro: I think that it's going to become a single-platform entertainment system in the next 10 years, where every single form of storytelling is going to blend into one. I believe that it will be somewhere between a director having narrative control and the player being able to affect the outcome of the stories. I believe that it will be that and, on the other hand, very accessible, very complete in terms of audio and video platform at the home system.
THR: Do you have reservations about viewers gaining control of your narratives?
Del Toro: You will still have a lot of control, but the pattern of the story is going to need to be calculated in a lot more divergences. There will not be one single outcome; there will be several outcomes. There will be no single conundrum or conflict; there will be several -- but to master this narrative, it will require filmmakers to learn everything there is to learn from platforms like video games and television. I think that it's going to become a multidisciplinary narrative; it's a daunting but very interesting challenge. I can see not all the way to the horizon, but I can see at least where the next corner or two are going to turn. I think that any one of us that is interested in remaining somewhat relevant in the narrative of the future needs to learn those platforms.