1. Your short film The Teacher won the Official Selection. How was the film inspired?
First of all, I can say that my greatest inspiration, whenever I create something at an artistic level, comes from the impact of living life in the first person.Furthermore, and in the specific case of this film, ‘O Mestre’ (‘The Teacher’), it all started before I had a script structured in my head, I just knew that the characters I created (articulated dolls for stop-motion) had a Portuguese flavour about them and they would have to live adventures here, in my country, as I know it... At a certain time, it became pressing for me that they – the dolls - would live this other experience of parallel ‘life’, which is the cinematographic construction... So, I remembered this short story that I read, ‘O Mestre’, by Joaquim Bispo, which I considered was quite adequate for these characters of mine...Joaquim Bispo (I met him personally in a community of readers here in Loures) has very creative short stories, which I admire very much. I asked him for permission to adapt this short story for cinema and he accepted and for that I’m very grateful. In short, my articulated dolls and Joaquim Bispo's short story were the first great inspirations to make this film.
2. Tell us about your background and when did you decide to become a filmmaker?
high school, I enrolled in Fine Arts, first at the school in the city
of Porto and then I transferred to the school in Lisbon. The course I
concluded was called the Special Cycle of Plastic Arts. By
coincidence, my first academic year at the school in Porto - I was 20
years old - coincided with the year in which the April 25th
Revolution took place. These were inspiring times, of transformation,
expression and direct confrontation of political ideas in freedom, it
was the beginning of a democracy with a strong tendency towards
In the meantime, I began working as a teacher in official education, in courses always connected with art, which also fortunately forced me to evolve in this area.
In my spare time and in parallel with painting, drawing and mixed techniques that I have always liked, I also started to develop a great taste for photography. With my first salary as a teacher, I bought my first camera, a Práktica. Then I did some solo exhibitions and participated in some collective shows as well.
Since then, I have always been, in my spare time, in a mode of restless aesthetic, technical, artistic exploration: I had a phase in which I moulded clay, made small three-dimensional constructions and even handmade design objects.
I was in my early thirties when I had the opportunity to attend an Introduction to Animation Cinema Course at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, in Lisbon. As a result of having taken this course, I had the means to do a Masters in Animation Cinema in London (two years), at the Royal College of Arts. The artistic and cultural environment in London was (I suppose it must still be) very much alive, I noticed that there was a stimulating cultural production there and audiences for all this creation. These two years in London were a fantastic experience in my life. At the Royal College of Arts there was a big diversity of courses, from the various aspects of Design, Cinema, Fashion, Painting, everything! It was all there... and that was really inspiring for me! Students had complete creative freedom, of course, along with a culture of responsibility and autonomy! My interest in cinema, therefore, began with animation cinema. During that course, I started to become interested in live-action filming and I had all the support for this experience. I believe that a live-action film can have as much magic or more even than an animated film! One of the animated films I made during this course was called ‘Soul Gun’. As well as the animation, it used some live-action footage that I made in London with a group of friends.
When I returned to Portugal, I was aware that the type of cultural production that existed here was not entirely sustainable for artists, as it was in England. For this reason, I put my feet firmly on the ground and continued with my professional teaching career, which hurt my soul a little because I was in love with animation cinema, and cinema in general. Even so, I still tried to combine, with difficulty, some activity in this area and I made a video for the band GNR (for me one of the best Portuguese bands ever) and also made some animated films for the educational series ‘Sesame Street’ – Portuguese version. They were fantastic experiences, although very difficult to combine with teaching, everything became too exhausting, both physically and psychologically, so I had to stop.
About 10 years ago, more or less, I started to explore digital technologies, more focused on cinema and art, and I never stopped until this day. Then I started experimenting with the construction of articulated dolls for stop-motion - it was in this context that the main characters of ‘O Mestre’ (‘The Teacher’) were created.
The decision to be a film director did not happen overnight, it was a process, an evolution over time!
3. Films that inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Over time I have been adjusting my taste in relation to cinema based on my personal growth as well. I have always watched many films, both on television and in movie theatres. These are some of the films that I cannot forget, that I consider timeless:
‘The Wizard of Oz’, by Victor Fleming, 1939;
‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’, by Robert Wiene, 1920;
Films by Hitchcock. I’m more and more a fan of Hitchcock’s work, I admire him as well as a communicator and as a person. I like all of his films, but I’d point out ‘Rear Window’, made in 1954, the year I was born. Beautiful and unsettling;
A few years ago, I watched in Lisbon ‘The Last Family’, by Jan P. Matuszynski. It’s such a deep film. It makes one think and never let’s go!;
I watched Fellini again a while ago, ‘La Dolce Vita’, 1960. Fantastic;
I love Spielberg’s ‘E.T.’, from 1982. It made me dream with the cosmos, that unknown. It’s one of those films I can watch without ever getting tired of it;
I like all films by Chaplin that I’ve watched, but I’d point out ‘Modern Times’;
Concerning cinema made in Portugal, I’d highlight one of the last films I saw ‘The Domain’, by Tiago Guedes, 2019.
I was positively influenced by many animated films that I saw, whether European, American or Eastern. I would highlight British animation for its creativity, for its multiple artistic and aesthetic proposals. I really admire Susan Young's work.
4. Who is your biggest influence?
It’s hard to choose just one. There are many. I believe I’ve partly answered this question.
5. Do you have a favorite genre to work in? Why is it your favorite?
I’d like to make suspense and mystery movies in live-action. I’ve done a few on an experimental level.
6. What’s your all-time favorite movie and why?
Hitchcock's ‘Rear Window’. I think it's perfect. There is everything in there: personal dilemmas, mismatches and hesitation in love, domestic crime, falsehood, suspense, fear, courage, police plot. The set is fantastic, all the details count, all the ways of looking are significant, especially the indiscreet, the analytical - which are the most dangerous. In a corner of the world, in a corner of the city, near a window, there is so much to say about our lives and the lives of others out there, those we thought we knew!
16. Your next projects?
I would like to write the next original script for a short fiction film, which I would like to direct myself. I already have the ideas floating in my head.
7. If you could work with anyone in the world, who would that person be?
I can't identify anyone in particular - that would be too big a dream - but it could be someone for whom artistic freedom is as important as it is for me.
It would have to be someone who trusted me! Mutual trust is important in work.
8. The one person who has truly believed in you throughout your career.
I think there are some people who have believed in my work, but it is a little embarrassing to mention them, they can change their mind one day and then this subject gets embarrassing.
9. What was the most important lesson you had to learn as filmmaker?
The most important lesson I take from my career as a director is that you have to be very persistent, very hardworking and we must never give up on our dreams.
10. What keeps you motivated?
Being alive, life gives me inspiration every day. The people I care about also motivate me to continue.
11. How has your style evolved?
As I lived, absorbing inspiration, exploring the various means of artistic expression, studying cinema, my work has certainly evolved. Making a comparison with the initial phases, I feel that I now have more and better skills and ‘tools’ to materialize things in a way that satisfies me, the most eccentric ideas that I can have.
12. On set, the most important thing is…
When you are somewhere, making a film, the important thing is not to forget that this is the task to be carried out; it takes focus, rationality, knowing what you are doing, effectiveness, and communicating well with all the good communicators on the team, without them cinema is impossible.
13. The project(s) you’re most proud of…
I’m proud of the last three scripts I wrote:
The script of the film ‘Anjo Purificador’ (Feature film, adapted from another short story by Joaquim Bispo);
A script for a TV show called ‘Ação:Animar!’;
And another script for a short film called ‘A Horta’.
I haven't completed any of them yet, I'm waiting for answers regarding two of them. I’m hopeful. I really like all three of these projects.
14. The most challenging project you worked on. And why?
The videoclip I made for the band GNR, for the song ‘Impressões Digitais’!
15. What are your short term and long term career goals?
I would like to be able to make the live-action short film ‘A Horta’ and the television show ‘Ação, Animar!’ (I am waiting for answers regarding these two projects).Then I would like to make the feature film ‘Anjo Purificador’ - I have not yet acquired the funds to be able to make it. And then another film and another... I would like to have the possibility to keep making cinema!
Link vimeo on demand :https://vimeo.com/ondemand/theteacher2019?fbclid=IwAR0wa70oe0ovqKXg7A719DHU_us7pgInO4oPnJYe6vmYwwawYTN0AsTo9uQ
Anjo Purificador - @anjo.purificador.filme
INSTAGRAM: Maria Margarida M.T.Moreira
TWITTER: Margarida Moreira, @MariaMa64400853