Guillermo del Toro is an Academy Award-nominated Mexican filmmaker, producer, and author. Del Toro's first experience as an executive producer was in 1986 at the age of 21. Before that he spent nearly 10 years as a make-up designer, and formed his own company, Necropia, in the early 80s. He also co-founded the Guadalajara-based Mexican film festival. Later on in his directing career, he formed his own production company, the Tequila Gang.
Del Toro has directed a wide variety of films, from comic book adaptations “Hellboy” and “Blade II,” to historical fantasy and horror films, two of which are set in Spain during or in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War under the Fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco. These two films, “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth,” are among his most critically acclaimed works. Del Toro was nominated for best screenplay for “Pan's Labyrinth,” and the movie was nominated for five more Oscars.
Del Toro is also the co-author of vampire fiction trilogy "The Strain." "The Fall," book two of the trilogy, was published in 2010 by William Morris.
Question: What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?
Guillermo del Toro: You know, when anyone approaches me and says "I want to be a director," I always tell them, then you should be a director and don’t say, "I'm going to be…" because you can direct good or bad but you can direct from your iPhone, from your cell phone with your sister's cousin's video camera with a web cam. Right now, except in the most abject circumstances, most people can get a hold of an image audio/visual generating machine and they can be directing and then realize that they are already directing.
Directing doesn’t mean any more and shouldn’t mean any more directing feature films. I think... as I said, with series like "Breaking Bad" I was not only amazed at the way it was written, but the way it was staged on camera. It was a really well-directed series. And video games also can do that. And I think that as long as you have minimal access to any media you should be a director if you feel like you want to.
And the advice I feel is that, it’s always better to answer through your work the things you don’t like in a media, in a piece of media. If you dislike the movies that are being made, make your own. Show the world what you want to do, what you think this medium should be. And I find that much more creative than simply putting it down and complaining about it. It is a more active, fascinating role to take.
So the advice is that if you want to direct, direct. And even easier: if you want to write, write. You now, I think that writing is the only... one of the only things that can be done with very little resources and even if you die and you were unpublished, you still have a chance. You know, it’s truly... you cannot do that with directing. You need other people, you need a little bit of help, you need at least an actor in front of the camera, you know. But I think these are what I say is go and do it. And you know, when they say, "I would like you to do this for me"—and I produce a lot of first-time filmmakers, but I don’t produce all the first-time filmmakers that approach me—and I say, “Look, if I say, no, and you give up, I’m sorry to tell you, but it’s the wrong job for you.” Because you live with rejection for decades sometimes as a director and you end up making the movie you want to make. So, if I say no, that doesn’t mean that I’m right or I’m wrong, you just say, "Fuck him, I’ll show him later. I’m gonna make it and that fat bastard is gonna have to say I was so wrong and hit himself in the head because he didn’t do it." And I think that’s the thing to do is like, show us. Don’t tell us. You know? Do the things. And if you do them wrong, what you do on your own terms, that’s how I define success; failing on your own terms.
Recorded on September 22, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller