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Interview: Guilherme Pedra, from São Paulo to New York with Love for Cinema

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Guilherme Pedra was born in São Paulo, Brazil. He moved to New York in 2016 as a transfer student to finish his studies in Film and TV at NYU Tisch, where he mostly focused on directing. Guilherme Pedra has always been passionate about Art & Creativity and considered expressing himself a primordial need, regardless of the medium (whether it’s film, photography, painting, drawing or writing). Guilherme graduated in the Spring of 2019 with Summa Cum Laude Honors and have directed a few short films in the past few years.

indieactivity : How would you describe your work as a director?
Guilherme Pedra As a director, I’m often attracted to people who have deeply emotional lives, so my work usually features introspective and delicate characters. What I create tends to be very poetic and personal, not in a strictly autobiographical sense, but my own feelings and how I sense the world usually are my starting point.

indieactivity : How did you get into directing?
Guilherme Pedra That’s a good question. To be honest, I’ve always been reluctant to pursue directing (or filmmaking, in the first place) and even to call myself a director. Despite having a deep love for cinema, I was never really a hundred percent sure of what I wanted to do in College. But deep down I knew I had a calling towards the Arts and I slowly realized I felt somewhat comfortable creating short films. I think it was only in a performance strategies class at NYU that I realized how much I liked the process of working with actors and how exciting it can be, which for me, is one of the most important aspects of directing. Chitra Neogy, Professor at NYU, was also important in this regard, especially her class “Film as a Transformative Medium”, which helped me better understand myself and my relationship to cinema.

indieactivity : How do you choose a project to direct?
Guilherme Pedra I usually start by feeling out the story of a particular script and how strongly it hits me. Most of the time, I have to find a piece of myself in it and care for it. But sometimes just good writing does it.

indieactivity : Do you often take courses to increase your craft?
Guilherme Pedra I was trained at NYU, but I took an acting class outside of it last year with the Grace Kiley acting ensemble (she was also one of my directing professors at NYU). I wanted to learn more about acting since it’s such an immense part of filmmaking—and to me, one the most vital ones. It’s good to understand from an actor’s perspective what you need from a director.

Related Story: Case Study – The Making of Elsewhere (A Flor Azul) by Guilherme Pedra

indieactivity : What books do you read?
Guilherme Pedra I usually read a lot of poetry, but books related to filmmaking that have helped and inspired me include: “In the Blink of an Eye” (Walter Murch), “Producer to Producer” (Maureen A. Ryan), “Sculpting in Time” (Andrei Tarkovsky), “A Challenge for the Actor” (Uta Hagen).

indieactivity : Why would you choose an actor, writer or producer? What do you look for?
Guilherme Pedra I usually want to be around people who are nice, respectful, committed, caring and passionate. Yes, skill and talent are important, but if the actor/writer/producer isn’t open to collaboration and doesn’t care as much as you do, first and foremost, then the creative process will not be very fruitful.

indieactivity : Briefly explain your latest work?
Guilherme Pedra The last short film I wrote and directed was “I am Love”, which is currently in post-production. The film follows the journey of Arthur, a lonely musician struggling to compose an orchestral piece, as he falls in love with two people at the same time. It inhabits the same universe as “Elsewhere (A Flor Azul)”, and it was also photographed by the amazing Xuezi Zhang.

indieactivity : Explain key challenges on your last film?
Guilherme Pedra Shooting “I am Love” was very challenging in many ways, mainly because it was my biggest project to date. It was such a personal story that almost everything became a burden, but I had wonderful people (cast and crew) who worked really hard to make it all happen. We had around a month to really put all the pieces together in pre-production, which was a considerable small amount of time. Originally, we had three shooting dates, but had to add a fourth one, which made production expenses get much higher.

During the actual shoot, we also had a few scheduling problems, but the AD, the producer and I would get together at the end of each shooting day, talk about the following one and come-up with strategies to make it flow better. Another challenging aspect of this production is that we had to create rain for a very important scene and our budget was limited. Thinking about cheap and creative ways to do achieve it, the logistics of it and also how to minimize the cold the actors would feel (they got completely wet out in the street, in mid-November) was also somewhat stressful, but we tried to do as few takes as possible and managed

Guilherme Pedra_indieactivity
Guilherme Pedra on the set of “I am Love” Directing Actors

indieactivity : What ‘thing/situation’ helps you during a production?
Guilherme Pedra Having a good crew—not only in terms of professionalism and skill set, but also, again, in terms of how passionate, caring and willing-to-do-anything-to-solve-the-problems-that-might-arise they are—is essential. Having a good producer/line producer and good food (and coffee!) on set definitely helps a lot.

indieactivity : How can filmmakers finance their projects?
Guilherme Pedra There are a few ways to do that, such as self-financing, applying the projects for grants, finding potential investors and doing crowdfunding (like I did for both of my films).

indieactivity : What do you want from an actor during a production?
Guilherme Pedra I want the actor to be relaxed so they are on top of their game to deliver the best performance possible. They should also be open, never shut off, willing to try different things and have trust in the process and collaboration.

indieactivity : How do you prefer to work with a producer during a production?
Guilherme Pedra I like to have a close and trusting relationship with my producer, who should be open to changes and available (which I should be too).

I am Love_indieactivity

indieactivity : Who is your favorite director?
Guilherme Pedra That’s a hard one to answer, because I always have a hard time picking favorites. I’d say that one of the directors whose work has impacted me most profoundly is without a doubt Krzysztof Kieślowski.

indieactivity : Why?
Guilherme Pedra Kieślowski’s films are haunting, beautiful, profound and always so poetic, human and revealing. I’m always in awe and inspired by how he crafts emotion and understands so deeply the inner life of his characters.

indieactivity : Why?
Guilherme Pedra Kieślowski’s films are haunting, beautiful, profound and always so poetic, human and revealing. I’m always in awe and inspired by how he crafts emotion and understands so deeply the inner life of his characters.


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