Brazilian-born and Los Angeles-based Director, Miguel Muller kindly took the time recently to interview with me. Miguel and I met about a year and a half ago as he was in post-production with his current horror film The Before Time. I was eager to interview Miguel, not just because he is a heck of a nice guy (he is), but also because I was really captivated with his story about a gold legend and the Portuguese colonizers in Brazil, of which The Before Time is loosely based off of. Miguel, who loves being behind the camera, is also a writer and producer and co-owner of Supernova Films.
When did you first realize you wanted to be in the film business? What inspired you?
I have liked movies since a very young age. I remember watching “Who framed Roger Rabbit” when I was 7 years old, and “Back to the Future 2” not long after that and being amazed as a kid of the experience in going to a movie theater to see a film. It wasn’t until later when I was in college that I considered it to do it professionally. When I was around 17 years old I got into college and enrolled in the Communications program as my major, because I liked to write. I was planning to work as a writer in a newspaper or something like that. But then I took a couple television classes, and fell in love with the medium. It was when I started shooting small documentaries and experimental short films. One thing let to another and a couple years later I considered to be more serious about filmmaking as a profession. I worked in different production companies when I lived in Brazil to gain some experience and at the same time I was discovering different genres and periods in the film history. It was around that time that Brazil had what we called “Retomada”, it was when films started to be made after more than a decade gap without productions. Films like “Central Station” and “City of God” came out in that period, and many others. So that was really inspiring. I remember watching a lot of European films, Brazilian films and American films from different periods of time and genres, so that was my film school.
Can you share with me what you love about directing? What are some of your favorite experiences so far?
Directing is where I feel most comfortable at, it’s where things make sense to me. I like the whole process of making a film, from scratching the initial idea on a piece of paper and developing the script to directing actors on set. All the pre
production planning and the shooting of the film, to the finishing of it in post production. And that’s the job of the director, to make the creative decisions of the whole process in the making of a motion picture, from the start to the end. So far I have directed here in Los Angeles a gothic short film called “Yolanda”, where I spent almost one year working on it because it was a period piece and had a lot of visual effects, It was a great learning experience. Last year I directed my first feature film as a director, “The Before Time”, a horror/mystery thriller set in the desert. I loved the experience of directing a full length film for the first time, it was like I was preparing myself for 10 years to get to that moment. Another great moment, on our previous film, we shot for a couple days in the Bronson caves in the Griffith Park, where the 60’s batman tv series was shot, so that was pretty cool since I watched it on tv when I was a kid. It was kind of surreal.
Can you tell me about any challenges you’ve had on set?
Making a film is always a challenge, not only through the logistics standpoint but also the complexity that a production can bring, with the number of people involved in it. The challenge is always to have a crew and cast who are out there together with one goal: to make a great film, that makes things much easier. On “The Before Time”, eighty percent of the story takes place in the desert, so it was a rough environment but everything worked out fine.
Tell me more about The Before Time and how it came to be. Share with me about the legend.
The Before Time is a found footage horror/mystery thriller, and it is about two rival television crews that head into the desert to shoot a reality show based on a buried Navajo treasure, they end up discovering that truth is not only stranger than fiction; it’s more dangerous. Something wants to prevent them from digging deeper and from escaping
the desert alive.
The shooting for “The Before Time” was fun. We shot in great locations across the Mojave desert. Peter Paul Basler, who produced the film read an article on the Los Angeles Times about a town located in the middle of the Mojave desert called Trona, where had just been used as a location for a low budget horror film. We went there and the town had that feeling of “The Hills Have eyes” to it, it used to be a mining town back in the day. Close to it, there’s the Trona pinnacles, where big productions were shot, like Tim Burton’s “Planet of the Apes” and “Startrek V: the final frontier”, among others. We thought that both the town and the pinnacles had a great look to it and we could use it for the story, so we decided to shoot the majority of the film there on location. I wrote the story along with a friend of mine Rodrigo Goulart, a couple years ago. At the time, the story was called “The Gold Legend”. After writing the story, we gave it to a great writer called Scott Bunt. He took it and inserted some new ideas and it became “The
Before time” after one year of development. The writing process was interesting, Scott would send us the pages and we would give suggestions back and forth. The legend that is portrayed in the film is actually from the South American natives and the Portuguese colonizers in Brazil (where I am from), and we adapted here to the Spanish colonization in the west. Since it’s a legend, it’s hard to know what is true and what is fiction. To know more about the legend I would encourage the readers to watch the film, wouldn’t want to spoil it for them.
It’s been great working with Native American actors. We had a Navajo translator, Glen Talley (Red Spirit), who also plays a medicine man in the film. We also had a native American consultant, Alan Tafoya, who helped us with the costumes and other production matters.
What other projects have you worked on?
Besides the films that I have directed, I Executive produced a creature feature called THE VORTEX.
What can we anticipate from you in the future?
At the moment I am developing my next feature film that I will be directing in the next year. Peter Paul Basler and I have the banner Supernova Films, which we have different projects lined up.