OSCAR QUALIFYING THE LONE WOLF: Director Spotlight on Filipe Melo

Can you tell us where the inspiration came from for the storyline of your short film, Lone Wolf?

I listen to a lot of late-night radio, and the idea came to me while listening to a specific program on local Portuguese radio. Also, I really wanted to write a film that I could shoot with one actor, one location and one shot. A kind of variation of dogma 95. 

Alongside your career as a filmmaker, you’re also an established jazz musician and a successful writer of graphic novels – how do these three varied career paths sit comfortably alongside each other?

Although the creative process is very similar in all three, it’s a constant juggle, and I feel I don’t spend enough time to really become good at any of them. But I keep trying, and I guess I’m happy combining the three and trying to improve.

Can you tell us something about your creative process when working on a film? 

At least for me, it’s always a vague idea that sparks and serves as a motor to the work itself. It’s always a mysterious process, I always feel it’s the first time. I really enjoy the writing – always a scary process – but the feeling of having a finished script that you’re proud of really makes everything worthwhile.

And, when making a film, do you utilise and incorporate you experience both as a jazz musician and a graphic novelist? 

I believe all three are connected, the steps to make things happen in all three is very similar. Especially in Comics / Graphic Novels, it’s a very similar process. I write books as film scripts – I started a career in comics because I wanted to write for film and it was tough to get things produced in Portugal. 

I hope to try and avoid giving away any spoilers, but a twist in Lone Wolf’s narrative is about sexual abuse. What are the challenges and responsibilities that a filmmaker faces when incorporating such sensitive/provocative storylines in a work of fiction?

It’s definitely challenging, it’s a delicate subject, so I really had to do some research, and it was very tough for me – it’s been very good to have some feedback about people who actually were victims, and it’s the scariest thing in the world for me because these predators are so real, they’re the person next door. I was also interested in having a dubious main character, a person that you can’t read – I had people in Q&A’s arguing if he is guilty or not.

Lone Wolf won a “Best Short Film: Live Action” Sophia Award (the Portuguese Academy). A previous short film of yours, Sleepwalk also won the same award. But whereas Sleepwalk had a US setting and dialogue, Lone Wolf has a Portuguese setting and language – was it a conscious decision to make this most recent short in your native language? And furthermore, would you say that the film and television industry is evolving in such a way that mainstream audiences, particularly audiences from the US and UK, are not so fazed by watching subtitled content? 

I am such a fan of American films of the seventies. From the aesthetics to the storylines, I think it was one of the most creative periods of all time. So I’m guessing my first short was a tribute to those films, at least visually. And the story I wrote could only take place in the US – it has a lot of American iconographies. I love the US, I lived there for 4 years to study jazz and I fell in love with the country. 

This new one, “The Lone Wolf”, actually gave me the chance to work with a lot of Portuguese actors I admired, and of course, it all feels more natural to me because it’s closer to my own reality, the dialogue is actually made with real transcriptions of real callers that I recorded. 

I think people who really love cinema don’t mind subtitled content – I am absolutely against actor/dialogue overdubbing. I like to hear the sound of languages, and the sound of accents and I think subtitles are the best to overcome the idiom barrier. 

Lone Wolf has now won an Oscar-qualifying award. What are the blessings and the challenges of having a film that’s a potential Oscar contender?

It’s absolutely insane. It really is. Every year since I can remember I have a tradition to stay up all night to watch the ceremony – and you dream about one day being there in person. It’s surreal to even think it could be a reality.


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