Making movies is eating a sandwich of. And the only thing that gets a little better is as the years go by you get a little more brave. But is always there.
It was very well meaning. Why don’t you take out the violence so you can reach a wider audience? I said ’cause I don’t want a wider audience. I want the audience for the movie.
I come from a country where you didn’t make money because you made movies, you lost money as you made movies.
And I was trembling and I was really moved because a, I was happy the movie was being recognized and b, I was not going to jail.
Evan: He’s a Mexican film director, screenwriter, producer and novelist.
He’s had a lifelong fascination with monsters which he considers to be creatures of great power.
His work can be characterized as a strong connection between fairy tales and horror.
He’s Guillermo Del Toro and here is my take on his top ten rules for success.
Rule number one is my personal favorite and make sure to stick around all the way to end for some special bonus clips. Also as he talking if he says something that really resonates with you, please leave it in the comments below and put quotes around it so other people can be inspired as well. Enjoy.
Rule #1: Love What You Do
It started in the crib, I was a baby and from the crib all the way to age 11 more or less, I had what is called lucid dreaming which means you dream that you are awake.
Girl in the Movie: Hola?
So I literally saw monsters. I was used to monsters, I love them but you know at the very early age I made a deal with them to allow me to go to the bathroom because I was so afraid I ended up peeing my crib. And you know, we stayed friends.
You know there are only two things you can do in art or in narrative in storytelling, you can tell about the good stuff in life which has always been very boring to me and you can tell stories about the dark side of life which has been much more attractive to me.
When I talk to pre-first time filmmakers or first time filmmakers, I always tell them look, making movies is eating a sandwich of. And the only thing that gets a little better is as the years go by you get a little more brave. But the is always there.
Interviewer: But isn’t that true of life also?
I think it is, I use another metaphor for life. But for film, I tell you that one fits.
Interviewer: And in the end somehow you find joy.
Well you end up convincing yourself it’s peanut butter.
Interviewer: And is it ever peanut butter?
I want to believe it is.
Interviewer: But do you look back and go yes I did that-
I tell you without a doubt, we may say this way, it’s the greatest, being an artist in whatever discipline, dance, painting, theater, whatever you want.
It’s the greatest work on earth. I mean, it’s truly disheartening in this way or that way but so is every job. So is every job. When I was younger I worked with my father on real estate for five years, I was the worst car salesman in the history of car salesmanship-
Interviewer: You were too honest?
Yeah, people would come and say what about this? I was , you know Glengarry Glen Ross, I would not get the knife set, I would be the Shelley Levene.
I would be out, out. It was terrible, my father said you are terrible. The other vendors whenever I went out the other salesman, whenever I went out to client, they actually laughed behind my back, actually physically were laughing behind my back and I was the worst.
But in real estate I was good. I was good on real estate. And my father used to say, you have to do this to show that you can have an honest living, do an honest living, and what I did is work on real estate in the mornings and I did monsters in the afternoon.
But I know that when you have a real job, I painted highways one summer in Wichita, Kansas, I mean a real job has equal heartbreak and stuff like that and all the things.
Interviewer: I think it’s one of the things people really misunderstand is as glorious it is to do the things you’re passionate about and to be an artist, it’s still a job.
Oh it’s still a job.
Interviewer: It’s still work.
Yeah, yeah, it is but God bless anyone that can do this is beautiful and you have to truly be grateful. And the only way to remain objective about how grateful you need to be is present your present to your past self when you’re 20 years old.
And if you go and talk to yourself at 20 years old and said would you like to be doing this movie, with this budget, what do you think your response at this training would be, absolutely yes, you know?
Rule #2: Define Success For You
I think that financial success is not success. You know to me when people say, for example, I showed Pan’s Labyrinth and somebody said, why don’t you take out the violence and it was very well meaning, why don’t you take out the violence so you can reach a wider audience?
Because I don’t want a wider audience, I want the audience for the movie. Each movie has an audience that’s it. It’s not going to get more or less. If you with it, if you amputate it, if you cripple it. That’s all do. You know people dream of a bigger audience and I go, but is it the movie?
“Financial success is not success.” – Guillermo del Toro
If in order to make more people happy the Cinderella doesn’t get the prince at the end, I don’t know, it’s not the same tale. As much as I like the Disney films of the renaissance of animation, I can’t, every time I see the Little Mermaid I think but she dies in the book.
She dies at the end, that’s what made it beautiful. That prince was ultimately so stupid and I understand they are reaching a wider audience but is it the tale Hans Christian Andersen wrote, no way, it’s a different movie, it’s a different tale.
So if you’re asking me was Little Mermaid successful as a film, I say it was but it wasn’t the tale. It’s a great, I love those films, I really think they’re beautifully constructed but it’s not the tale. So Pan’s Labyrnith without the violence is not Pan’s Labyrinth. It is I don’t know, it’s a fantasy like Harry Potter or Naria or any other fantasy film.
Rule #3: Prove Them Wrong
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 first time filmmakers that approach me, I say look if I say no and you give up, I’m sorry to tell you, it’s the wrong job for you.
“Show us, don’t tell us, do the thing. And if you do them wrong, what you do on your on terms, that’s how I define success, failing in your own terms.” – Guillermo del Toro
‘Cause 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 I’m right or I’m wrong, you just say him I’ll show him later, I’m going to make it and that fat bastard is going to have 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.
Show us, don’t tell us, do the thing. And if you do them wrong, what you do on your on terms, that’s how I define success, failing in your own terms.
Rule #4: Don’t Chase Money
I come from a country where you didn’t make money because you made movies, you lost money as you made movies.
And all of my life, when I approach a new product and I’m 50 years old and I don’t know how many has producer, director, and I still have the same emotion when I go into a project, I go how much am I willing to lose to do that image.
And there’s always one or two images in every project that you would mortgage your house, sell your car, give everything you have to make sure that image comes to safe-
Interviewer: Yeah I’ve heard you talk about Pacific Rim, it was the girl with the red shoes.
Interviewer: You like had to make that movie just to see that.
It doesn’t matter what you go through. Doesn’t matter if they give you x amount of time, you need to always protect the images that are crucial.
Rule #5: Be Passionate
Interviewer: What did Cronos achieve for you?
Well that movie changed my life because we were more than the underdog, more than the dark horse, we were a movie that nobody wanted to produce, nobody was supporting except my producers in Mexico.
And we suddenly were selected for Cannes and literally we were all of a sudden one of the most awarded movies in Mexican film history. I remember the first time Cronos won, the first award, which was a cash award.
And before that award we were in debt for half a million. We won the award and literally like a beauty contest, I was crying, crying on the stage holding this giant check. And I was trembling and I was really moved because a, I was happy the movie was being recognized and b, I was not going to jail.
Rule #6: Create Your Opportunities
I used to do makeup effects for my stuff. They were very bad but I was the only one doing them. So a lot of friends when I was in my short films they would see the effect and say, who did that for you and I say, I did it. And they started telling me, would you do mine and I started doing it and I realized there was an edge with which going to feature films.
And what I did was for example, we did a TV series called Hora Marcada which a terrible filmmaking but we were all learning, Alfonso Cuaron was there, I was there, Emmanuel Lubezki the DP, Guillermo Narvarro, my DP, all of us started in that series and we were doing little experiments and I said to the producers, I’ll do the makeup effects for free, you pay the materials I do them for free but in exchange, I write and direct episodes and they said that’s a good deal.
So it was a way to put your foot in the door. And I was already on the way to do Cronos. I started writing Cronos around 1985 and I knew that in order to make the device, the Cronos device and the makeup effects, I needed to create a company that would tell the producers there’s someone that can do those effects. So soon as I leave Cronos essentially a year later, the shop was closed because it had served it’s purpose.
Rule #7: Be Yourself
Interviewer: What’s some stuff that aspiring filmmakers can do to separate themselves from the herd, from the noise.
Well I think be themselves. I mean, you can be hard to peg, some people may like you, some people may not like you, some people get what you do, some others think you’re crazy but if you’re true to yourself if you only do things that you really believe in and that are personal to you, then you know you don’t need the approval of anybody else.
That’s in my opinion what distinguishes, not only the great horror filmmakers but the great filmmakers in general. Some people can go through life shooting B movies and eventually they get discovered you know by an audience that caught them at the right time.
“You can be hard to peg, some people may like you, some people may not like you, some people get what you do, some others think you’re crazy but if you’re true to yourself if you only do things that you really believe in and that are personal to you, then you know you don’t need the approval of anybody else.” – Guillermo del Toro
Some people go all their lives shooting sort of underground little things and they can find their audience. And it’s a matter of being true. Not trying to be somebody else or have some different type of budget, I mean you’ll find your audience, and your audience will find you.
Rule #8: Connect With Your Audience
I think what I strive to is to connect deeply with audiences that like what I do even if the audience at large does or doesn’t, it makes no difference to me. I make weird movies no matter what size the movie is. And they’re not for everyone.
And a lot of people may be puzzled or say, why did you do this but I only do things that I hope speak to somebody in the same (mumbles) way was spoken to by people that got high on their own supply. ’cause I get high on my own supply.
“Connect deeply with audiences that like what I do even if the audience at large does or doesn’t, it makes no difference to me.” – Guillermo del Toro
I make the movies because I want them. And whether it is robbers and monsters duking it out or it’s a post-war fable, whatever it is, they’re done because I want to see them.
Rule #9: Find Peace
Happiness is a very difficult thing to define. I think it’s fleeting, you know, and I think that it’s, I’m the happiest when I’m working, and you know a project of mine but even then, you know, I think it’s a rhythm.
I think you get into a rhythm of work and personal life that you feel balanced about. But I think happiness is sort of too chirpy a term to try to achieve, that sounds like perfection.
Both seem to me, equally unattainable at its purest you know, I think you find peace. I think that’s what I would look for than happiness.
“I’m the happiest when I’m working” – Guillermo del Toro
Interviewer: Where on a set do you find moments of great pleasure in the process?
Oh yes, discovering it is happiness. Whenever you see something that you wrote and re-wrote for six, seven years come to life, it’s just beautiful and you’re completely content and you feel fulfilled and it’s magical.
And it sounds like a cliche but it’s true. Or when you see an actor in wardrobe, make up, everything completely come into the set for the first time is purely magical. I mean, there are many things that are like that.
“I think you find peace. I think that’s what I would look for than happiness.” – Guillermo del Toro
In the course of discovering or when you are with an actor and something doesn’t work. Or with a camera and something doesn’t work and you find the solution and it’s better than what you wanted to do first. Those are moments of great happiness.
Rule #10: Do Your Own Thing
I’ve never thought of my work or my life as a career. That’s why I have doubts so many times. I want the right to up. That’s the only inalienable right of a human beng is to up and I cherish the screw ups.
So you know, I’m going to continue up in the same way I’ve been up since the beginning and the only problem is of quality I can give you. You’re going to get the same from the same guy with the same earnestness and I’m never going to worry about salary or career or like that, I can’t.
“I’ve never thought of my work or my life as a career. That’s why I have doubts so many times.” – Guillermo del Toro
I’m genetically engineered to do my own thing you know. And that’s what, if I had been more malleable I have never given my version of what happened on Mimic but I fought and won the war, lost a lot of battles, but won the war and it was a very tough war and it was a very frontal war and I learned the value of identity in that process.
And I tell you that’s the only thing I’m concerned with. I don’t respond to the world. They say we’re going to pay you 10 million to direct an action, a straight action film. Can you imagine that, waking up every morning and going to shoot a movie, that’s like, you know, not having a boner and going to a sex show every day for work, what do you do? Are you going to show up and you’re going to (mumbles). That’s the same thing.
Evan: Pan’s Labyrinth is a project Del Toro had no problem showing up for. An adult fairy tale with a dark side.
“It has the two things that are absolutely necessary to make film, balls and heart.” – Guillermo del Toro
I think that the movie comes from a very very dark, very genuine place in my heart. And I think that sincerity always finds an audience, no matter how small, no matter how large.
Is Pan’s Labyrinth going to be, is it going to make the same money that Little Nemo did? No, but whatever audience it touches, it’s going to touch really deeply.
Will Pan find people that fall in love with it rabidly in the world, yes. Will it find people that never understand what the appeal is, yes. But it’s a film that comes from a genuine place. It has the two things that are absolutely necessary to make film, balls and heart.
Evan: Thank you so much for watching, I made this video because David DJ Pachenco asked me to so if there’s a famous entrepreneur that you want me to profile next leave it in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do.
I also love to know which of the points you heard today had the biggest impact on you. What are you going to take from this video that you’re going to immediately apply to your life or to your business some how, leave it in the comments, I’m curious to see what you guys have to say.
Finally, I want to give a quick shout out to Armen. Armen thank you so much for picking up a copy of my book, Your One Word and for reading it while having your soup as well, I appreciate that. I hope you’re enjoying the book and thank you for the support.
Thank you guys again for watching, I believe in you, I hope you continue to believe in yourself, aim whatever your one word is, much love, I’ll see you soon.
I honestly think that a film in complete and absolute freedom with unlimited budget is a, impossible and b, undesirable. I don’t think you want that. I think you want, I think film is most definitely an exercise between desire and restriction.
You need to have, my actor from Cronos, Frederico Luppi. He said to me something beautiful because we were doing a scene and he said, what do you want me to do here and I said whatever you want, it’s written for you, and he said no, I can only be completely free if you give me some confines.
He says then within that I’ll be free. And I understood, that was a beautiful way of putting it and I think that’s art. But certainly filmmaking, you have, you define those sort of goals and posts and you run around in there.
“Film is most definitely an exercise between desire and restriction.” – Guillermo del Toro
Interviewer: So do you have ideas and go oh, Guillermo that’s too much.
Oh yes, all the time. All the time because I think that your ambition should always be more than your budget. It doesn’t matter what your budget is.
I remember talking to Alfonso Cuaron while he was prepping Harry Potter and he was saying we’re trying to contain it and he gave me the number, whatever 120 or 220, and I went what? And it’s true, you’re trying to contain.
In a movie like that you’re still trying to contain. The myth of people that see a big movie and say oh, they give me the money I could do that, it’s a myth, it’s entirely a myth, and it comes with some absolute lack of knowledge of how these things operate because it’s a military operation.
And the larger it becomes still the budget is a monster and a wall and you’re running a train against it and you need to know where to stop.
Live Your Craft
Watch as many movies of as many eras as you can. When I was coming up through the ranks, there was a thing called a cinema club in the ’70s where you threaded 16mm film and you projected it and I became familiar with people that are important to me like (mumbles), like Laurel and Hardy, the
Three Stooges, you became familiar with Renoir, you became familiar with everything from comedy to drama you can see Preston Sturges, don’t just limit yourself to what is out there, or the top 10 at the box office, that is the main tool, and live film history because you are part of that narrative.
Even if it’s not film anymore you are a part of that narrative tradition. And the second thing I feel very important, do not get wrapped in the industry side of this. That’s what I find really heartbreaking that people are now a lot of times you’re discussing film with people that love film and it’s like you’re listening to an agent.
From an agency or the head of a studio, they know the grosses, they know who’s doing this, that’s absolutely not important, the important thing is that tradition you are going to belong to and do not get caught on the other side, stay true to the other side that needs you and needs to exist and urgently.
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