He is the man behind Zornit Dollar Baby Film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Marcello Trigo: My name is Luiz Marcello Trigo, and nowadays I work with advertising here in Brazil. I’m a voice actor. I have a studio and I work to advertising agencies with narration for TV and Radio commercials, cartoon or voice dubbing for technical courses, phone calls and such things. I started my career as an actor in the theater in 1992 and from then on I got involved with scriptwriting, as well as dramaturgy and directing actors. Between 2001 and 2013, I worked with a theater company that is specialized in adapting literature. There I learned in practice how to write for an actor, how to deal with them to direct their work. In 2015 I went to a film school here in the northeast of Brazil, called AESO BARROS MELO, in the city of Recife, in the state of Pernambuco. Zornit is the film that I did to graduate in the film and audiovisual course.
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become a filmmaker?
Marcello Trigo: Generally speaking, it was gentlemen like Spielberg and Hitchcock, Then, Rod Serling, Robert Zemeckis, George Lucas, Sam Raimi, you know, the masters of the simple and good stories. I have always wanted to create something that capture the imagination of an audience, as these guys did. In pre-adolescence I had already tried the amateur cinema with these old JVC camera, VHS tape. I had no editing room, so I edited in the camera. And when I had friends around to make home movies, we tried. Later I went to do theater, where I learned the base of the craft, I think. Also I learned to write plays for the stage and scripts on my own, reading authors like Syd Field and Robert McKee.
When I joined film school in 2015, I already had some experience trying to make movies on my own. Zornit is my second job in college and the first one I direct alone there.
SKSM: When did you make Zornit? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Marcello Trigo: My team and I filmed Zornit between the end of October and the beginning of November 2016. The production was a partnership between colleagues in my film class. I also had the help of Viucine, which is a company that produces cartoons and documentaries. I’ve worked with them for a few years as an actor, narrator and voice actor.
They lent me camera and sound-recording equipment, and their respective technicians. For free. We filmed everything in thirteen days in a rented apartment. The rest were all colleagues of my college class. It was a difficult undertaking and we had our own financial resources to count on. Putting together what each person invested, starting with me, of course, but considering the transportation and food that everyone paid out of their own pocket, apartment rent and production details, we spent close to 3000 Reais (which is the equivalent, today’s quotation , to about 920 dollars). But we were happy to do the work, under the conditions. And from that experience, I created my own studio brand, Studio 8. My art director, Rosário Gonçalves, who helped me a lot, also created her, the Fênix Filmes. And today we are engaged in other productions like documentaries and varied videos.
SKSM: How come you picked The ballad of the flexible bullet to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Marcello Trigo: I’ve been a fan of Stephen King since a certain book called “Christine” got me through my teens. King is such a strong influence in many of my tales, and even my non-fiction writing, are inspired in the way he does. Whenever I buy a new book of short stories, I like to read those texts in which he tells us how each story appeared in his mind.
I had, in college, a script-making class, in which the teacher taught adaptation. The goal was for students to film the scripts for the next semester. I really did not have time to read all the tales of the Dollar Babies to choose from, so I went to the one whose title caught my eye. “The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet” was the chosen title. In fact you can see my degree of anxiety: the tale should be the third from top to bottom in the first column of the list. What caught my attention inside the story is being a tale involving a writer. I’m a writer, too.
SKSM: How did you find out that King sold the movie rights to some of his stories for just $1? Was it just a wikd guess or did you know it before you sent him the check?
Marcello Trigo: In 2015, when a college professor told me there was the Dollar Babies project, I almost went crazy. That´s how the movie exists today. But, I remember the day I sent the envelope to Maine. It was an incredible day.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Marcello Trigo: So many, that would not fit in this interview. But I think that recreating the story as an episode of The Twilight Zone was a lot of fun, as well as turning the luck elf Fornit into the alien of another dimension Zornit. Animating the alien on the set was a funny thing. Or the Android Jehovah’s Witness. The Sparks going out of her head are those birthday sticks that sparks, you know? They behave and sounds like an Impossible Mission fuse. We put two of these fuse sticks inside a mannequin’s head. We put fire on then, to provoque the sparks, and vibrated the head to give an impression that it was a broken robot.
I decided that the monster would be a slug of another dimension because that way the little monster would be an easier puppet to manipulate. It would have been a headache to make an Elven-style Narnia, that the original Fornit should be. This change created all other changes. Like making the movie as if it were a The Twilight Zone episode. The story was converted in a sci-fi movie.
SKSM: How does it feel that all the King fans out there can’t see your movie? Do you think that will change in the future? Maybe a internet/dvd release would be possible?
Marcello Trigo: My premiere, here in Brazil, was in a Halloween event, so I can not complain. I’ll make the movie go as far I can and show it to the future investors of my future films. The Dollar Babie movie I choose, was an opportunity to test my work and learn how to make movies.
Work in the cinema is a leap into the unpredictable, but we must always take the first step.
So, each Con Horror developed on the planet, you know… I’m going to show my film to every possible festival I can. Now, that I am in contact with you guys, here on the site, and on the Dollar Babies Facebook page, every film festival organizar out there who asks me for a copy, I will be pleased to provide. I would like to see the films of the other directors here on the site as well, mainly the short stories that have a larger volume of interested directors. The different versions of the same story are a film class about adaptation by itself.
SKSM: What “good or bad” reviews have you received on your film?
Marcello Trigo: Well, I received very good reviews from people who know that my movie was not made with a lot of money. These people recognize the effort of my team and me. As we say here in Brazil, “we take milk from stone”. We did the best film that we could achieve.
Other people do not like the alien, they criticize him for being artificial. I am aware of all the flaws in my film. In this way, I also know the qualities. I know, for example, that while some purists of college-age cinema think that making a monster movie is a waste of time. I see different. Here in Brazil it is much more difficult to make movies of monsters. So, if we do not start from somewhere … do you understand me?
A long time ago I decided that if one day I could manage films, these would be made to amuse and entertain my audience. My alien was not made with a million dollars, but my audience keeps watching from start to finish to see how it ends. When someone gives me a very hard criticism, I look bad, like any artist, but I will not give up my career because of that.
SKSM: Do you plan to screen the movie at a particular festival?
Marcello Trigo: I will offer my film to all festivals who wish to exhibit it. I am at the disposal of all. Here in Brazil there is the Fantaspoa and CineFantastik, next year. But this is the first time I have to deal with sending a movie to any festival, so I will gradually get to know those who can receive my film. Any tip from you guys is gonna be awesome.
SKSM: Are you a Stephen King fan? If so, which are your favorite works and adaptations.
Marcello Trigo: I’m a big fan. The kind of fan who does not always like everything the idol writes, but keeps buying their books from time to time. I’ll never forget the impact I felt when Andy Dufresne escaped from Shawshank jail. First, in the book. Then on the Frank Darabont film. And I want to congratulate the producers of “It”, which exceeded my expectations. This new Pennywise is extraordinary.
For a time, Mr. King has not been getting very good adaptations. Under the Dome and The Mist, and The Dark Tower are not my favorites. Then came “It” and “1922”, these are incredible works. I do not put myself between the good adapters. I’m just a student trying to move on.
SKSM: Did you have any personal contact with King during the making of the movie? Has he seen it (and if so, what did he think about it)?
Marcello Trigo: When I sent the dollar bill inside the envelope, I wrote a note wishing that the dollar would bring me as much luck as to him. I also thanked the organizers of stephenking.com. But they prefer to be rather conomic in their responses. I imagine that millions of people should every year get in touch, wishing for two or three seconds of Mr. King’s attention. So I did not want to be boring.
I only had contact with the kind Margareth Morehouse, by email. Mrs. Morehouse sent me the Dollar Babies contract to sign and solved all doubts. I have no hope that Mr. King will even see my movie, or that he will give any opinion about.
But I know that my DVD, at this moment, are somewhere in Maine. I do not know if he’s going to like to see his elf turned into an alien. Or the central character, Reg Thorpe, becoming Regis Porto. But as far as I know, my brazilian Regis Porto is the only incarnation of Reg Thorpe so far.
I wonder if he’s going to recognize his book on the bookshelves of the character. The novel is that one, here in Brazil, we call “Novembro de 63”. About Kennedy’s assassination.
SKSM: Do you have any plans for making more movies based on Stephen King’s stories? If you could pick -at least- one story to shoot, which one would it be and why?
Marcello Trigo: I have no plans to make another, because a single Stephen King-based film in the curriculum is already pretty cool. Maybe in the future.
But I believe that my next movie will gonna be encouraged by some cultural laws of my country. We don’t have a strog industry like you have in US. Here we have cultural incentives to make movies, but it requires organizing a detailed project and wishing to pass in one of the incentive laws.
So, on the next, I wish to can make a movie with money. To pay the technicians and actors. My “Zornit” is my business card for the my future investors.
SKSM: What are you working nowadays?
Marcello Trigo: At the moment, I’m working on releasing my movie in every festival I can, so the flame does not go out. I keep my job as announcer and voice actor, and actor. I just star a webseries here in my city, made by independent filmmakers. It’s called “Fãtásticos“. I interpret a horror writer (what a coincidence!) that also deals with the occult. I’m also recording sinister narration for a radio series called “Cursed Secrets”. I’m finishing college, writing the report on Zornit and getting ready to be a father in April.
SKSM: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Marcello Trigo: I think people are always surprised when they know that I am acquiring the roles of actor, director (both theater and film) casting, scripts and plays, voice actor, editor and sound editor. It’s my voice that opens the movie Zornit, and that dubs the actor Carlinhos Duarte in his brazilian version of Rod Serling / Alfred Hitchcock, presenting the film. People tell me “Wow, you’re multitasking!”. But in fact all these activities come from the same source: telling stories. I performed and performed each one of them, in my life, always with the intention of finishing my projects having as much control over them as possible. I do not understand photography, for example, but I know how to ask for a wide angle for my photographer. I do not understand color correction, but I learned to trust in the professional who does.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to your fans?
Marcello Trigo: Here in Brazil, we believe that in the US you have better film schools and more money to make movies. But I do know that even there, not all future directors have a place in the sun. I read that Sam Raimi spent around 30 Thousand Dollars to make the first (and only, and amazing, and classic, and incredible) Evil Dead. Wow! If I had 30 Thousand Dollars to make my Zornit, no one would complain about my alien, you can be sure, and no one on my set would have worked for free. So what I mean is, whether or not having money, whether or not having the best college, do not be intimidated by bad scenarios. Go and do it, no matter how. If Chaplin had access to our cell phones today, he would ask why we do not make movies every day.
SKSM: Would you like to add something?
Marcello Trigo: I want to thank you for the opportunity to be here among so many talented names and I ask all festival organizers who read this interview to get in touch, if they want my film in your country or abroad. Making a Dollar Babie movie was an incredible experience and taught me a lot. My Facebook profile is Marcello Trigo. I would also like to see the films of the other directors and read the book written by Shawn S. Lealos, and I would like to be part of a second edition someday.
“Those wooden bats”
Here in Brazil, we have a game similar to baseball, called Taco (bat, like baseball bat). It’s a bit simpler than baseball because it has only four players. But hit the ball is also one of the goals. While one group of children plays, the other group waits in turn to face the winners.
I remember being bored when I had to wait. My grandfather was a carpenter and had shaped for me two beautiful bats, with a sanded handle, so as not to injure my hand. It took just two seconds for me to decide they were lightsabers.
While waiting for my turn in the Taco game, I was fighting with Darth Vader. With my best vocal imitation of “whooomm”, when the saber ripped through the air, and “tchhh” when the sabers clash. I used the Force, and defended the Universe against a tyrannical Empire, taking with me the legacy of the Jedi.
Great! But my friends did not seem to see it. Waiting anxiously for their precious little game, they would look at me with disdain and comment variations of “what a nerd.” I believe that there is a moment, just before the advent of adolescence, that the child begins to realize the differences between objective reality and the fantasy world. That´s why certain children are very proud to demonstrate a proof of objectivity.
Be objective and realistic is a way of showing that you are no longer a child. That makes those boys who come to the ear of their five-year-old brother to say, “Duuuh, your idiot. There is no Santa Claus!”. But when I was a child, in the Eighties, I was afraid of becoming such people. I was afraid to lose the spark. I enjoyed watching the reruns of the TV series “Voyage to the bottom of the sea” and mainly “Time Tunnel”, dubbed in Portuguese. Then I met Star Trek.
The existence of aliens from deep space and beings from another dimension; starships capable of accelerating at the speed of light, were much more real to me than soccer, or than the different models of cars. Ghosts and adventure stories were more exhilarating than talking about how much the value of vegetables was dearer compared to the other supermarket in the neighborhood.
The Sense of Wonder itself, and the ways to tell stories with these elements, that was what motivated me. I study theater, movies and literature, I play video games or RPG, becouse first I want to participate in these worlds, and then, create my own.
When I shot Zornit, my short film inspired by a Stephen King tale, I was sure I could realize two dreams at once:
- adapt a story from Mr. King and…
- make an alien movie.
So I ask the Dollar Babies Project for the rights for “The Ballad of The Flexible Bullet”. A story of a writer who is visited by an elf called Fornit, who lives on his typewriter machine. The elf ends up helping him. But the consequences are paranoia and madness. The name of the story was also intriguing: what did King means by a “flexible bullet”?
During the development process I turned the elf into an alien slug and gave him the name Zornit. The original Fornit, here in Brazil, sounds like “fornication”, so it was better to switch for something more alien, anyway.
The name of the writer in King’s tale was Reg Thorpe. To make him a Brazilian character, I called him Régis Porto, by suggestion of my wife. And that’s how I made Mr. King’s tale turn into a sci-fi short film that followed in the footsteps of The Twilight Zone. Crazy?
When I presented the project in the classroom, many disbelieving eyes. The majority of the classmates did not want to work with me, because they thought Zornit was all hopeless nonsense. Also, the sci-fi genre scares or makes laugh, or both, depending on the degree of skepticism. We have limited resources in independent Brazilian cinema (and in the university cinema, which is an aggravating factor). So making more “real” movies about “real” people and feelings in their “real” dramas is an easier, if not final, solution.
Suddenly, those boring boys in the Taco game became my classmates. People who believe in a more academic cinema or are simply unbelieving and ready to laugh at any attempt to make a fantasy movie. In some cases, any movies.
Well, all the scenes in the Zornit´s script had been created based on old special effects, like those in The Twilight Zone series. That was one of my solutions. It gave me freedom to create possibilities with our limitations.
For example, José Vitor, my visual effects technician, one of the very few that I was able to recruit in my classroom, told me that we could use an After Effects plugin to covers Régis Porto’s eyes in white. We tested. It Works! So I included that simple (but spooky) effect on the film.
There is a disguised android in the story, which enters the house furtively, to kill the alien. The script read as follows:
The woman sneaks into the house, carrying a gun, and finds the office where the alien is. She opens the door, a few seconds after Zornit camouflages himself and became invisible. When she goes to shoot, Regis appears through the door, at the last moment, and hits her with a pan in the face. The woman goes to the floor, the face is a mass of sparks and circuits on display. Régis kneels and hits the robot several times until he kills her.
My art director was tense, suggesting various ways of performing. The cast was tense. Without using heavy CGI resources, how would that be possible? But by watching Rod Serling I learned that sometimes leave it to the audience’s imagination is better than doing for real.
In a game of quick cuts we see Régis and the pan, then a loud noise suggests the blow on the villain’s face, and then she falls to the floor. We see the actress’s feet, shaking. Cut, then her hands, holding the gun and also shaking. Cut, and then the face of an open mannequin, with integrated circuit boards on display.
The Zornit getting camouflaged was a simple trick by José Vitor, involving overlapping layers of video, and he also added smoke and an eye leaking into the mannequin’s face. But the sparks were real. Inside the plastic head, we light up two birthday party sticks, the kind that burns sparking like an Mission:Impossible fuse.
As the face of the mannequin vibrates very fast, the viewer can only see a broken robot, with a black wig pretending to be the hair of the actress, that seconds before wielded a weapon against the Zornit. All very simple and straightforward.
People do not ask me how it was done, when they watch the movie, because the general idea holds their attention. This spirit I learned by reading the biography of those three guys from Detroit. Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell. The Evil Dead has always been an inspiration in my methods of solving the problems that arise in creating a low budget fantasy film. Or any film.
Now Zornit exists and is on its festival circuit around the world. All possible categories I try. Student, Independent Film, Sci-fi and Horror. I also sent it to festival organizers specifically dedicated to Dollar Babies movies.
It was impossible, but it was made, and today I am a real film director. Thanks for those wooden bats, Grandpa…!
Marcello Trigo – Brazil – 01/2018