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Elisabeth Bartlett is blogging the festival scene from Cannes to Los Angeles.
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Rising Star Filmmaker Lorena Lourenco


Lorena Lourenco, whose film Pedagogy showed last year in Cannes at the Short Film Conrner, grew up in Rio de Janeiro and moved to Los Angeles to attend USC's School of Cinematic Arts. Today she works as a Directing Consultant for Thank You For Your Service, produced by Steven Spielberg, written and directed by Jason Hall (American Sniper) and edited by Oscar nominee Jay Cassidy (Into the Wild, Silver Linings Playbook). Lorena is destined for a bright future so I jumped at the chance to interview her about her take on making movies in the city of Angels.

What is the first time you can remember being moved by art?

I think it was the at Colosseum in Rome when I was around 9 or 10. My mother kept wanting to walk and see everything at a normal speed but I kept stopping and staring at the magnanimous structures around me. My brain kept trying to wrap itself around how such huge, detailed, and masterfully crafted structures were erected so long ago and how the hell they were still standing. I was stuck imagining the lives lost to build it, the minds it took to conjure it, the lives lost in the murderous games within it and that is when I was first deeply moved by art. My mom found me in tears looking down at the pit of the Colosseum.

DId you have encouragement in choosing this career path?

I am very glad to say that I did. Both my parents were very encouraging when I told them I wanted to make films when I was about 16. My dad, who distributes films in Brazil, was especially happy with my career choices and has pushed homevideo cameras in my hand ever since.

What do you think growing up in Rio has added to your perspective as a filmmaker?

Rio, like much of Brazil, is a city plagued by inequality. What is unique to Rio is that it is set up in a way that the poorest people live staring right into the homes of the richest people. It is aggravating and it becomes impossible to live in the city without wondering about the other side, questioning what it is like to live in someone else’s shoes. Growing somewhere in the middle of that has made me acutely aware to social injustice and the role it has in plaguing and derailing individual narratives. As a Brazilian born and raised in Rio I grew up to the normalization of inequality and was eager to reach a vehicle through which I could find a voice for the disenfranchised. I chose cinema for that purpose.

How would you describe the kind of movies you want to make? Why that kind?

I love this question. I want to make intense character driven dramas with a hearty pinch of socio-historical catalyzers. If I had to come up with a comp it would be American Beauty meets City Of God. I want to make this kind of film because to me cinema is an art which is supposed to make the audience transcend from their experience of this world into someone else’s. Ultimately, I feel that character driven dramas best achieve the transcendental, moving and compassionate effect of cinema.

What profession would you choose if you couldn't be an artist? Why?

I would also love to be a teacher of either philosophy, film or film theory. I think that there is such immense value to passing knowledge forward, to sharing and exchanging it. The process of teaching it helps us grow as a society and I just thoroughly enjoy it.

How would you briefly describe your approach in working with actors?

Firstly, I like to get very comfortable with actors, so that includes long casting sessions and meetings to discuss the script and their opinions. I am very open to suggestions and leave it up to the actor to change the dialogue and details per their will, having the freedom to make my words their own. I will often discuss the characters’ backstories with them, ask them to fill in blanks for such stories.

Do you write your own projects? What is it about directing specifically that you love?

Some of them I do but I also direct what others have written. I love writing and the projects I am passionate enough to write become too personal for me to not want to direct, however I admit that I love directing a script penned by another writer. I believe there is so much to be gained by layering the different perspectives on a script from a writer, a director and a producer. Therefore, I thoroughly believe in the effectiveness of the assembly line structure of Hollywood. On top of working with writers I also love working with actors. It is when you have gone through a scene a few times with the actors and suddenly the scene feels real, everything comes to life and it is as if I just witnessed magic in the making. 

Did you have an idol growing up? Someone you looked up to who you tried to model your life after?

My idol was the artist Tarsila do Amaral, who through her paintings birthed the modernist movement in Brazil. I fell in love with her unique sense of aesthetic, with how visionary she was for her period and how she as a woman lead the modernist art movement and even inspired her husband’s famed article on it. She lived and breathed art as an empowered woman, yet still managed to live what seemed to be a happy life with her husband, traveling to investigate different cultures and art movements around the globe. One of my characters in my most recent feature script Brush Strokes is loosely based off of her.



  De Anima Verbum by Tarsila do Amaral

What was the best thing about going to USC film school?

I think it was the immersion into a fully creative and intellectually stimulating environment in the heart of the Hollywood. There is nothing like being challenged by your teachers and peers to think differently, more critically and harder when studying Spielberg, only to have the very director come in to answer your questions about his movies. I am extremely grateful for the education USC’s film school has given me and it has greatly helped shape me into the professional I am today.

What do you love about living LA? Can you see yourself here for life?

I love the agglomeration of such different people from different backgrounds in one big metropolis. The beaches and weather are also a huge factor weighing in favor of L.A., obviously, but there is something about this diverse, bustling and ever-growing population that intrigues me so much - it just never ceases to surprise me.  I love Brazil and will always be back and forth between Rio and L.A., however for now I see my career growing in Hollywood. 

What advice would you have for someone younger who wants to follow in your footsteps and pursue filmmaking?

I would say just do it. Take the leap whether you think you are prepared for it or not. It doesn’t matter whether you don’t know if you want to be a director, producer, actor, writer or a mesh of any of above, once you get here careers start taking shape. Just be very aware of who you are and make sure to remain true to yourself in your personal life and work. 

The industry is known to be crazy. How do you maintain inner peace?

To me it is mainly about going back to what feel the most like home, which is mainly beach and the Bossa Nova songs I grew up listening to as a child. Meditation and regular exercise are also a huge help, but there is nothing quite like chilling to some ocean views and bossa nova.



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About Elisabeth

Bartlett Elisabeth
Blogging about the festival scene from Los Angeles

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