By Andrew Buckner
Today I have the great honor of speaking with writer and director, Monica Demes! Welcome! Can you tell us about yourself?
I’m a guardian of the old times, an owl, a storyteller.
What initially drew you in to screenwriting and directing?
I have always been a filmmaker. It’s part of me. I have no other way in which I can express myself better. Without it I would be lost.
Do you have any specific filmmakers or movies which you turn to for inspiration?
Repulsion from Polanski, The Hunger, The Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive (Lynch).
All of those are excellent choices! I highly recommend them as well. Your first short film, “Rose”, was made in 2003. What was that experience like?
“Rose” was shot in 16mm black and white in NY. And the first time I saw that short in the Theater was a big deal to me. I really felt overwhelmed. With that short I learned that a film is never completed until the audience sees it. And you know what? I also learned back in those days that film festivals are wonderful places. After all the work you have doing the film (and the one who makes films know the amount of work I’m talking about). There’s nothing like being surrounded by people who love films and that want to see your work. I really enjoy festivals.
How do you feel you have grown as an artist in the thirteen years since “Rose”?
It’s funny… Somehow on one level, I feel I’m just the same, someone who uses dream and intuition to create, and “Rose” and “Halloween” were the natural steps of story-telling to get to Lilith’s Awakening. But on another level, I feel I learned so much.
You collaborated with the artist, Carmela Calvo, for your initial animated short, “Halloween”. How was this different than putting together a live action work?
When I direct actors I have the control of everything and I will also directed the DP towards what I want in terms of photography. I establish the mood, the look and the pace of the whole film. With Carmelo our interaction was complete. His work was as important as mine in terms of building the mood, look and atmosphere that “Halloween” had to have.
What was it like to hear that “Halloween” had received the interest of the cinematic maestro, David Lynch?
I was overwhelmed. And that was the only reason I got an airplane and decided to shoot my first feature in America.
Your latest work, which you mentioned earlier, is your first full-length fictional film. It is a brilliant vampire picture called Lilith’s Awakening. What inspired this mesmerizing production?
Transcendental Meditation. I used it to dive into my unconsciousness and came up with one of the scenes. The one where Art meets the mysterious woman on the dark road. After I came to that scene through intuition, I asked my intellect, “Why did I write that scene? What does it mean?” And I came to the conclusion I wrote that scene because I was tired of seeing women raped in films, especially in horror. In those kind of films they are usually portrayed as victims. So I said, “What if it’s reversed? What if something really bad happens with the rapist instead? That was the seed of the entire screenplay. Also, when I meditate I connect a lot with the energy of the place. The Victorian times of Dracula can be easily found in the American Midwest nowadays. Long cold winters, distance, loneliness, sexual repression. And vampire tales are all about sexual repression. So I started to used the line “what if…” meaning: what if instead of a prince of the darkness, that seduces Lucy and take her away from her beloved Jonathan and society. It is a woman in his place, a princess of Darkness? What if …that princess lives inside Lucy’s head? In her dreams? What if she was Lucy’s shadow, her hidden part?
That is a fascinating insight into your creative process. Thank you. From the time the writing began until the work was complete how long did it take to create Lilith’s Awakening?
One year and 8 months.
In your latest masterpiece you are writer, director, producer and editor. What is it like contributing in all these different technical arenas for a single project?
(Laughs) It’s crazy. You are so much involved in the project that you don’t have a life anymore. It’s all about the film.
Do you think your studies in Law at Rio de Janeiro and lessons at the School of Actors TAI in 2001 helped shape your abilities and discipline as a filmmaker? If so, how exactly did they do this?
I certainly developed a sense of the civilization that surrounds me studying law and studying acting in Europe. And that certainly shaped my points of view. And when you make a film this is basically what you do: you show the world your point of view about something.
Acting also helped me in other levels, though. I don’t think I could direct actors the way I do if I haven’t acted, for example. And acting also helps me to write.
What do you want audiences to take away from your work?
The experience I had until now is that people connect in very different levels with this film. Each and every experience is so different. I think that’s going to be between the film and the audience now. I was just a medium for the story to come out.
Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to tell us about?
I’m working on the screenplay for a thriller in a music conservatory.
Do you have any final thoughts for us?
It’s a dream come true to screen this project at Dances With Films at such an iconic theater as the Chinese. Come join me on June 11. It’s going to be fun!
Thank you for your time, Monica! Lilith’s Awakening plays at 11:45 p.m. on June 11th at the Dances With Films Festival in Los Angeles. You can get tickets here.