Augusto MaK (Markos Garcia) is an Australian filmmaker, critically acclaimed credits to his name include producer, director and writer. Having made films at the prestigious Sydney Film School, where MaK specializes in Producer/Production, he has established himself as one of the best newcomers and visionary filmmaker.
He is best known for writing and directing “Escape,” “A Poker Night,” “The Tempus Elixir,” “The Graveyard of Mysteries” and recently “Fireflies in the Night”. He got an early taste of critical success. His screenplay for the short film “The Graveyard of Mysteries” was selected a finalist at the Screenplay Competition Fantastic Planet Film Festival.
Hollywood Insider Interview with Director, Producer and Writer Augusto MaK
Hollywood World: What was the most significant decision in shooting your current film?
Augusto MaK: On my last film ‘Fireflies in the Night’, we had a flow of unpredictable situations constantly threatening the project. The film production schedule, to which the school organizes us, can prove at times to be extremely intense. When I was about to start directing my film, I had already Produced 3 short films and was starting to think on the Production of the next film that would come two weeks after mine. I think that the most significant and poignant decision in shooting Fireflies not only of me as the director but also of each member of the team, was to keep going regardless what may come.
I remember that we all were feeling a bit uneasy one day before starting to shoot. Early in the morning of our first scheduled shooting day we lost our location. We couldn’t reschedule, other productions were coming after ours, we had to shoot!. I will never forget that morning; my Producer Himanshi Handa, my Production Manager Deep Desai and my Director of Photography Rasmus Callmer, all looking for a new location to shoot while I lied on the carpet of film school wandering why life put us to these extreme test. We overcome the challenge and we got away with a film, I also grew a couple of white hairs from that experience.
Hollywood World: What part of the script/story best stood out for you and why?
Augusto MaK: I believe that the mystery part of the screenplay translated well from the page to the screen. The poetic beauty of the play was enhanced by the camera, thanks to the great work on composition and with the lights that Director of Photography Rasmus Callmer together with his fearless team, 1st AC Jakob Karlsson and 2nd AC Phillip Mansaeterbak brought to the project. The talented cast, Eleanore Knox and Ryan Carter added their own hearts to the words, delivering each line with depth, at moment it puts you to the test and you wonder if they are not saying something else, just not in words. Later, Hugh Keays-Byrne (Immortan Joe, Mad Max) added life and character to the film with his powerful voice through the character of Mephistopheles.
The art work of illustrator Gabriel Zamora, was truly inspiring, his drawings where such a perfectionist hand work that helped us to create the scenes and the characters with precise detail. Art Director Tashani Symons brought the pieces that we needed to sell the Victorian era gothic vibe of the film and Production Designer Glean de Goya crafted that impactful and unforgettable floating mask of the daemon, Mephistopheles with terrorizing detail!. Pat Alan Doyle, saved a lot of our mistakes with his special effects and added a bit more of metaphorical beauty to some of the scenes specially to the incredible stunning night underwater shoots captured by Sarah Dauphinee. A whole new layer was brought up from the play to screen, thanks to the amazingly intricate work of Simon Allen in Sound Design, the story was built not only to be seen, but also to be felt; his work was of paramount importance to create what is call in cinema ‘suspension of disbelief’.
The last part of the screenplay that got to surface on the film, was the grief of one of the characters through the years, this was only possible thanks to the brain muscle of editor Paola Alvarado, who cut and re arranged scenes with sensitivity and intellectual precision. Mattia Cupelli musical composition put the play in another level making a joyful experience to contemplate Aurora dancing with the fireflies, one of the iconic moments of the film.
Hollywood World: Without giving it away, tell us a little bit more about the characters.
Augusto MaK: The characters in ‘Fireflies in the Night’ are archetypes from the Gothic literature, old horror folk stories and classic terror films. Although dark in nature, the main characters of my story: Antoine and Aurora come from different origins, While romantic Antoine was shaped as a Byronic type of hero, the dark beauty Aurora was created from my childhood impression of characters like Morticia and Wednesday from ‘The Addams Family’, 1950 tv host Vampira and Lydia from Tim Burton’s ‘Beetlejuice’. The last character of the story is the daemon Mephistopheles, which I borrowed from the classical German play ‘Faust’ by Goethe.
Hollywood World: How do you bring this story to life while staying true to your vision as director?
Augusto MaK: I think it is important to understand that filmmaking compared to other types of art, is a way of expression based on collaboration. This is fundamental. As Director, you are telling the story through the talents that surround you. I believe that not always the film will look to the idea that you have in your head, for that you will have to shoot it yourself, edit it yourself, do the sound mix yourself and act yourself in it.
Some giants as Orson Welles or even Charles Chaplin, where known to do this and they did this extremely well. I think that maintaining your true vision and voice as director is to know the story you are telling, keep the whole departments on the same page, doing the same movie and understand the notes that the screenplay is trying to reach, and play those notes through the experiences and the colors that your actors can bring to the screen.
Hollywood World: What excites you about this project?
Augusto MaK: What excited me about Fireflies was the idea that we could understand things through emotions rather than rationalizing them. I thought if I could play with some elements of cinema to challenge the established way that we have to watch films and leave the emotional channel open; through the pain and grief that the characters would be playing in the screen, it could be a cathartic moment for the audience. In a no so logical way, in its own style, it would make sense.
Hollywood World: What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?
Augusto MaK: I am a big fan of the old Hammer films like ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’, ‘Dracula’, ‘The Mummy’; also the Edgar Allan Poe stories done by Roger Corman like ‘The Masque of the Red Death’, ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ and ‘The Tomb of Ligeia’ among others. I think those kind of stories are integrated on my DNA, they captivated my imagination as a kid and they grew inside me.
For Fireflies, I went looking for other directors that could show me other perspectives. ‘The Seventh Seal’ by Ingmar Bergman, is a powerful story, with deep existential meaning. As I was also working in the concept of memory and lost, what it remains in us after the moments that we live are gone, Alain Resnais ‘Last Year at Marienbad’ and ‘Hiroshima mon amour’ where very influential to find my cinematic grammar. Finally, the poetic vision of Jean Cocteau, especially in his interpretation of ‘The Beauty and the Beast’, how each of his shoots freezes a moment of film beauty that becomes part of a complete other World, as if we were watching a little town inside a snowy crystal ball.
Hollywood World: What do you do to enhance the collaborative process when working with actors, screenwriters, producers and others creative members?
Augusto MaK: Although I am still on the early days of my career, and I am still developing my voice and my vision as a filmmaker, I am starting to embrace the idea that I am a guy with deep thoughts that chases deep meaningful moments and relationships. That idea spreads to my collaborative process, in which I try to link with the talents that surround me in deep, authentic, genuine way. This, I discover it takes time, but nothing like going to shoot a film and be under pressure in unpredictable challenging situations to know if you have that.
I think that once you go through the armor that people has, you can start creating real great work of art, because is real, is true and it comes from a place of mutual honesty and love for the task in hand. I like to think that after a film has been done, you are not the same person that begun that journey, and when you look again to those who came with you to tell that story, you found yourself surrounded by a pack of creatives that will follow you to the next project and thanks to that will help you to shape a life filled of purpose and meaning.
Hollywood World: How do you see your role as a filmmaker?
Augusto MaK: I see filmmakers as the 21st Century writers.
Hollywood World: Do filmmakers have any responsibility to culture? What message do you want to convey with your films?
Augusto MaK: I think artist in general have a big responsibility towards culture. How we express ourselves through our work, in many ways can help to expand the way we perceive the World and our lives. Art is extremely important to understand each other, to understand who we are, to understand about our emotions, our thoughts, our dreams, it unites people, makes them feel closer, it has the power to go through the boundaries of countries, languages, religions. It breaks down old dogmas and help us humanity to progress.
I like to think that a kid in the other side of the World that I will never meet, will see one of my films one day, and even though he well can be on the toughest of situations that will shape him forever, for a tiny moment he can find company in my films and in a fraction of a second, change his mindset and start believing that anything is possible, get inspired to go out there and do something with his life.
Hollywood World: What other hobbies do you have?
Augusto MaK: Besides my nerdy activities of reading books, collecting vynils and going to the movies, I practice fencing once a week; I like the romantic idea of being a man that fights with the pen and with a sword.
Hollywood World: What do you want to be remembered for in life? What valuable lessons have you learned that helped you become the person you are today?
Augusto MaK: I hope I can be remembered as a filmmaker that could inspire others to believe in the good things of life that through his stories could bring compassion and empathy to others.
I come from a family of engineers, business minds and entrepreneur spirit, old fashioned Argentinean family values and a strong Christian childhood. I got to live in different cities while I was growing up, never staying for long in a place. As a kid, I used to go to my friend’s house and tell stories while we played. One thing I realized early was that stories unite people, they put them together and through the communal experience of sharing a moment together, people allows themselves to be sensitive and open, and this creates something beautiful, which is acceptance.
I think that these days we over think and are pushed to be ambitious and competitive, we shut down ourselves and we repress a lot of the most beautiful things that life has for us, which is our ability to feel our environment.