Booksandmocha.com film division head Jessica Ploumis interviews film maker Danny Montenegro. Danny passed away in 2016, and we miss him dearlyBooksandmocha.com would like to thank Danny Montenegro for sitting down with us today, and letting us pick his brain about his own journey working in film.
Question: Danny, please tell us a little bit about your background, what do you do?
I am an illustrator/ writer and a computer graphics generalist with an emphasis on 3D and compositing.
Q: How old where you when you first took an interest in film? What was it about film that caught your attention?
As far back as I can remember I was always a fan of film.I remember once my grandmother sat me down and had me watch the Creature from the Black Lagoon as a child. I was hooked at an early age.
Q: When you realized you wanted to pursue film making – how did you get started?
I read everything I could get on screenwriting and production. I weighed out my options of whether to go to film school of do my own thing. I have to say that for me it was a personal journey and I am a bit of an autodidact and gathered everything I could find on the subject.
Q: What do you feel are critical moments (and their innovators) in the history of film?
The big three (for me anyways) are Kurosawa, Kubrick and Hitchcock. I have to say that films created before the 60’s were very seminal in that the first part of the century they basically created the visual language that is film. The early films that incorporated aspects of screen grammar and editing techniques laid the ground work for things that happen in film to this day. Those people who didn’t know what they were doing and creating film as they went on are the most intriguing to me.
Q: What kind of films are important to you? What sort of films do you yourself want to make?
Social commentary is very important to me. Films like the original Planet of the Apes and Blade Runner are as fantastic as the worlds they have created. Those films ask some very pointed questions about the human condition in contemporary society as well as projections into possible futures and shed light on our contemporary society and mankind at large. Both are very cautionary in their approach.
Q: Do you feel more pressure to entertain and impress with your films? Or is your goal to bring untold stories to the screen?
I like to think that I am taking educated guesses with the ideas that I am working on. It’s kinda half and half for me. I want to use things that you have seen already to show you something new. Currently I admit that I am disenchanted with large budget films and don’t really feel pressured by current production. If I were working on a franchise then I think that I would feel more pressure to satisfy an existing fan base.
Q: Which filmmakers do you emulate?
That’s a good question. I have to say that I am not trying to be any one filmmaker. Although I have to say that my opinion has been informed by studying the people who came before me. I would say that on a procedural level I would like to be perceived as a John Carpenter or a James Cameron type of film maker. Although I am not saying I am as good as either one of those guys LOL. There is a kinda general milieu of filmmakers in the 20ths century that emerged that inform the way I approach things. Hawks, Scorsese, Kubrick, Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Carpenter, Cameron, Lucas, Spielberg, Ford, Scott, Almovadar, Lynch. These artists tend to focus on various aspects of filmmaking and have defined themselves by the choices they have made for their films. Each one of them emphasize aspects of film making and by studying their work it allows me to make educated decisions and therefore create options for myself in a calculated manner.
Q: Tell me what you think about the future of film both technologically and aesthetically? Do you feel the marriage of both are necessary for a good film?
Film is a marriage of technology. Format used to dictate production in film and television. Currently there has been a shakeup in the way that film is being distributed and the television model seems to be breaking up. I tend to act as if I am within the constraints of older film production so that I can preserve a certain point of view within production. Without limits it’s hard to budget your efforts. Another aspect of technology is the decision to shoot on film or digital. There are purists who still shoot on film but digital is making headway. I think that once digital achieves HDR and can match the latitude of celluloid shooting on film will be relegated to a specialized or artsy endeavor.
Q: What are your fears/apprehensions as a future filmmaker?
That the classic forms of telling a visual story will be lost to increasingly shorter attention spans. I am a firm believer that the classics truly do not go out of style. I also fear that as a film maker you run the risk of turning into the very thing you set out to stand up against. Things happen quickly and people go from being independent to mainstream filmmakers overnight.
Q: It’s my belief that what a person chooses to watch says a lot about them. So I’m going to ask, what is your favorite movie?
Bladerunner. It says so much about future society and is a cautionary tale. It also delves into existentialism and the very real threat of machine intelligence as well as regard for morality and what it is to truly be human.
Q: Even more telling, what is your guilty pleasure movie? You know, the “bad” on you know isn’t great but you have to stop and watch every time it’s on TV.
Oh that’s easy. I like car drifting films LOL! Fast and Furious and Initial D.