OSCAR Shorts Special: Director Filipe Melo Talks The Lone Wolf

Filipe Melo’s OSCAR-shortlisted short film, The Lone Wolf (O Lobo Solitário), shares the story of a radio host whose show is interrupted by an unsolicited call.

Melo joins us on Close-Up Culture to tell us more about this must-see short film.

Can you tell us what inspired the storyline of your short film, The Lone Wolf? 

Well, technically, I wanted to write something that you could shoot in one location, with one actor, without editing – no post production. That’s how it all started. Soon after that, I spent some evenings at a local radio in Portugal – I really love those late night shows. Of course, also, without talking to much about the plot, everything else came from real stories. 

The Lone Wolf focuses on the host of a late-night radio talk show. Before making this film, were you a regular listener to such radio programmes? And did you tune into many such shows when researching the film’s narrative? 

Absolutely. I love those shows, the callers are just like a real family. I went in person and watched a few of these shows while they were being recorded live at night. The calls you listen to in the film are actually real transcriptions of calls I heard in those evenings. 

The film plays out (almost) as a singular shot which ultimately gives it a claustrophobic ambience – how did you achieve this? 

Uf. A lot of rehearsing – I’m very used to this as a musician, because I mainly work as an orchestrator and pianist for a living – so it was basically that, like an orchestral arrangement being played. The acting, the technical aspects were just like a musical piece. The people who worked for this film really went all the way, like fantastic musicians. We were holding hands in mid-takes, hoping we could get everything right. 

As well as being a filmmaker, you’re also a jazz musician and a writer of graphic novels – do you incorporate those different skills in your work as a filmmaker? 

Indeed! Asides from some technical aspects, I would say the creative side is very, very similar. It’s fundamentally about having an idea and turning it into something real, that other people can perceive intellectually and emotionally. It’s all about telling a story – in that sense, music and film are quite similar, I believe. At least for me. 

The story you tell in The Lone Wolf takes a rather dark turn – was that particular twist always your intention? It’s also not 100% clear to me who ultimately is the villain of the tale – again, was that ambiguity always your intention? 

Yes, I always wanted to have that ambiguity, I deliberately wanted an undecipherable character: if indeed he is innocent, than he is the victim. But then again he might be guilty, and he’s a monster. Actually to this day – I don’t know if Adriano, our main actor, played the character as guilty or innocent in his inner world, he didn’t tell me. That’s how ambiguous we wanted it to feel. Because you never know. He is the only one who really knows the truth. 

What were the most challenging moments of the filmmaking process when making The Lone Wolf

Well, we had a lot of technical things happening around the actor – since I wanted a really small and claustrophobic room, our producer was kind enough to build a small set. But that meant that a people moving the walls back and forth so the camera could move around. And we have a webcam in the scene, and we couldn’t have the real camera show up. Also… going through the window was a nightmare. Also, the main actor is one room but the rest of the cast was calling in real time, from another room. To make this all feel real was a rollercoaster, but it was all worth it, it was so much fun. 

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