by Vitor Pinto
15/05/2008 - Cineuropa: Can you tell us about your background? How did get involved in the film world?
Leonel Vieira: I have always been very interested in everything related to the arts. After studying design for a few years in Porto, I soon realized that what I was really interested in was moving pictures. So I decided to study Film Directing at TAI University in Madrid and when I returned to Portugal I wrote the script for my first feature film, The Shadow of the Vultures, and sent it to several production companies. Inforfilmes was interested in it and hired me to direct the film. After that I directed Zona J, which was the box office hit of 1998 in Portugal, and I’ve never stopped filming since then.
You have created Stopline Filmes. Is producing your own films a natural evolution of your career as a director?
It is a natural evolution because I’ve always worked as an executive producer on my projects. I could never settle for just directing the films. I get too involved in the projects and producing them allows me to have better control of what I want to say and show to an audience.
Stopline produced Filme da Treta, one of the local hits of recent years. What are your criteria when you produce other people's projects?
Filme da Treta was a very important film for Stopline Films because it allowed us to prove to the market and ourselves that we were ready to produce films. Filme da Treta had great box office potential and that is one of the most important criteria. Of course, that is not the only criteria, the project also has to have artistic value. I’m always looking for people with new ideas.
Since Zona J, made in the late 1990s, your films have been backed by television channels. How important was that support and how is that kind of support currently doing in Portugal? We know there is never enough money but is their promotion good enough?
Support from television channels is essential to financing and promoting films. I’m very fortunate to have their support. It makes a big difference.
Can you tell us about your new film, The Art of Stealing? What other projects are you working on?
The Art of Stealing is an action comedy about two poor souls who try to go after the biggest score of their lives: stealing a Van Gogh from the most unlikely place of all, a mansion in the middle of nowhere. This film is a co-production with NEP (Spain) and CCFBR (Brazil).
April 2nd is a romantic comedy. Inês, a biologist, and Carlos, a journalist, meet at a genetics conference and hate each other so much that they end up in bed, even though Inês is in a long-term relationship. They meet again exactly one year later, by chance, on April 2, and get involved once more. They realise that since birth they have always been in the same place. It seems they are destined always to meet on the same day.
The Great Game is a road movie about Alex, a Portuguese stock market executive living in São Paulo. His routine involves moving large sums of money and playing squash. Betrayed by his girlfriend and his best friend, he has to get a million Brazilian reais in 24 hours. Desperate, he turns to Miro, a prosperous drug dealer, and negotiates a loan. Miro's daughter is abducted and the gangsters, led by Capitão, demand that the ransom be paid by someone outside their area. Miro sees in Alex the ideal person for the job.
You have previously filmed in Brazil. How does producing with European companies appeal to you, particularly now that you have been chosen a Producer on the Move?
Producing and directing a film in Brazil was an ordeal but a very fulfilling experience because I filmed in the middle of the Amazonian rain forest. Filming in Europe is very different. I think it is very important that European producers join forces and experiences to produce good quality films that can be competitive internationally. I have already worked with Spanish production companies for some of my projects and I hope to broaden the net of relations within Europe.