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Gastón Pavlovich, producer of Silence

Paramount Pictures opens Silence on December 23rd, 2016.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Francois Truffaut once observed that a truly great film has a perfect balance between truth and spectacle. Do you agree with his simplification?

Gastón Pavlovich: I do, but for 2 1/2 or 3 years, I was worried that that would not be reflected. If you read the literary work of Shűsaku Endô and then the script by Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese and then have to be on set to make sure that it was translated to the camera, I didn't doubt Scorsese's brilliance, but I was always nervous that we couldn't translate that piece of literature. If you read the book, it's very intimate. It goes deep inside the characters. You're inside their debates and their discussions.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think it's harder to find truth within spectacle or spectacle within truth?

GP: I think that it's harder to find truth in spectacle. I was going to say that it's the other way around, but I just figured that out. Let me give you an example of what reflects what you're saying. When I first met Marty [Scorsese], it was during an interview at his house. He had to make a decision quickly about who the producer will be. We had a great conversation. While we were talking, I was looking around his room and saw no recognitions of his Oscar trophies. By the time we ended, I said, "Marty, do you have a special room for recognition? Because I've seen nothing here." He said, "They're over there." We walked to the corner of the room, and they're behind the curtain. We opened up the curtain and he had a whole shelf of everything---but behind the curtain. I asked him, "Are you hiding this?" He replied, "You know, sometimes, I have to remind myself that what shines might obstruct my work and might blind me. I have to remind myself that this is not my objective. I appreciate it, but let me get on with my work." It's just truth overtaking spectacle. I think we can find great spectacle, but truth has to overtake it for something like this to be done.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Would Silence work on the small screen? Are you a traditionalist or a futurist?

GP: I'm soooo old school. I can't see any movie on a small screen. I'm going to bet on old school. I just finished a movie called The Professor and the Madman which I co-produced with Sean Penn and Mel Gibson. It's an old school film. I'm just going to bet that that's not going to die. There are audiences out there that go like, "It's cinema. We all fell in love with cinema. Didn't we all see Cinema Paradiso?" There's something great about real cinema.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Would Silence work in black-and-white?

GP: Oooooh! You just gave me an idea! I'm going to make a producer's cut of it! I think it would be fantastic in black-and-white. I've never had this discussion with Marty, but let's see how much it costs. I'm from Mexico, and we had a cinematographer, Gabriel Figueroa, who's a titan of world cinema. He still teaches techniques in many film schools in the Unites States. He's one of the ones who invented black-and-white photography with the light in the eyes of the actors. If you like black-and-white, you have to see Gabriel Figueroa's films or the early Japanese films as well which Marty is a big fan of as well.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you feel about 3-D? Would it work in Silence?

GP: There's a very powerful part of the realism in Silence that I think would be distorted in 3-D. It supposedly makes it feel more real, but I don't think so in this case.

NYC MOVIE GURU: I feel that humanism is a truly special effect that's rare these days while CGI is merely a standard effect. Do you agree or disagree?

GP: It's one of those things that's like a pendulum. We might be able to come back to having humanism--your very special effects--as the center stage. I understand all the supehero movies with the special effects, and it brings a great world audience, kids especially. But there has to be a sector of films focused on real humanism and the real effects. Maybe Silence can be a big part of going back to that movement. I'm personally all for it.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think we're living in a Golden Age of Christian Cinema?

GP: I saw a financial report recently that said that Christian faith-based films and horror films are the ones that are more common to have a solid box office. There's a market there that is welcoming that. There's thirst for that kind of film, either Christian or hope-based films. Ironically, on the other side there's the horror genre which is always almost always successful.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How challenging is it to know when to trust the audience's patience in a film? I feel that having one's patience trusted is rare nowadays.

GP: Let me use the metaphor of wine: you have to age it, you have to let it breathe. I get involved in editing----I'm a hands-on producer. So, I will be in the editing room. I've done several films where I've had great discussions with the directors when they're trying to make it fast-paced because that's what the market wants, but I said, "No, no. Let it breathe. Trust the audience a little bit more. Let the audience absorb it." You have to trust that. Sometimes it won't work, but you have to trust it.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What makes the themes in Silence so timely?

GP: Marty and I were just in Rome together last week and we presented Silence to the Pope. Right before that, we had this conversation: I told Marty, "You know, you've been on this for 20 years ago. There's a reason why you didn't do this 20 or 10 years ago or 5 years ago even. Today, there's so much more demand for Silence. First of all, there is religious persecution going on in the world as we speak---horrific beheadings and war refugee situations mainly based on religious beliefs and religious liberty or lack thereof." So, Silence is something will turn the spotlight onto those issues that we don't talk much about. Secondly, there's the issue of tolerance. I'm Mexican and in United States right now, it's not the best place to be because of recent situations, so it's an issue. If you go worldwide, there's more intolerance than ever. There are a lot of doors being closed that shouldn't necessarily be closed. Maybe Silence will put the spotlight on that as well. Silence gives you hope and reminds you of what faith is which is a strong, personal communion with God, and each person only knows what's going on, and God only knows what's going on with that individual. I think that that gives you strength.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How challenging is it to find spirituality in this shallow, materialistic world?

GP: I remember the words of John Paul the 2nd before he passed away. He said that the next Century, which is the one we're now living in, will be the Century of God and faith or it will not be at all. So, I do think that technology and everything is taking us, perhaps, on a road that is only making us coming back and looking inwards. There's a great challenge and risk when we go outside of ourselves for many materialistic reasons. At the same time, it's only making the calling of our inner soul-searching even stronger. Maybe projects like Silence will help in assisting that. I would bet that there's a movement toward the inner soul-searching more nowadays than there has ever been before.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think would make a great double feature with Silence?

GP: It's a Wonderful Life. It also has meaning, but I think it's lighter than Silence. There's much more humor.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you feel about so many movies (up to 30!) opening all at once each weekend in NYC?

GP: It's not necessarily good for me or other producers because there's way too many things going on, but I just don't see how long that could last. Little by little, the market and the audience can only take in so much. I think we're going to see the offers being narrower, but maybe I'm wrong.

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