September 9, 2022
I like to call Sangre, “E.T. with fangs” as it is also a tale about letting go, which mine is. E.T. has always been one of my cinematic holy grails and I hope to aspire to one day tell a story with the same level of poignancy and heart as Spielberg’s masterpiece. —Nick Delgado
By Sven Mikulec
Our first contact with young filmmaker Nick Delgado was through The Macabre World of Lavender Williams, a beautifully made, heartbreakingly warm and irresistibly quirky short film we did our best to promote a few years back. One thing we learned from Mr. Delgado’s film, as well as the pleasant conversation we had with him regarding his next project, WEBCAM, a while later was that he’s an artist who respects the art of storytelling and sees the depth of characters as the most important factor in the creation of a great film. As we’re big fans of the vampire lore in general (you wouldn’t believe how many hours we spent playing Vampire the Masquerade enjoying the deep dives into internal conflicts and perhaps not so irredeemable darkness within these creatures), we found huge pleasure in the news that Mr. Delgado is currently working on a feature film placed deep within such a realm of shadows.
Sangre is a coming-of-age horror story about a 12-year-old kid called Diego, an illegal immigrant living in Los Angeles with his equally undocumented father. When the father falls ill, Diego is ready to do whatever it takes to save the life of his dad—even going so far as to locating and convincing a real vampire to “help.” His plan actually works to some degree, but the person he brought back to life is not exactly his loving father.
We’re not blind to ignore the high production values of The Macabre World of Lavender Williams or the top-quality cast Delgado had at his disposal, but what set that film apart from others was the underlying story and the sheer amount of heart it projected. To hear his next project is a combination of drama and horror, embellished with much-welcome social commentary, is fantastic news as we’ve always felt the world of vampires doesn’t get enough respect or recognition in the art of filmmaking, with several projects doing more harm than good to the attractive pull of the lore itself. Telling a complex story centered around such powerful notions as family, love and desperation might just be what we all need, and the idea of seeing Mr. Delgado’s film hit the silver screens around the world fills us with joy and anticipation. For this special occasion, we sat down once again and gave the promising filmmaker the space needed to tell his story. When the times comes, we’ll be sharing our review of Sangre. Hopefully soon.
The first contact we had with you was regarding The Macabre World of Lavender Williams, your short film from 2010. To what degree did such an excellent short film open doors for you and help launch your career? It was screened at more than 40 festivals, featured on websites such as C&B…
It was my presentation card and I met a lot of companies and executives thanks to it. It also opened up the world of branded content and commercials, which is something I had never considered before. But I think the best part about it is that it showed people my vision and sensibilities. It also helped convince decision-makers that I could tell stories with lots of visual effects and logistics without losing sight of what’s really important: the heart of the story and the characters’ journeys. I would say that without Lavender, I could not have gotten Sangre off the ground.
How important was it for your development as a filmmaker to start with short films? What would you say are the benefits of building your career and resume gradually, with smaller-scale projects?
You should learn to walk before you run! Seriously, it’s easier to tackle a fifteen-minute page story, than to make a full-length feature. In fact, whenever I start work on a feature script, I first write a short that encapsulates the spirit, tone and emotion of the story. I build the rest of the feature around that foundation.
The last time we talked it was connected with WEBCAM, a great idea you started a crowdfunding campaign to finish. What can you tell me about the project?
After an incredibly complex postproduction period heavily affected by the pandemic, we are finally reaching the end of the tunnel and doing the final mix this September. All the hard work has paid off; it looks and sounds incredible. Cinephilia & Beyond will be the first to see it, as you are the first publication to get a sneak peak at Sangre!
Can’t wait! What’s the current stage of Sangre’s development?
We are currently casting, designing sets and locking locations in New Mexico.
When are you shooting?
Middle of November! Shooting is my favorite part of the process but getting there is so stressful, I am running around like a headless chicken! But it’s going to be great. It’s the most amazing story and my collaborators are like family.
Where did the idea for Sangre come from? Was there a specific moment of inspiration or did the idea slowly develop until it formed in full capacity?
A few Christmas ago I found out that one of my parents had cancer. My biggest fear has always been something bad happening to my parents and this was the first time I was faced with their mortality. It completely transformed me and I started to wonder what would I do to save them. Would I turn them into a monster if I knew they wouldn’t die? That thought clicked and I saw the major signposts of the story right then and there. I also knew I had to make this movie and share this story with the world.
In terms of creating the world of Sangre and developing its storyline, were there any specific cinematic role models you had in mind? Perhaps some films whose atmosphere you want to emulate?
Steven Spielberg is always in mind and E.T. in particular for this story. I like to call Sangre “E.T. with fangs” as it is also a tale about letting go, which mine is. E.T. has always been one of my cinematic holy grails and I hope to aspire to one day tell a story with the same level of poignancy and heart as Spielberg’s masterpiece.
Since the nature of the story in Sangre demands it, will you be looking into using a lot of practical effects? As far as I remember, you’re a big fan of practical effects.
Practical effects are the best! I love CGI, but it’s rare that you feel the immediacy of touch and threat that a puppet or a practical effect gives you. As much as I love the digital work in Jurassic Park, I would argue that the reason it is so effective is that it’s intercut with Stan Winston’s practical creatures and how visceral and threatening their interactions with the actors are. So with Sangre, the effects will be mostly practical, with digital work taking on a supporting role (erasing rigs, set extensions, etc). But all the blood effects (the movie is called “Sangre” so there is plenty of blood in it) and supernatural feats will be executed primarily with on-set effects.
At first glance, Sangre seems like a daring but complex mesh of themes and genres. Like a deeply personal film set within the frames of a dark horror story. In some ways, you could draw parallels with The Macabre World, could you not? Is Sangre perhaps some sort of a natural continuation of The Macabre World, explored in more detail?
Definitely. I love life and I am terrified of death, especially the death of my loved ones, so I think these movies are a way of working through those fears, of teaching myself that death is a part of life, and that it’s OK to let go. Not sure if I’ll ever feel that way but I am trying. I have promised myself that this is the last story I tell about this subject matter, however. I should learn my lesson already and move on to other more escapist fare. Not that Sangre isn’t!
When I read about Sangre, I couldn’t help but imagine this film might have come right out of Guillermo del Toro’s workshop. This is obviously meant as a compliment. Are there specific filmmakers you see as your biggest influences and role models?
I love Guillermo’s movies and he’s obviously an inspiration. Other filmmakers who started out doing fantasy and genre, once they became successful, they moved on to other, more “respected” genres. But Guillermo still remains a fantasist. And I hugely admire that. I love fantasy, sci-fi and horror, and I believe that you can achieve a truth in these kind of movies that you can’t in conventional dramas. That being said, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Robert Zemeckis and Walt Disney were my main influences during my formative years. I should also mention Jim Henson, whose work is where my love of puppetry comes from. Most of my projects, even the branded spots, have had a character realized by a puppet.
What can you tell me about the people you teamed up with for Sangre? Did you choose your collaborators based on your past experiences?
Yes, I did. I am producing with Begoña Castillo, who also produced Lavender, and with Ray Miller, my long-time manager (along with David Server), and who has worked in the industry for over twenty years. The DP is Álvaro Martín Blanco, who lensed WebCam, and the editor is another Lavender veteran: my brother from another mother and two-time Emmy winning-editor Mark Apicella. And I would not make a movie without the amazing work of Nacho Díaz, who has designed the make-up effects of all my projects since film school. Incidentally, since we last spoke, Nacho has won two Goyas (the Spanish Academy Award) for best make-up.
What do you see as the biggest challenge you will encounter making this movie?
The budget is modest and the story ambitious so it’s going to be an intense shoot. Lots of effects, a child protagonist with limited work-hours, and a short schedule… which means none of us will be sleeping for a while! All joking aside, this is the best job in the world and I am very lucky to wake up every day and do what I love most. This is my dream since watched Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie when I was five.
Since the main characters of Sangre are illegal immigrants, one of the themes you weaved into the film is the fear that constantly haunts immigrants in the US, the country that’s supposed to be a land of tolerance and opportunities for anyone seeking a second chance at happiness. What inspired you to add this element to the story? Do you believe you, as a filmmaker, have an important platform to help shape the country’s mindset with social and political criticism?
I have never been interested in using film as a pulpit. I only want to entertain and touch people’s hearts. That being said, it is a great responsibility and privilege to tell stories for a large audience, so it would be a waste of time if the movie wasn’t about something meaningful. I have to say that personally, the U.S. has been really good to me, and I feel privileged and honored to be working here. It is a great country.
You are building your career by developing your own projects and directing branded content for a whole series of distinguished big company clients. Besides helping you in the financial sense, what do you get from working on such commercial projects in terms of your growth as a filmmaker?
Doing commercial work has a distinct advantage: you shoot all sorts of stories in different genres and it allows you to practice your craft and get better at it. I am a huge believer that constant practice is what makes you great at your craft and I am incredibly grateful that I can exercise my chops in the commercials world. It also teaches how to deal with clients and brands, and I found it an invaluable tool to navigate, and hopefully thrive, in the studio system.
Finally, what are you doing after Sangre?
I’m making a fantasy project about teddy bears and bullies called Kharma’s Redemption, for a wonderful company called Wardrobe Designs and this will be their first movie. Cornell Miller, the co-founder, came to me with a very fun and meaningful idea and soon after we were shaking hands. In between and after, I’ll be directing branded content non-stop! Oh, and I’ll give you a scoop: I’m in early talks to make a horror comedy in Europe, with one of Spain’s biggest stars to play the protagonist. But that’s further down the line!
Sounds terrific, always a privilege to follow your work. Good luck and talk to you soon!
To be honest, I found this film to be a little traumatic. It stayed with me after the end credits. It haunted me a bit. Not that it was scary—although it’s definitely creepy at times—but it uses a narrative technique that succeeds at telling a heart-breaking story in a naive, cheerful, good-natured, optimistic way so that, at the end, the brightness of the style actually cloaks the grimness of the substance. —C&B’s review of The Macabre World of Lavender Williams
Check out the beautiful short film from 2010 that put Nick Delgado on the map.
In this brief interview excerpt, Drew Van Acker (Pretty Little Liars, Devious Maids, Training Day) talks about the experience of working with Nick Delgado, his director on WEBCAM.
Here’s a collection of photos granted to us by Nick Delgado. Intended for editorial use only. All material for educational and noncommercial purposes only.
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