Guillermo del Toro and Jason Madara Get Creative for Variety
Creativity comes out of an impulse for freedom. The ability to explore outside conventional constrictions is how we venture into new worlds and understandings. Few filmmakers have worked to open our minds the same way that Guillermo del Toro has. His mind is brought alive on screen time after time in some of the most acclaimed films of the last decade and each time it captures the imaginations of those who watch them, expanding our perception of possibility and the universes we can fathom. Creativity breeds creativity, and as a fan of del Toro’s work, Jason Madara was able to draw on his love for del Toro’s work for his latest cover of Variety.
The direct inspiration that Jason took was from the visual language of Crimson Peak, del Toro’s current film, and Variety was totally on board. They were open to whatever Jason came up with. “That’s one of the things about Variety that I love: it’s just absolute creative freedom,” says Jason. “It can be a double-edged sword because for some people creative freedom means they don't know what to do because no one is telling them what to do. But for me, I love it.” Jason found that there aren’t many portraits of del Toro as a new Hollywood icon so he had the opportunity to set the bar for this iconic filmmaker by striking the right tone. He went straight to the source.
Creating this portrait began with studying del Toro’s work. The energy of the imagery came from del Toro’s style, but the aesthetics were inspired directly by Crimson Peak. “I’m a huge Guillermo del Toro fan, I mean, who isn’t?,” says Jason. “I started researching the film right away, and that lead me to the color palate. And then I watched the trailer about a hundred times and I noticed this reoccurring candelabra, and a particular movement.” Honing in on that color palate, the iconography, and energy provided the creative structure to reveal del Toro’s essence.
The cover image was shot completely in camera. It’s not a composite. Jason took the camera in hand and in a pitch black studio opened the shutter. Then a blue strobe flashed on del Toro’s face very quickly, for something like 1/250th of a second, revealing it as quickly as a normal photograph would. Then, del Toro turned his head to profile and a red flash went off, very quickly again. Only after that did the shutter close, completing a single picture. Another photographer may take two photos and combine them in postproduction, but doing it for real adds elements that even the most seasoned photographer couldn’t plan. “It’s like these two brains connected, these two minds connected,” says Jason. “The Yin and the Yang. There’s something that’s so natural about that. I don’t think I would have come up with the same way to do it digitally. There’s something organic about it that worked out really well. No compositing anywhere on this one.”
The freedom that Variety gave Jason coalesced into two images he shot of del Toro’s workbook. This book is the shadow of del Toro’s imagination, part diary part creative confidant; it is the remainder of his entire body of work. “We didn’t know he was going to bring this book that he brought with him,” Jason explains. “And this is his book. This is the Holy Grail of everything he’s ever written. It’s all his notes going back to early films. Pan’s Labyrinth is in this book. Drawings from Hellboy are in there. It’s all in this book; it’s really cool.” In many ways, this book reflects del Toro himself which is why Jason shot it in the same style as del Toro with the same color and the same energy. At the end of the day, what a creative person has to offer is their work, the value of it measured against how it affects us.