By Milli Legrain, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Rio International Film Festival closed last night with the final award for the competitive section of Brazilian movies going to both “De Menor” and “O Lobo Atrás Da Porta.” The city’s festival also attracted dozens of international guests including internationally-acclaimed Paul Schrader, best known as the screenwriter of the classics “Taxi Driver,” “The Last Temptation of Christ” and the director of “American Gigolo.”

Paul Schrader at Rio Film Fest, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Festival Director Ilda Santiago presents an award to Paul Schrader (center), accompanied by President of the Jury, Fabiano Canosa, photo by Milli Legrain.

This New York-based film critic turned screenwriter and director, who was raised in Michigan by a strict Dutch Calvinist family that forbade TV and movies, was in Rio to receive a lifetime achievement award and launch his new small budget film, “The Canyons.”

The Rio Times had an opportunity to speak with Schrader recently. At 67 years of age, Schrader, a non-conformist who went “from a pulpit to a soapbox,” is chatty, cynical and funny.

The Rio Times: Tell us about your experience of making a micro-budget film like “The Canyons.”
Paul Schrader: It began as an experiment with screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis. It was designed to be made for nothing, without permissions or insurance.

The actors did their own hair and makeup and were paid $100 a day. The script was written to be filmed in houses of people we knew. It’s about beautiful people doing bad things in nice rooms. That’s not expensive. It was financed, cast and distributed on social media. It was designed for VOD. It is making money so it all worked out.

The Rio Times: What is the film really about?
Paul Schrader: It’s about the internet generation who aren’t interested in changing the world. They hook up even though they don’t want to and make films that nobody wants to watch.

The Rio Times: Are you disillusioned with modern filmmaking?
Paul Schrader: In the past to make films you needed to find somebody to finance it and therefore you needed an audience. Today, anybody can make a film. There is an explosion of freedom but we are losing touch with the need to communicate.

Paul Schrader at Rio Film Fest, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
A still from “The Canyons” featuring Lindsay Lohan, Press Image.

The Rio Times: How did Lindsay Lohan like acting with porn star James Deen?
Paul Schrader: Lindsay is unreliable and high maintenance. She can’t get insured but wants to act, so it was an opportunity for her. For one of the scenes she requested the crew to take their clothes off. So I said: If this is what it’s going to take Lindsay, let’s do it.

The Rio Times: Tell us about the process behind writing Taxi Driver.
Paul Schrader: It was therapeutic. I was going through a very bad time. I was drinking, sleeping in my car and in porn theatres. I thought: I have to write about this guy or I’m going to become him. The cab was a metaphor for my life and loneliness.

The Rio Times: How do you feel about getting this award?
Paul Schrader: My movies don´t get many awards but I get a lot of lifetime achievements. I guess it’s because I make films that are controversial and upsetting. That means they get mixed reactions but have a good shelf life.

The Rio Times: Do you prefer directing or writing?
Paul Schrader: They are different parts of the brain. The nice thing about directing is that the problems come at you so fast that you have to make decisions without even realizing you are making them. When I look back at the decisions I´ve made I think: That is who I am.

Read more (in Portuguese).

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