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Guillermo del Toro: How he gave two Argentinian filmmakers a leg up in Hollywood

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Could a filmmaker ask for a better guardian angel than Guillermo del Toro? He loves horror movies, is currently residing in New Zealand, and has an arsenal of special effects at his disposal. For young filmmakers Andy and Barbara Muschietti, getting hooked up with the Academy Award nominee could be the transforming moment that turns their acclaimed, three-minute, Spanish-language short Mama (about two young girls whose mother seemingly comes back from the dead) from admired art to a commercial feature film success.

Del Toro saw Mama, which first debuted at the Sitges film festival, and helped the Argentinian brother and sister land a gig at Universal Pictures, where they’re working now to adapt the short into a feature film. (Del Toro’s 2001 film The Devil’s Backbone also first bowed at Sitges.) The turn of events stands to reason: As first reported by The Hollywood Reporter‘s Steven Zeitchik, del Toro is finding time to mentor again, just like he did with Juan Antonio Bayona’s 2007 debut, The Orphanage.

According to the Muschiettis’ agent, Paradigm’s Marc Helwig, Mama debuted at last year’s October festival and Helwig contacted the two on the advice of a friend, who loved it. The three met officially at the Berlin Film Festival in February and Helwig signed them on the spot. Mama was then shown aggressively around Hollywood. Del Toro loved it and brought it to Universal Pictures, where he has an overall first-look deal. “Guillermo galvanized the whole thing,” says Helwig, who adds that the development of the project is being fast-tracked with a draft expected in the next four to six weeks.” For them, it’s a dream come true,” Helwig says of the Muschiettis. And if all goes as planned, the two could be joining del Toro in New Zealand to make their dreams a reality.