Postcards From Hollywood: Blowing Up the Papaya with Tarantino

In her latest trip down memory lane, filmmaker Daniela De Carlo recalls an extremely memorable visit to the set of Kill Bill.

When I was interning at David E. Kelley Productions in the fall of 2002 over at Raleigh Studios, I heard that Quentin Tarantino was shooting a two-part movie called Kill Bill only a few stages down.

I remember when Pulp Fiction came out, my best friend and I went to see it during opening weekend, and we were both speechless as the credits began to roll, an extremely rare event. The movie was so radically innovative in so many ways, it made an impact on me. I remember my tender 16-year-old-brain thinking: “There’s really no limit to what movies can do or be. Anything is possible. And there is a way to keep reinventing the medium.”

Soon after I moved to L.A., I devoured Robert Rodriguez’s book Rebel Without a Crew. This gritty and passionate story about how he and Quentin broke into the business filled me with inspiration and hope. Quentin Tarantino was a living legend and I had to meet him. And so, during my lunch break, I walked over to the Kill Bill stage and talked to some people. A few minutes later, I was being walked in to meet QT in the flesh. Smiling, he shook my hand. “Hi, I’m Quentin,” he said.

He was such a tall guy, amped up and perky like a kid, it was endearing. He excitedly showed me to the main set and as he rolled up his sleeves, he sat on the fountain in the courtyard. “I hear you’re from Argentina! You’ve come a long way. The best camera assistant I’ve ever had was from Argentina. She shot with us in Beijing.” (I forget her name, but he remembered it, and I found it so cool there was a woman camera assistant from Argentina shooting a QT movie in Beijing!!!)

“What do you wanna do?” he asked. Without missing a beat, I said: “I wanna direct, like you.”

“That’s awesome,” he said. “Then you should stay and be my guest.”

Daniela De Carlo at a David E. Kelley Productions office Halloween party, around the time she visited the set of Kill Bill.

I said I’d love to but I had to go back to work, as my lunch break was almost over. He asked where I was working and was impressed when I told him. He invited me to come back after work. And I did. I was given a headset and I sat by his side behind the monitors. The guy was a force. By the end of that long day, he asked what I was doing the following day. I said I was free. “Then come back! We’re blowing up a papaya tomorrow, it’s gonna be awesome!”

And so bright and early, I showed up on set and I was introduced to the whole cast and crew as his special guest, future director from Argentina, Daniela De Carlo.

After lunch, a P.A. brought out a huge cake to set and they all sang happy fake-birthday to me. I was mortified, but I blew all the candles and even made a wish.

A papaya was blown-up. About 17 times. And he’d been right. It was awesome.

Daniela De Carlo’s latest feature, The Blackout, was released by Gravitas Ventures and is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime. Originally from Argentina, she worked her way up from P.A. to writer-director-producer, collaborating along the way with a myriad of industry heavyweights such as Alexander Payne, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, David E. Kelley, and Tony Scott. In 2010, she helmed the romcom Qualquer Gato Vira-Lata for Buena Vista International, which opened wide in Brazil to unprecedented box office success, and was one of six Hispanic directors on the 2014 feature drama Blue Lips. She was awarded the NBC/Universal Directing Fellowship and appointed to the USA Network show Royal Pains, and as a recipient of the inaugural NBC Female Forward program, recently helmed an episode of the primetime show Chicago Med. She is currently developing a biopic series about Xuxa, the most famous Brazilian pop star of all time. Daniela will exec produce, write and direct, in partnership with Xuxa and Gullane Filmes. She lives in Los Angeles. (Photo by Sari Thayer.)