The legendary director of All About My Mother, Talk to Her and Pain and Glory spoke on the wonders of filmmaking and his own writing process.
Taking place at Curzon cinemas in Mayfair and Soho, this latest series marked the 10th year of BAFTAs annual event showcasing some of the world’s best screenwriters. The programme featured lectures from five internationally acclaimed figures: Pedro Almódovar (Pain and Glory), Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story), Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse), Bong Joon Ho (Parasite) and Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire).
The Screenwriters’ Lecture Series exists to celebrate screenwriters’ authorial contribution to film and gives writers a platform to share highlights and insights from their careers with an audience of film-lovers and their peers. Created by BAFTA award-winning screenwriter Jeremy Brock, the series is supported by JJ Charitable Trust, one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts. The series began with a lecture from Pedro Almódovar, five-time BAFTA-winning screenwriter, director and producer.
Almodovar’s subject matter ranged from how news stories often served as starting points for his stories, the challenges of writing himself into the story in Pain and Glory, and he was at times visibly emotional watching scenes from his classic films that he had not seen for years.
Pedro Almodóvar: Good afternoon. The title of this lecture is ‘Telling Stories,’ and I will try to read directly in English so wish me good luck.
I suppose this is part of being a screenwriter, I always put titles on everything that I do, at least that I write. I have always conceived of cinema, the things I’ve made, as having a representation of life. Not of life itself, but its representation, and perhaps for that reason the scripts I’ve written until now have been inspired by reality. Reality in all its manifestations: what I hear, what I see, what I experience in my own life, the fears that affect me, the most atrocious events that I’ve read about in the newspaper, or the most surprising and moving ones. Family life, friends, solitude, beauty, the failures and pleasure one finds throughout life and in the origin of fiction. I have always been fascinated by creation in itself and by the interaction between the process of creation and its creator.
New items in the newspaper, exaggerated and extraordinary incidents, are usually a great source of inspiration.
For example, I’ll read in the newspaper that in New York a woman in a coma for nine years became pregnant and gave birth to a child. A few days later they discovered that the culprit was an orderly in the clinic. Beyond the moral judgment, what struck me most was that a body which science had defined as clinically dead, that is determined by the brain, could engender a new life. That extraordinary fact inspired me to make the first note on Talk to Her, the story of a perfect nurse who looks after a young woman in a coma with whom he ends up falling in love.
But I’m not inspired only by extraordinary facts. At times, inspiration comes from everyday situations. It’s best if I give you another example. I was in a bar having a coffee, it was time for the news programme and the television was on. The main newsreader talked about a murder; a man had been found dead. It suddenly occurred to me that I’d like the newsreader to continue saying ‘and I know who killed him.’
‘And I’m going to tell you.’ The idea amused me enough so as to make a few notes. I went home, I developed and developed the situation that had just occurred to me. First clip please.
Amazing Victoria Abril, I was very lucky to meet her for this character. Well this is the part of my success I have to say, that I could work with wonderful actors and actresses; that they understood me perfectly since the very beginning, because the stories were not the usual stories they’re used to doing in Spain. So thank you Victoria Abril. Well after reading—this block of sequences was like ten pages, and then I thought it was a good idea for a short film. Then in a few days I read the minute story again, and I found it interesting. I was intrigued by someone who could do what this newsreader did, and fascinated about the idea of a confession of such a calibre taking place right in the middle of a news programme. I immediately wanted to write, I mean to know, the reason why the newsreader killed someone and then confessed it, and also what happened to her after the public confession. But to satisfy my curiosity, I had to write everything that happened before the television programme, and what happened afterwards.
Reality provides you with the first lines of the story, but the writer—if he’s sufficiently curious—must write the rest to know what happens. In certain everyday situations as having a coffee in a bar while the television is showing a news programme, I found the seed of High Heels. It can also happen that what inspired the first idea disappears while the film, I mean the script, is being developed. At times the inspiration, the starting point of a narrative is an excuse that leads you to a story you couldn’t imagine before. And the origin of the story, what drove you to write it, disappears along the way. Chance is an essential part of writing, as is tenacity and curiosity and talent. Writing a script is always an adventure; I always have the impression that I’m not the owner of the story I’m writing, but rather the story chooses me as a way of manifesting itself. I act as a medium; the author’s relationship, at least in my case, with the origin of the story and its development is always mysterious and unpredictable. I am not the one who decides it, at least until a first draft. That is where the most important work in writing begins: correcting the material, time and again. Writing a script is rewriting it continuously until it’s done for the sound mixers. When I say that inspiration always comes from reality, I include myself as part of reality. Generally inspiration has its origin in a serial reality: a book, a film, a conversation, something you’ve done and so on, but inspiration can also come from inside oneself. We are still in the realm of reality, but in this case the reality is inside you, inside your heart, and your memory. It’s an intimate reality that doesn’t always have to be confessional because fiction always appears couched in the first ideas, feeding off them and dominating this reality from a certain level of writing. I have fallen back on certain elements on more than one occasion in order to write my scripts: my mother and my childhood; I also mix in stories or texts that I have written before and that find their place years later in some of my stories. Cinema, films, both as a spectator and director, and the memory of a love cut short when it was still alive and beating. Motherhood is a recurrent element in my filmography. What have I done to deserve this? High Heels, Volver, The Flower of My Secret, All About My Mother and Pain and Glory. Please let’s see the second clip.
Antonio moves me always in this sequence. And now in Spanish [interpreter continues] I didn’t think about my childhood until this century when I turned fifty. I suppose that I didn’t like what I remembered and deliberately relegated it to a dark corner of my memory, but the passing of time drives you to look back in a natural death. I suppose that’s what we call maturity. When I started making films in 1979, I was in a great hurry to live and to tell stories. I only looked ahead, greatly stimulated by my present as a young man in Madrid, enthusiastically devouring the first years of the Spanish Transition. Also the past was contaminated by Franco’s dictatorship, and I consciously erased it from my memory as if it never existed. All the films I wrote and directed in the ‘80s, from Pepi, Luci, Bom and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! were made from the denial of the dictatorship, as if Madrid, the city where I lived, and the characters I was writing, had been born in 1977 after the death of the dictator. I only looked ahead, I didn’t feel the need to look back until the start of the new century. That retrospective look led to two very different films, Bad Education and Volver. Bad Education showed the worst of my childhood, the darkest memories of my relationship with a Silesian and Franciscan priest with whom I studied for my high school diploma. So can we see the third clip?
In an equally spontaneous way, I recovered the memory of another part of my childhood, which, with time, had turned into the opposite of the education I had received from the priests. I’m referring to my early rural childhood up until the age of eight. Those first eight years surrounded by women, my mother and her neighbours, were my real formation as a person. It was the ‘50s, I paid a lot of attention to them and was fascinated by the lives of the women around me, strong women, fighters, cheerful. They initiated me into life and into fiction. Even though there is no child in Volver the story is based on conversations that I heard from the neighbours in the La Mancha patios, stories of dead people who appeared of incestuous rapes. Or when I went with my mother to wash clothes in the river with other women; it’s one of the happiest memories of my childhood. Next clip.
Another element that forms part of my scripts is the texts that I wrote at different times of my life and that I’ve kept in the form of notes, personal reflections, short stories or unfinished scripts. I can give you an example: in Talk to Her there is the set piece, The Shrinking Lover, the narration of a silent film, which Benigno Martín has seen at the cinema, a film which disturbs him and which he recounts to Alicia, Alicia, the young woman in a coma who he cares for in the hospital. It’s a set piece in black and white which can function independently, but which uses its narrative to hide what is actually happening in the hospital room between Benigno and Alicia. During the writing I had already empathised with the sweet psychopath played by Javier Cámara. I knew that at some point he was going to rape the young woman in a coma, because that was the original idea. As I said in the beginning, I had read the news item about a woman in a coma in a New York hospital who, after being lifeless for nine years, had given birth to a baby. After a few days it was discovered that she had been raped by an orderly. I turned the orderly into a nurse and, even though I knew from the start that he was going to commit a criminal act, my duty as a narrator was to show the character in all of his humanity, without justifying him, but explaining how he was. A bit of advice for writers, actors and directors: never judge a character to whom you must give life, even if he’s a psychopath. Personally, if I’m incapable of sympathising with a character, I don’t keep writing his story. And I had empathised with the character of Benigno the nurse, and as if he were a real friend I didn’t want to see him raping a girl in a coma. Something inside me rebelled against showing that scene to the spectator. Nevertheless, as narrator I had to transmit to the spectator what was happening in the hospital room between a nurse and the patient. Then I had the idea of covering over the rape scene with another narrative through which the spectator would understand what was really happening between Benigno and the patient. That was how I thought of using The Shrinking Lover as a front, which also suggested what was happening in that room. I had already written that piece as a first draft, you don’t invent something like that overnight. I cannibalised part of this previous script and introduced it into the narrative of Talk To Her. So it’s time to see The Shrinking Lover, the new clip.
I’ve never wanted to have my biography written; my life is reflected in the twenty one films I’ve made to date. All my life, in its different stages, my family, my country, my loves, my relationship with creation, are behind the characters in the first twenty films.
[Pedro speaks] Excuse me, I haven’t seenthis clip since a long time ago, and I’m shaking.
[Interpreter continues] In the latest one, Pain and Glory, my presence in front and behind the camera is more obvious and more intimate. In this latest film there is as much fiction as in other films, but for the first time my reference for the protagonist is myself. The research I had to do for Antonio Banderas’ character was in my entrails and in my memory, in my own solitude, in my own pains and in my own fears. Two summers ago I used to submerge myself every day in the swimming pool, and I’d remain underwater, motionless, for as long as my lungs held out, and then I’d submerge myself again. I had recently been operated on because of my back, and all the musculature which had been affected after the operation that immobilised the lumber half of my back. The most enjoyable time of the day was when I remained submerged in the water. Under the water, because of the lack of gravity, all musculature tension disappeared. After repeating this ritual for weeks, I got someone to take my photo in this situation. Resting under the water with my arms extended, floating, I wanted to know what that image was like. I thought the photo was sufficiently mysterious and suggestive and without knowing, that would become a script that I started writing. The water in the pool, the stillness and the darkness—under the water I always had my eyes closed—transported me to another liquid current, the river of my childhood, the river where my mother and her neighbours went to wash clothes. As we have seen already, for me this was a real party. The pain and the glory were established in those first two sequences. But I still hadn’t decided to write a script in which my personal life would be so present. I thought, if I write in such a direct way about myself, it means for the next two years I’ll have to talk about my personal life in all the promotional interviews, and I’m a very reserved person.
After a moment of that, I did what I usually do when I’m inspired by an exterior reality, mixed reality with fiction. Becoming aware of myself helped me look at myself with sufficient distance so as to write. I didn’t have the impression that I was Antonio Banderas’ character, but rather than he was someone who seemed very much like me and to whom I could assign my world. When I write a script, it doesn’t matter what the inspiration is, there’s a moment where fiction dominates the story. And what matters is the result is plausible as fiction, even if it has moved away from reality. Water, the liquid current, had appeared from the outset as the element that would define the narrative. The different periods in the script had to flow like the water in the river flows. The protagonist had already been decided, a sixty year-old film director who suffers from various ailments and lives alone, isolated in his home, depressed at the idea that he won’t be able to make any more films because he physically isn’t able to do so. Salvador Mallo hadn’t stopped until then. He had left an explosive, fast-paced life, both professionally and personally, and suddenly a back operation along with other physical problems, forces him to stop. He had never taken the time to think about himself, he was always occupied with the film he was writing, shooting, editing or promoting. Those were the four temporal cycles of his existence: His spring, his summer, his autumn and his winter were always marked by the film he was working on. This situation of isolation and inactivity, which he is living for the first time, forces him to look back. He invokes the memory of his childhood, his life as a young adult in the Madrid of the ‘80s, the importance of cinema and of the big screen in his life, the memory of a great love that he had to end when it was still alive and the bittersweet memory of his mother’s last years. In this plot panorama, the three texts which I spoke about fit perfectly with the subject. Salvador would get in touch with an actor with whom he’d worked thirty years before and they’d ended up fighting. Paradoxically, this actor performs in an alternative theatre, the monologue Addiction, whose author is Salvador and which I had written in the ‘90s. I could also recover the story of The First Desire and attribute it to Salvador’s childhood. This annex didn’t occur until the very last moment in the final stage of writing the script. And now the sixth clip please.
During the writing I wanted to save Salvador because it was like saving myself, but I couldn’t force it. I lived through some weeks of uncertainty until I found the solution, when in the radiologist consultancy, his assistant Mercedes shows him the invitation to an exhibition of anonymous popular art. The invitation shows a watercolour of a boy sitting in an interior patio, surrounded by flowerpots reading a book—this is what you saw. That child is Salvador, who remembers the moment when a young labourer drew the scene and then washed naked with water from a basin. Salvador remembers the child’s perturbation at the first impulse of desire. This memory gave me the key to saving Salvador. After speaking to the radiologist, he goes to the art gallery and buys the watercolour. Fifty years later, the watercolour of the child surrounded by flowerpots arrives in the hands of the person for whom it was intended, and for the first time in a long time, Salvador feels the pressing need to tell that story. When he arrives home, he dives feverishly onto the computer and starts writing it, first the title The First Desire. The need to tell that story provided me with the best way to save my protagonist. He should be the one to make the film about his childhood, everything that until that moment in Pain and Glory the spectator has believed to be flashbacks is, in reality, the film that Salvador is shooting. Because the character’s true dependency isn’t on drugs, but on cinema, on making films. Finding a story to tell that possesses him completely, a story that will transport him to a place without pain. The territory where stories and their narrators live, it was the best ending I could imagine for Salvador and for me. And now the final clip please.
And now, Duncan can join me for the
Duncan Kenworthy: Well that was rather fantastic, wasn’t it? We have to finish by 5:30, so I’m going to ask a couple of questions then throw it open to the floor. How many screenwriters or protoscreenwriters are there here, people who are interested? It’s a screenwriters lecture, but obviously Pedro is both screenwriter and director, so go on—you can put your hands up, admit it. I wanted to start, actually, just by making a point rather than asking a question. Because it’s so clear through Pedro’s talk and his career, twenty-one films— incidentally I was born two weeks before you and I feel as though I’ve done nothing in my life now.
So just talking as he did at the beginning of his talk about getting inspiration from newspapers, finding interesting incidents, things that he could turn into a story, just I think there’s a real lesson for screenwriters here, where I think when people write screenplays in the UK, generally in order to find a connection to the audience they think about genre. So what are they going to write, is it going to be a period film, is it a biopic, is it an adaptation, is it a comedy, a horror? They start with a genre and then somehow I think feel the responsibility to stick to the dictates of that genre the whole way through, and I think Pedro’s way is so interesting, that all you’re concerned about as you write is what the director—in this case obviously it’s himself—is going to be able to make of interest to his audience all the time.
PA: No I don’t think about the audience.
DK: There goes my theory!
PA: I love the audience and there is a moment when I only think about the audience, but that moment is when I finish the movie, I mean week before the opening, then I’m shaking just thinking about the audience, but never before. When I’m writing I’m a more free person, I’m more free than in my real life. I’m completely free and don’t think of anything but the story, and as I said I think usually as a medium of a story and it’s the story that asks me to do something and something the story asks me to write something that I don’t want, but the story demands it very clearly. So I never did these twenty-one movies that I did— because also I don’t know how is the audience, I don’t know what face they have; it’s something amorphous. The audience is something amorphous that one cannot really know truly, and I’m always very surprised by who they are. I think even when the writer and director think too much about the audience they often make mistakes or are surprised.
DK: I’m going to disagree with your own work, because I think if you look at some of your early work, Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, All About My Mother, High Heels, Talk To Her, if you look at—I would say people at film school should study the first five minutes of each of those films. Every single moment of those first five minutes is of enormous interest, the graphics, the music, the sound, it’s so clear to me that you are a master at holding the audience’s attention—and that’s a critical five minutes at the beginning of a movie; if people are lost, they turn away.
PA: You know, I mean always I try to be very clear to the audience; in this case yes I think about the audience. And I try in the first five minutes to tell what the story will be about. So like, in those first five minutes, the spectator must decide what territory we’re moving in and in every film I make my intention is always to make that very clear in the first five minutes.
DK: Another example is from Talk To Her, the idea that the other chap, the one who’s not the nurse, his relationship is with a female bullfighter. Such an unusual choice of role, I think, and yet it pays off brilliantly at one moment when we see her fighting a bull and with this extraordinary Albert Iglesias song, and it just seems to me as though you’re thinking about moments and how they’re connecting, well to you probably, but I think of it as connecting to the audience, but it’s a sequence that you could not have had if she hadn’t been a bullfighter obviously. It’s just an extraordinary—it feels to me as if you find extraordinary moments that are going to connect to you and the audience, whether they’re dramatic or beautiful, or they remind us of our childhood, all the time you are finding— you feel the responsibility to find those things, I think you probably think of them as being for yourself not for the audience.
PA: It’s wonderful when that connection happens, and thinking about Pain and Glory, I listened to many people telling me they don’t see my mother when the young and the old mother appear; all they see is their own mother. Of course I was thinking about a love that was cut in a moment that it was still alive, but the audience isn’t thinking about my biography and my love affairs in the past, but because this is the kind of experience I hope everyone has in their lives, yes to love someone, and that sometimes you have to cut. This is a kind of miracle when that happens but this is how it is.
What you need is to be sincere when you are telling this kind of story. Then everyone can feel identified with that. The case of Talk To Her, the reason I chose a bullfighter, a female bullfighter, was because I wanted a profession very close to death. I didn’t want a killer—I mean I cannot say that but in Spanish you call it matador, which is exactly ‘killer’. So I wanted someone very close to that experience, and also because just being in a coma is, for the science, a death, a physical death of the brain. So it was because of that. But really—I’m thinking about England, I’m overwhelmed that my movies worked so well here because really our cultures are very different and at the beginning I always thought I’d be too outrageous for the British audience. So it’s just, to feel this kind of reciprocity with the British audience.
DK: I love the fact that you chose those particular sequences to show us, because they’re very much when taken out of context quite shocking to the English sensibility. But you succeeded in that.
PA: I was trying to illustrate what I was telling. I never tried, even in my beginning that I had a reputation of being the Spanish enfant terrible, I never tried or wanted to outrage anyone. It was my way of telling the story, it was my way of watching the world around me, so I respect when I was outrageous but I didn’t try. Not in the sense for example that Madonna tried to be all the time outrageous. It was not my point.
DK: All I can say is whenever I need some
tiling done, I’m calling Eduardo.
Because we don’t have that much time, can we open it up to questions from the audience? There will be somebody with a microphone.
Q: Thank you very much. I was at the Q&A last night and there was a question I was going to ask you: There’s a moment in Pain and Glory about the kid teaching the older kid to write because he’s illiterate, and I’m just curious to know, was that something in your development, or is it meant to be a statement on illiteracy in Spain? Could you tell us a bit more about how you came to that choice in the script for Pain and Glory?
PA: Well you know, all that block of sequences when they go to live in a cave, part is reality. In that moment I’m talking about the ‘60s, early ‘60s in Spain, we were living under a very tough post-war, so almost half the country were migrating to other places, to Valencia, to Barcelona, sometimes to France, to Germany, and then my family, we migrated to Extremadura. This family goes to a little village in Valencia. So I didn’t live in a cave, but I know very well what it meant to live in a very precarious way. The lessons, that was true. It’s unbelievable but that was part of my childhood. The street we were living on, my family, was a very illiterate street. It didn’t look like a street because—it was a street you could barely call a street because the houses were made out of the kind of material from which bricks are made; it kind of looked like the background of a Western more than it looked like a street where people could live. That for my mother was awful, but for me it was a space of fantasy. They were completely illiterate, all of them, and then my mother started reading letters of the neighbours and I used to write them, they’d dictate to me and I’d write. Also it was my mother’s idea, because she thought we could tell the mothers of the other guys ‘I think Pedro can teach the boys’—well guys, they were tall, eighteen years-old. My mother thought ‘Pedro could teach the other boys,’ who were really young men, the four rules and how to read and how to sum. So I was nine years old at this moment and after the war in the country I had five or six students, big guys, and I did that. I taught them how to write, how to read and all that. I don’t remember—the sequence of the hands, I didn’t take the hands of all of them, that part’s fiction, but I did that and then I put it here. The rest is fiction, I never fell in love with any labourer, but it could be. You cannot take this movie like my biography in a literal way, but I was always very close to that, I mean I knew all the paths that Antonio’s character lived and I feel very familiar with everything that happens in the movie. But it’s basically fiction, I’m the reference but it’s basically a fiction. This bit was true, it was part of reality.
DK: I’m going to jump in again, it seems to me that when you started making films it was just after Franco had died and censorship had been banished in ’77 I think it was, so it must have been a bit like London ten years ago, enormous excitement, and it feels as though that spirit is in your films of that time; fantastically funny as well as outrageous. Is there a sense over your career of that turning into comedy as a natural move, is not necessary anymore. That somehow you’ve got a little more serious? There’s not much comedy in your latest film, very, very touching, strong emotional stuff, and I wonder if you don’t need that vivacious sort of quality anymore?
PA: Well I would like to come back to comedy, but I don’t know how and when. I really would like to write a new comedy. But as I said I’m not the owner of the story, the story comes to me and I have the first idea, and do you know the latest ideas are always very dramatic and then I have to play my role as the medium of the narrative to develop them the best I can, but it’s true that it’s been a while since I’ve had a comedy idea. I don’t know if it’s the passage of time, or if I’m just getting old, but I would like to recover the spirit of those early films.
DK: We’ve got three minutes left, I think that’s right. Oh, two more questions. Who’s the lucky one? In the front row?
Q: Hello Pedro. Thank you for the lecture, it was wonderful. Could you talk a little bit about the amazing actors and actresses throughout your filmography, because obviously unlike a lot of directors you come back constantly to a small group of amazing people, and Duncan you referenced it, in some of the later films we’ve watched you grow, your film style grow, your storytelling grow, but we’ve also watched this group of actors grow with you. Could you talk a little bit about that group of people you work with?
PA: That’s fantastic because I get the feeling that I have like a family of actors. This is an idea that belongs more to a theatre but you spend a lot of time with actors and once you have an experience with them, this is something that gives me more security. So when I’ve finished writing a script, I always think there is a role for an actor I’ve worked with in the past. Because you know, we know each other, we know we understand each other, so it’s this kind of advantage, and also because we have a friendly relationship— thinking about Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, Marisa Paredes; I think I was very lucky just to meet them, because really just watching the profile, or the screening of the clips, I was very moved that I’m a very lucky guy meeting these actors. When I direct, I’m very demanding, and they’ve even changed, they are different with me than with other directors. I even change the way of pronouncing our language, I mean the music of the Spanish language, and they, all of them, come devoted to do what I ask. I feel so lucky that they are giving life to a fantasy that belongs to me, that this is a kind of treasure. This is unbelievable for a director who writes his own stories. I saw them develop and grow in their careers, and fortunately many of them became big stars not only in Spain but also out of Spain, and I feel like the mother of them, very proud when I see them awarded in Hollywood or doing, working with fantastic directors. This is a wonderful experience. employ a lot of the time with the actors; everything, every detail, every small detail is important; everything you see on screen, the small little detail, is important. And I try to control that, but you know, the eyes, the soul, the mouth of the story, they are the actors. They give their body and more than that to the movie, so I mean, I’m in awe of the other disciplines; I employ a lot of time with the actors because I think they are the main things in a movie.
Q: [Question in Spanish]
Translator: The question was: There’s a lot of empathy for the ‘strangest characters’ in Pedro’s films and the question is, is that coming from his need to empathise with them, and does he have a favourite character?
PA: As you know, for me they are not strange characters, I look at them in a very natural way. In many cases they were part of my life or at least in something. For example like Agrado was based on someone that someone told me about a character like that. The other character of Victoria Abril was just a flash of inspiration, but you know, I feel very close to all of them, even in the case of the nurse who’s going to commit a crime. If I’m writing about him I need to understand him and I need to explain him. I cannot blame the character for anything. So all of them, and of course the more extreme of them, I feel are very close to my heart. I feel empathy and I feel very, very close and I suffer with them. I work from inside them. There was I think only one time I started writing something about a psycho that I felt very bad with the character and then I quit it. I need to have this kind—I don’t want to say compassion, because compassion reminds me of a very Catholic word, but just to feel very close to them. Because they are human and my responsibility as a writer and a director is to explain them, to explain how they are. Of course they’re very unperfect and there is the tale, you cannot narrate a story about a perfect family, a perfect couple, a perfect someone. There is nothing to say about that. So I always feel very close to all the extreme characters and to what they do.