Guillermo del Toro’s newest film, The Shape of Water, is a monster movie-love story masterpiece that critics love, but getting those great reviews wasn’t easy. The director recently opened up about working with a smaller budget than he usually has at his disposal — $19.5 million this time, to be exact — and the controversy surrounding it. Before tuning into the 2018 Oscars Sunday night, here’s what you should know about the making of The Shape of Water.

Del Toro is known for creating fantastical worlds, and his dedication to imbuing even the tiniest details — like color motifs, music queues, even costume fabrics — with symbolism makes his movies particularly unique. To have control over that level of detail onscreen takes a lot of money, something del Toro didn’t have much of (relatively speaking, of course) for this visionary romance.

Sacrifices to the film’s aesthetic were also made in the budgeting process with Fox Searchlight, which was the first to greenlight del Toro’s vision. Originally, the director wanted to shoot all of Shape of Water in black and white, but when the time came for Fox’s production studio to bankroll the film, they decided they would only sign on if this idea was abandoned. “To be disarmingly and horribly honest, black and white was a pawn sacrifice,” del Toro told Entertainment Weekly.

Despite these struggles, adversity seems to have created beauty. The esteemed director, known for his whimsical tales like Pan’s Labyrinth and Crimson Peak, even said that this is his favorite film yet. And if that’s the case, it’s sure to be a hit with audiences and the Academy alike.