EDITORS NOTE: This is part of a series of interviews, conducted via email, profiling first-time feature directors who have films screening at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.
Screening as part of Sundance ’08’s Park City at Midnight program, Nacho Vigalondo‘s “Timecrimes” is the director’s feature length debut after the Academy Award nominated shot, “7:35 in the Morning.” “Timecrimes” follows Hector (Karra Elejalde ), a man who is attacked by a figure wrapped in a giant pink head bandage. After escaping, Hector hides in an odd contraption in a science laboratory. When he emerges, things have changed. Sundance’s John Nein says Viaglondo “has a great instinct for the aesthetic, moving effortlessly between a tense, disquieting atmosphere and a relentless, driving energy.” His story “of an ordinary man flung into circumstances far beyond his comprehension (and perhaps his control) is propelled by a deeper curiosity than genre antics alone will satisfy.”
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Screenwriter: Nacho Vigalondo
Producers: Eduardo Carneros, Esteban Ibarretxe, Javier Ibarretxe
Cinematographer: Flavio Labiano
Editor: Jose Luis Romeu
Principal Cast: Karra Elejalde, Barbara Goenaga, Candela Fernandez, Nacho Vigalondo
Spain, 2007, 90 min., color, 35mm
Please introduce yourself.
Hi. I’m Nacho Vigalondo. 30 years, I live in Madrid now, and I have studied and worked in the Spain all my life. I left college (a journalism career) when I started working. I became an Oscar Nominee thanks to the short film “7:35 in the Morning.” That turned me into a feature director.
What initially attracted you to filmmaking? What other creative outlets do you explore?
I’ve been writing horror stories all my life. I’ve worked as an actor in short films and commercials, eating hamburgers in front of the camera, you know. I made some theater, some television. I worked as writer in the Spanish version of “Big Brother” (a gift for a sci-fi fan). And I acted as Norman Bates in a spookhouse. I think all of that leads you to what you finally become.
Have you made other films, and how did you learn about filmmaking?
I’ve learned by simply working in short films (both mine and other people’s) as writer, actor, camera operator, everything. Growing up in my tiny town surrounded by mountains in the north of Spain , making movies didn’t seem like an option. It was unthinkable. My first video short films were recorded before I knew that things like short film festivals existed. They were made just for laughs. I shot a mockumentary about the Andes cannibal tragedy. It had a lot of singing and dancing. I can see there’s a documentary about this same event in Sundance. The circle closes itself. Everything turns more seriuous in your work when you find other people with your interests and the shape of things becomes more solid. My partners in my little Spanish production company, Arsenico Producciones (we make commercials, short films…) are friends I met in college. Borja Cobeaga, one of us, was an Oscar nominee two years after me! We couldn’t believe our fortune.
What prompted the idea for this film and how did it evolve?
I love time travel, literary sci-fi, the crime stories from authors like James Cain… I loved the intimate appeal of making a film like the American Fritz Lang movies: few characters, few locations, and a deep crime logic. From there I added the time travel element, like those crazy novels from the sixties. And threw in a little softcore eroticism for good measure. Then I realized this would be a De Palma story with a time machine. How could I stop at this point??
Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film.
We tried to put together the inhuman complexity of a time travel paradox with the mundane, almost comical, reactions of average characters. Even the scientist guy is dazed most of the time. This is a very Spanish–or European–thing: confusion and uselessness in presence of the unknown. Karra Elejalde, the main actor is well known in Spain as a comedian. Barbara Goenaga hasn’t been in much yet, but that won’t be the case for long if I can help it.
We wanted to do a film with few elements, and played with aesthetics just to make it atemporal and abstract. One friend told me “you’ve made Tarkovski for teenagers.” I love that! At the same time, I feel so close to Italian movies. This movie is not so far from the Giallo classic stuff. Or the British old science fiction television. “Day of the Triffids,” all those cold and sinister serials.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the project?
We shot the film without a Spanish distributor, and while that gives you freedom, it makes everything riskier. The movie doesn’t follow any traditions in Spanish cinema, so companies didn’t feel comfortable about its commercial prospects. Nowadays the situation may have changed, thanks to the awards we got in festivals such as Fantastic Fest in Austin, or SciencePlusFiction, in Italy . And being here, at Sundance. And, of course, the incredible reviews and exposure we’re getting from Variety and websites like Twitch, Aint-it-cool, Cinematical and indieWIRE, of course. I’m so thankful. This movie is reaching Spain from abroad.
What are your specific goals for the Sundance Film Festival?
I’m looking forward to having a bunch of interviews up there–I want to meet people and work on setting up my next step in the movie bussiness. Who knows. At the same time, I’ll try to enyoy the festival and the movies there as much as possible.
What are some of your recent and all time favorite films?
I was the perfect age and loved all the right things when Quentin Tarantino arrived on the scene and showed the modern way to mix the genre and the auteur thing. He became our generational hero and we owe him so much. That being said, my all time favourite filmmakers are those who destroyed the barriers between arthouse and genre. Terence Fisher, Don Siegel, Mario Bava… I love filmmakers like Rob Zombie. He dares to shoot what seem like B-movies, but you can recognize his style in less than ten seconds.
How do you define success as a filmmaker?
Success in art is surviving doing stuff that would’t exist if you didn’t exist. I want “Timecrimes” to be enjoyable and to allow me to make more movies, that’s it. Not necessarily big ones. I have a fistful of crazy ideas and novels to adapt. Making movies is an incredible gift, and I want to take advantage of it in the deepest way possible.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
My most finished script right now is “The Ramp,” a story about a guy that builds a giant ramp in order to make a car jump onto a UFO. It’s a comedy, but somehow works as a melancholic and dark turn for us, the Amblin generation. I’m writting a zombie plot, an alien invasion one, a dark Polanski-esque erotic thing… I love to start from traditions and make unexpected and funny twists. That’s the most exciting thing for me.
Please share your thoughts on the state of independent film today.
Independent movies shouldn’t look like independent movies. “Independent” shouldn’t be a style–only a way of financing. The independent film scene is healthy if there’s diversity. In Spain , independent filmmaking can be very difficult (our market is so small and fragile). Here there are more possibilities, but things could always be better. For example, I heard Todd Solondz is having problems financing his next project. That’s something that’s very hard for me to wrap my head around.
indieWIRE’s coverage of the 2008 Sundance FIlm Festival is available in iW’s special Park City section.