An apocalyptic world. A devastated city. One last survivor.
Edgar has learned to survive on his own avoiding contaminated areas by the “incident” which destroyed life as we knew it.
But Edgar’s routine is suddenly disrupted by the discovery of a wall with graffitis by his bed. Just one word reveals the presence of another survivor: “Anna”
To begin with, tell us about your latest film ‘Graffiti’, what is the film about?
“Graffiti” is a contemporary love story that occurs in a different and unusual environment. I was interested in finding a realistic setting where Graffiti’s starting point could be believable: the world is over and the last survivor finds something that will change his life completely.
I was also interested in exploring modern text messaging, which is so present in our day to day relationships through short messages. This is what inspired the use of graffiti on the walls of Pripyat, as a means of communication.
Right from the beginning, the idea was to make a film about loneliness, about having faith in love and about the power of imagination in a desolated environment after a worldwide catastrophe. I was not interested in exploring the survival difficulties that many post-apocalyptic films represent, but I focused on the emotional journey of these two characters that encounter each other in the end of the world.
How did you come to direct the film?
From the beginning I wanted to produce this story with the company I co-founded with my partner Ester Velasco, Euphoria Productions, because I felt the need to manage the creative part of the film 100%. The first person to join the project was the Valencian co-producer Cristian Guijarro (Ainur Films), who obtained a public fund from IVAC and Canal. 9. At that time I was working on a feature film produced by Participant Media, and as soon as I told them about “Graffiti” they found it very interesting. I also counted with Peter H. Reynolds as the main investor. Both, Cristian Guijarro and Peter H Reynolds, got involved very quickly in the project and it was a pleasure to have them on board, they loved the script from the beginning and agreed with the idea of shooting in Pripyat, as this would contribute to make a special and unique short film.
Lets talk about the cast, who are the lead performers? What was it like working with them?
Oriol Pla is the leading actor. He plays Edgar, the only survivor in the world after a nonspecific catastrophe. Oriol’s physical appearance fit the role perfectly and he’s an amazingly talented actor. For me, he’s just one of those actors who can pull off whatever you throw at them. There are no limits to what he is capable of and that is what every director could ever wish for. We love to work with actors who are never scared of trying new things and venturing outside their comfort zones. I think Oriol created a really special Edgar, juggling tenderness, madness, and what’s even more complex, putting up with himself for the entire shoot.
I did set out a few basic guidelines in terms of the character. We talked a fair bit about what his life would have been like before and after “the incident.” I love working on backstories and the psychology of my characters, but I also love to give actors the freedom to navigate whatever happens in the actual moment when we are filming. Oriol had get his head around how being alone and isolated had effected Edgar, so I suggested he should try shutting himself off from the rest of the world.
What are your influences as a filmmaker?
There are two film masters that clearly marked my childhood: Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg. I started watching their films from a very early age and learned my first cinema lessons, many years before starting any type of theoretical study. Still today I can remember the huge impact “Rear Window” or “Jaws” caused on me when I watched them for the first time. No doubt both filmmakers have been a clear influence on the kind of narrative I feel more comfortable with as a director. Following this same line, another work that marked me also was “The Silence of the Lambs” by Jonathan Demme.
During my teenage years I discovered the work of other great directors who showed me “a different kind of cinema” and who also motivated me to start my university studies. “Blue Velvet” by David Lynch and “The Mechanical Orange” by Kubrick taught me a taste for complex and dark characters, as well as for the creation of dreamlike or strange universes that coexist naturally within a near and recognizable reality.
In my time as a university student my interest for European author film grew, being Antonioni’s “Blow up” one of the films that marked me the most. I learned how the same theme could involve each and every one of the scenes of the film and sublimate into a final thesis that conveyed a strong moral message. Lars von Trier’s “Breaking the Waves “, Leos Carax’s “Les Amants du Pont Neuf “, Gaspar Noe’s “Irreversible”, Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby” or Haneke’s “Funny Games” influenced me especially in my years as a student.
What advice would you give to any aspiring filmmakers?
I think that if you are convinced about telling a story and you have a clear vision about how to make it, you have to fight to get it in the way you dream about. No matter how complicated or impossible it looks like, there is always a way to find the right partners to make it possible.
With Graffiti I feel very lucky to have counted on an excellent team who brought creative energy in every single stage of the process.
What makes “Graffiti” unique and one of a kind?
“Graffiti” was shot in the abandoned town of Pripyat, near the Chernobyl’s nuclear power plant in Ukraine. It is an amazing and unique place in the world, as it has remained intact and uninhabited for nearly 30 years since the accident that caused the evacuation and closure of the nuclear plant. It is quite complicated to get into Pripyat to shoot a film due to the security measures that need to be taken in the “exclusion zone”. “Graffiti” is the first film production to be filmed entirely within the “exclusion zone”. Personally, been able to film “Graffiti” in Pripyat was a dream come true, as I dreamed of doing something there for years.
A crew of ten members, including the actor, went to Pripyat. We stayed there for 6 days, the first one scouting and then shooting all the exteriors, the rooftops and few interiors.
It was a tough and intense shooting, with no artificial lighting and no logistic support, but with a Red Epic camera plus anamorphic lenses. It was the perfect mix between a professional shooting and the “guerrilla” attitude, since all of us did all sort of tasks. It was a real challenge and for sure the shooting I have the best souvenir of.
What is the next step for you? Do you have any other projects in production?
For my second feature I want to tackle identity in what I would describe as a psychological thriller with fantasy undertones. A mix between John Carpenter’s “The thing” and Polanski’s “Death and the Maiden”. It will follow in the same vein as my most recent shorts and I penned the screenplay myself.
I’m also developing a series project based on a new short film called “72%” that will be shot in 2017.
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