Sergio G Sánchez • Director
“I have a lot of respect for the viewer”
by Alfonso Rivera
- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2017: Sergio G Sánchez, the regular screenwriter for Juan Antonio Bayona, has made his feature-length directorial debut with Marrowbone after having shot various short films
Marrowbone [+see also:
interview: Sergio G Sánchez
film profile], which was written and directed by 44-year-old Asturian filmmaker Sergio G Sánchez, is an English-language gothic tale hoping to achieve the same level of success as the films by his friend Juan Antonio Bayona, The Impossible [+see also:
interview: Juan Antonio Bayona
film profile] and The Orphanage [+see also:
film profile], for which he penned the screenplays. It is being premiered in the Official Section of the San Sebastián International Film Festival (out of competition).
Cineuropa: Belén Atienza, JA Bayona’s producer, also staged your feature debut.
Sergio G Sánchez: These are the people with whom I took my baby steps in the world of cinema, and they are like family to me: them and Sandra Hermida, the line producer on Marrowbone.
Is the production company Telecinco Cinema also part of this group? Does that entail making movies with a similar hallmark?
Maybe so… I always say that the film has two dads – Álvaro Augustín and Ghislain Barrois (from Telecinco) – and two mums: Sandra and Belén. They protect us so much: they have tried to give us everything we needed to make the film what we wanted it to be. I try to have a lot of respect for the viewer, and during all these years that I’ve been trying to get a movie off the ground, I wanted to wait until all of the conditions were met so that the film would, at the bare minimum, look perfect and be well constructed – it had to be something that someone who’s paying for a cinema ticket deserves. The opposite approach would have been to jump in at the deep end with other projects, which would have been madness, as I wouldn’t have known how to shoot them. These producers provided me with exactly what I needed in order to make sure the film was meticulously put together.
You spent years working as a screenwriter after putting your initial career as a director on hold – you shot short films years ago as well as a TV movie that was an adaptation of a novel by Eugenio Fuentes, The Pianist’s Hands.
Well, I think Eugenio didn’t like it very much, because a friend heard him talking about it on the radio, and he didn’t seem very happy with the end result. I would have liked to work with him on that adaptation, but there was already a version of the screenplay in existence, which remained very faithful to the novel, penned by Miguel Barros, but it couldn’t be shot, because we only had four shooting weeks and that script had 250 scenes. I rewrote the screenplay with Kike Maíllo, which took a big step back from the novel, and in the end, with so many people involved, it ended up being rather hazy. The best thing about it was the cast, with Javier Gutiérrez venturing out of his typecasting as a comedian. We also had Fernando Cayo, Clara Segura, Frascesc Orella and Marta Belaustegui on board, among others.
What was it like getting back into the director’s chair? Did you need to “work out in the director’s gym”?
No way, not at all. It was as if they had put a plate of lentils in front of me after I'd spent two weeks on hunger strike: I was really raring to go. In both The Orphanage and The Impossible, I was lucky enough to be on set: JA Bayona really likes to tweak the scripts on the fly, and I served as a coach for the children on both movies. And I went off with the second unit to record things here and there. So the transition from shooting a short film or a TV movie to using the larger-scale equipment that we employed in this film didn’t take me by surprise, but rather I came to it having already had some training. I direct with a great deal of pleasure and enthusiasm because at the end of the day, writing a screenplay is rather like organising a party that you’re not invited to, and when you get to direct, you can finally tuck into the cake and have a dance.
The Orphanage was shot in Asturias, just like Marrowbone.
Yes, in Llanes, which is further west, nearer to where I was born: in Pravia and in the vicinity of Canero. And part of the town was filmed in an abandoned weapons factory in Oviedo, which was converted into a street in rural America. Plus, the climate and the landscape in Asturias are perfectly suited to this kind of mysterious film. I was determined to shoot here because I think Spain has the best natural set in the world for location shots, with so many hours of sun, and you can find an amazing variety of landscapes here. Just as we are a powerful tourist location, with zero support from the government, we could also be a powerful filming location, both for our own shoots and attracting foreign ones. It would have been more cost-effective for us to film Marrowbone in Canada or any state in North America, as they offer tax breaks, but even though it cost us more to shoot in Spain, it was a question of standing up for our film industry and our country. Besides, for me it was also like a homecoming: that is one of the subjects that the film broaches.
(Translated from Spanish)
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