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“The devices of film are perfect for portraying madness”

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Gabe Ibáñez • Director

by Alfonso Rivera

14/01/2010 - A graduate in Motion Picture Sciences from Madrid’s Complutense University, Gabe Ibáñez has previously worked in special effects and advertising, and made a short film

Gabe  Ibáñez  • Director

Cineuropa: Why did Telecinco Cinema, who co-produced Hierro [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
film profile
]
, take an interest in you?

Gabe Ibáñez: I didn’t intend to make a feature so soon, I was preparing another short, but they were looking for a director for a project they had in the pipeline. It was a complete surprise when they called me and I didn’t hesitate in saying yes.

How did you deal with this rather personal commission?
The screenplay wasn’t completed, they had the main idea and we went to the island to get a feel for the atmosphere by taking photos. I met weekly with the screenwriter to discuss the visual aspect. And the theme of madness interested me a great deal: it gave me scope for creating visual cinema, based on the possibilities of film language, cinematography and sound. Madness is a very abstract concept, but the devices of film are perfect for exploring it. The sensory power of film, with the music, editing and colours, really helps in exploring such a subject. If they had offered me a comedy, I don’t know what I would have said....

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Was it decided in advance that the film would star Elena Anaya or was she your choice?
I wanted this actress to star. No prior choices were imposed on me, besides the subject and style. The aim was to make a genre film with these characteristics, but from the outset I had a lot of freedom. María, Elena’s character, is in 95% of the shots, because the script revolves around her vision of things. And she has that ability to carry the film visually, as she is practically alone for almost all the film.

The other character is the film’s atmosphere, something that was obviously not on the film set. I therefore had to explain everything to her, so that she understood where she was meant to be and could adapt her performance to that empty space. She had her work as an actress – with a complicated character – as well as trying to understand the cinematic approach to the film. It’s a rather unusual way of working for an actress and she did it very well.

So it was a rather unconventional film shoot?
Yes. The team included quite a few people who were making their first film, but to those with more experience the shoot seemed rather chaotic: we worked with two cameras, in each take we changed the position of the cameras, and in the middle of the takes I would talk to the actress and cameraman, etc.... From the point of view of more traditional filmmaking, this is chaotic, but we knew that it was possible to shoot the film that way. Even the actors’ performance had to depart from the usual naturalistic style. We weren’t afraid to take risks.

Did your previous experience in advertising prove useful for creating these atmospheres?
Yes, and also the fact that I wasn’t a complete novice. I’m a beginner in cinema, but I’ve been working with images for many years. My previous work taught me to thoroughly plan the images. In advertising, every shot has to be justified. This makes you very analytical in the way you deal with images.

Having extensive experience in other visual sectors helped me understand the camera and know what a film shoot involves, but advertising has a very distinct style, which is dangerous. Well, this is always the case with directors who cut their teeth making commercials: it makes you more form-focused and you consider as part of your work aspects that other directors think of as the job of the DoP or set designer. But when you come from the world of advertising, you’re used to being in charge of these areas too.

What was the most difficult part of producing Hierro?
On a technical level, it would have to be filming on the ferry, as it was in constant motion. And in general, the most difficult part of making your first film is being aware of your limitations, of how difficult it is to convey what you’re looking for and how everything that happens to your team affects you. You become conscious of how uncontrollable everything is: how hard it is to achieve what you set out to do and even get films finished in the end. It’s all a learning process, so after making Hierro, I’m now ready to make my first film [laughs].

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