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"We used our imaginations to secure resources we didn’t have"

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Elena Martín • Director

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- Elena Martín, an actress in Las amigas de Ágata, has now made her debut as a director with Júlia ist, or rather the story of an Erasmus experience in Berlin that will change your life

Elena Martín • Director

Elena Martín (Barcelona, 1992) is the director, co-screenwriter, executive co-producer and lead actress in her first film, Júlia ist [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Elena Martín
film profile
]
, her graduation piece for the faculty of Audiovisual Communication at the University of Pompeu Fabra in her home town, which was acclaimed at festivals such as the Malaga Spanish Film Festival and D´A´. We sat down for a coffee with her.

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Cineuropa: How did your participation as an actress in Las amigas de Ágata [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
 have an impact on the making of Júlia ist?
Elena Martín
: I was already developing my film when I shot Las amigas..., a film that I starred in upon returning from Berlin: when I lived there, I used to tell my fellow students that I wanted to broach the subject of Erasmus in my graduation piece. It was useful that the University allowed us to make a feature film; up until that point it wasn’t very common, and in terms of the press, the fact that that film was so successful gave us validation and gave us access to places we could have reached, but with a lot more effort.

Was it also a sort of apprenticeship before putting yourself to the test as director?
Yes, to start off with, as an actress I trained in theatre, but I had never done a feature film, so I had never worked with a character with such a long story arc, and in front of a camera. As a filmmaker, they showed me how to self-fund, and their internal dynamics, as the film was directed by four women. 

Did they also help you to not feel scared or overwhelmed when the time came to make your first film?
Yes, of course: I saw that they could do it and with means they pulled out of thin air. They found their method and that was exciting: we – me and my team – found our method, which was very different from theirs, but we saw that you have to make films your own way, adapting the story to the production and vice versa, with the means you have available. 

Had you made any short films previously?
I had co-directed one, mid-way through my studies, with a fellow classmate, but it was a very collective piece, which we made as a group in a very short space of time: it wasn’t mine or something I was fully responsible for, like Júlia ist is.

How did you get the project off the ground?
There were four of us working on our graduation pieces and once we’d handed it in, three of us carried on shooting and editing and we funded ourselves, with a Budget of practically zero: we spent the absolute minimum necessary, to buy food for the team and metro tickets to go from one location to another. We didn’t concern ourselves with drawing up a production plan, finding funding and only then starting to film, but made the most of working with friends: musicians and actors, and the locations are also place we know, the University of the Arts in Berlin was paired with ours… Our strategy was partly planned and partly spontaneous, we used our imaginations to secure more resources than we had. Then, at the end of filming, Lastor Media got on board, taking care of post-production, along with Antaviana Films, which helped us to get things done and give necessary shape to everything.

What compelled Lastor Media to get involved in the production? 
They saw the edit we handed into the University: with their eye and experience they must have seen that it had potential, because looking at it now it looks disastrous, so it was good that they put their faith in us to move forward. As we wanted to improve it, they saw our commitment and drive, and leaving us total creative freedom, they walked us through it all with the greatest respect.

So did you shoot more material afterwards?

In total, we filmed for three years: we shot, went back to Barcelona, reviewed the material, put something together, went back to filming and editing, saw what didn’t work, changed an actor, went back to filming, and so on and so forth. If we hadn’t, it wouldn’t have worked: if we’d tried to film with an ironclad screenplay, having developed it in just six months, it would have ended badly; the fact that we weren’t part of the industry allowed us to push on at that pace, learning slowly but surely as we went on, driven by our needs. 

(Translated from Spanish)

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