"If I hadn’t also produced it, this film would probably not have been made"
by Alfonso Rivera
- One of the leading producers of Spanish cinema has for years combined producing with directing, and now presents his fifteenth film, Frozen Silence: a war thriller shot in Lithuania.
Cineuropa: What were the particular characteristics of this shoot, apart from it being done in very low temperatures?
Gerardo Herrero: We had to manage to shoot in a place where you could believe the action was taking place. I wasted a whole year looking for a Russian co-producer, which I never found, until a producer friend of mine told me that she had worked in Lithuania the previous summer, with good equipment and conditions. We had to choose the right dates for the film shoot, in order, with it being winter, to have enough light and for everything to be snow-covered.
Is this film the biggest, from a production point of view, in your directorial filmography?
No, The Galindez File was bigger. Frozen Silence [+see also:
interview: Gerardo Herrero
film profile] isn’t as big as it seems: the budget is €4m. It isn’t a mega-production. It was shot in February and March in Lithuania and afterwards in studio sets at Ciudad de la Luz Studios in Alicante.
The film’s first image makes quite an impact, with those horses trapped in the ice.
Visually it was very appealing, because it plunges you into a very special atmosphere. I had to shoot it twice because the first time, according to the work plan, it was done on a sunny day with lots of light, which meant it lost its gloomy and mysterious look. So once it was edited, we saw that it was well narrated, but it still wasn’t right: I had to film it again, with less time at my disposal, but with that atmosphere that introduced viewers into icy surroundings.
How did the project come about to adapt Ignacio del Valle’s novel The Time of the Strange Emperors for the big screen?
The film’s co-producer, Antonio Saura, gave me the book: I feel very much at ease with the thriller format and I saw that this one was also very original, because there weren’t many films about the División Azul, it also had a good plot and great characters. It quickly drew me in and the project really appealed to me: I set to it to see if I could manage to get it off the ground and in the end it took two and a half years of work.
You’re now a specialist in adaptations...
Here I looked for a screenwriter, Nicolás Saad, with whom I got on very well when making my previous film, Night Runner [+see also:
film profile], and with him I wrote the adaptation: we exchanged a few things about the novel. It’s a genre film but with good characters and powerful images, like the one of the horses in the ice, together with a great deal of research into the photography of the time, incorporated into the film. We even drew a storyboard of all the important scenes, in order to stick to it as much as possible, because there were seven weeks of shooting, so it was better to have it all well planned out.
How do you manage to combine the roles of producer and director on the same film?
I’ve been doing it like that all my film career. I’ve developed that skill. If I wasn’t a producer, perhaps I could not have made so many films. If you are only the director, you may clash with the producer; in that sense, I have to reach an agreement with myself and with my team, but I consider that to be what filmmaking is about. I’m just two pieces of this whole team that makes the film, but, possibly, if I hadn’t been the producer, this film would have had difficulty getting made: I wouldn’t have found anyone to produce it for me. And I found partners in Spain and Lithuania. I don’t think that many directors know how to use resources like I do either: this film would possibly have cost another director more money.
How was it filming in Lithuania?
We did it impressively well. It seems miraculous to me how well it went, even though you have to communicate in English and the communication was excellent. We also had to bring tanks over from Poland, Estonia and Germany. The Lithuanians liked being treated as equals. Few films are made there, they do European co-production work with Italians, Germans and Swedes, who go to film there for its impressive landscapes.