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SPAIN USA

F Javier Gutiérrez • Director of The Wait

"I have a hard time if I have no control over taking care of everything"

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- The Spanish filmmaker talks about his third film, a horror film with the soul of an independent western, shot in Andalusia

F Javier Gutiérrez  • Director of The Wait

On 15 December, the thriller The Wait [+see also:
film review
interview: F Javier Gutiérrez
film profile
]
will be released in Spanish cinemas (distributed by its own production company,  Spal Films). The feature film boasts a powerful narrative starring Víctor Clavijo and directed by the Cordovan filmmaker F Javier Gutiérrez, auteur of Before The Fall, an apocalyptic film presented at the Berlinale and awarded in Malaga, and of the American production Rings, as he lives in Los Angeles. We had the opportunity to talk with him.

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Cineuropa: When are you going back to the United States?
F Javier Gutiérrez:
I'll have to go back in February, although I'm not much of a planner. I wanted to shoot The Wait in Spain and it was complicated because I had to go back and forth. But from time to time, I need to shoot something personal, although this is complicated as I have no roots anywhere. If it were easy to make this kind of fantasy cinema here, I would think about coming back. We'll see if with this film things improve, because if it's going to take me four years to get a project off the ground, I'll probably do something there in the meantime and then I'll come back.

Is the production machine in Los Angeles more well-oiled?
The American film industry works differently. So, you work, you earn money, you save and you can live. In Spain - and I have talked about this with filmmaker friends - it’s precarious and if you make fantasy films it’s very difficult to get projects off the ground.

It's funny, because the horror genre tends to do well at the box office.
Yes, especially outside of Spain. It's true that my film is not the typical commercial film with scares, monsters and ghosts, but I don't know if they’d finance that kind of film either. I’ve spoken to quite a few platforms and they told me that if I do a thriller they’ll finance it, but if I shoot another genre, they’d think about it. That's why I'm going to America, although I prefer to live in Andalusia.

But you went there after Before The Fall, your first feature film, because you got offers?
Right, Wes Craven called me. He signed my first visa; you can't say no to something like that. And here I wasn’t so sure. Now Before The Fall is called a cult film and at the time it had good reviews, but it received hardly any awards beyond the Malaga Film Festival, so I got more work outside of Spain. This is part of a complex that Spanish cinema suffers from when it comes to awarding films that venture into the genre. And that's not a problem in the United States; there are no complexes about nominating even Marvel films.

The staging of your film is particularly perfectionist: how the shots are created and how you bring the camera close to the subject.
Yes, I’m too obsessive-compulsive and am crazy about symmetry in shots. The Wait has a well-thought-out choreography of movements in an independent production. We didn’t have much time to shoot. But that's why I also prepared a lot and I have everything planned to the millimetre. So, the close-ups of objects are like small still lifes that I take great care over. I have a hard time if I have no control over taking care of everything, that's why I don't shoot series, where everything goes faster.

Even its format is reminiscent of a western.
Yes, it's a Spanish thriller, but with the soul of a western. I grew up watching this kind of cinema, even though I didn't like it, but my parents liked it a lot. Over time it started to grow on me. There are connections between the aridity of the Andalusian countryside and mountains, with that loneliness and masculinity of the seventies. We screened The Wait at SXSW in Austin and it worked very well because of that connection.

Is the sweat in the film real?
Yes, we filmed in Seville in August, almost dehydrated at times. We also made the skin appear more tanned. And I got very close with the camera to Víctor Clavijo's face, using El Greco and Caravaggio as a reference.

It is a trans film, that evolves from one genre to another. Is it hard to define?
Yes, it's complicated to categorise it. That's why it was also complicated to finance it, because when you talk to corporations and they don't know which box to put it in and the marketing team doesn't understand how to sell it, they don't dare finance it. Without the help of the ICAA or platforms, these films wouldn’t exist without the independent craze, without the love and passion for cinema.

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(Translated from Spanish by Vicky York)

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