Daniel Sanchez Arévalo • Director
presenting DarkBlueAlmostBlack in Venice
"Directing was a natural progression from scriptwriting"
by Vitor Pinto
Madrid-born scriptwriter-turned-director Daniel Sanchez Arévalo tells us about his experience directing DarkBlueAlmostBlack [+see also:
film profile], currently part of the Venice Days programme. A meeting on the Lido with one of the "next big things" of Spanish cinema.
Cineuropa: You studied management, just like the lead character in DarkBlueAlmostBlack. When did you switch into scriptwriting?
Daniel Sanchez Arévalo: I come from a family of artists and I guess that, to rebel, I decided to take a different path from theirs. I studied management, but afterwards, as I was looking for a job in a bank or at an insurance company, I started to write short stories and scripts to kill my time. Later, I found a job as a TV screenwriter. It was television that provided me with almost my all experience. I only went to film school after 12 years writing for TV.
You have only made films you yourself wrote. Would you like to direct a film written entirely by somebody else?
For me, directing was a natural progression from scriptwriting but, yes, I would love to direct something I have not written. I would need to feel, though, that I really have something to add to it. I need to feel that I am going to turn the story into something of my own. In Spain there is often a misunderstanding of the word "auteur", meaning that you can only be considered one if you both write and direct. I personally disagree with that.
What was the starting point for DarkBlueAlmostBlack and how did you cast your actors?
Writing this film was a very long process for me. I had the key image of the film in my mind for a long time: a guy standing close to something he wanted but with a glass separating them. How frustrating can it be to stay so close and so far from it at the same time? So I pictured Jorge looking at a suit he thinks he needs for a job interview and I built the whole story from that image.
The other characters and situations came up naturally, except Antonio de la Torre's character, which was written especially for him. He is a brilliant actor and I wanted to continue working with him after my short films. Marta Etura plays a different character from the one I had initially imagined. She usually plays the tender type and I wanted to try something different with her. I asked her never to smile because when she finally does, it would have a much bigger impact on the audience.
Are you the kind of director who finishes his script before shooting or do you allow your cast to come up with new ideas during shooting?
I became a director because I couldn't find anybody else to direct my scripts, so I see myself as a screenwriter first. I focus a lot on the writing process but then I like to hold several rehearsals with actors. If good things come up I integrate them into the script. It’s the same during shooting, but I do rehearse a lot because at the moment of shooting I like to feel that everything is under control. I need to know that I have done my homework. This security gives me more freedom to improvise.
The general optimistic tone of the film is partially overshadowed towards the end by several scenes of unexpected violence. Why is that?
Jorge is always taking care of the lives of the people around him. He needs to explode somehow, to express his rage. He was always doing the right thing and then he realises you don't always have to be correct to get what you want. When Jorge's father stabs his brother, Jorge realises that he is not going to die (though he is injured) so he looks at his watch and leaves for his meeting. He finally thinks, "I am going to go and live my own life".
After the success of DarkBlueAlmostBlack do you already feel the pressure for your upcoming feature film?
I had done some short films – some of them very successful – and when I started shooting DarkBlueAlmostBlack a lot of people asked me that same question. I learned a long time ago that I am no genius and that I will never probably do a masterpiece. That takes a lot of pressure off of me! The only way for me to deal with pressure is by knowing that I have a good script I believe in.
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