News

Home  >  News > Paula Ortiz: ‘When you don't have the means you replace money for time....

Paula Ortiz: ‘When you don't have the means you replace money for time. I often have the feeling we make craftsmanship’

Paula Ortiz Álvarez is a film director, screenwriter, and teacher in the Audiovisual Communication bachelor degree at the University of Barcelona.

Paula Ortiz Álvarez is a film director, screenwriter, and teacher in the Audiovisual Communication bachelor degree at the University of Barcelona.

With her first feature film “De tu ventana a la mía”, she was nominated for the 2011 Goya Awards in the category of best novice director, and won the 2011 Pilar Miró Award in the Valladolid International Cinema Week, among others.

With her first feature film “De tu ventana a la mía”, she was nominated for the 2011 Goya Awards in the category of best novice director, and won the 2011 Pilar Miró Award in the Valladolid International Cinema Week, among others.

With “La novia” she got to the Goyas as a favourite with 12 nominations, and ended up winning 2 awards: one for the best actress to Luisa Gavasa, and one for best photography director to Miguel Ángel Amoedo.

With “La novia” she got to the Goyas as a favourite with 12 nominations, and ended up winning 2 awards: one for the best actress to Luisa Gavasa, and one for best photography director to Miguel Ángel Amoedo.

“I am moving slow but that’s okay. My father always says that slowness sometimes takes you first to places”.

“I am moving slow but that’s okay. My father always says that slowness sometimes takes you first to places”.

“Women at cinema have the same difficulties and conciliation problems you can encounter in any business area, but here this is something with a high level of uncertainty”.

“Women at cinema have the same difficulties and conciliation problems you can encounter in any business area, but here this is something with a high level of uncertainty”.

07/03/2016

Entrevistes

Paula Ortiz Álvarez is a cinema director and screenwriter, and teacher in the Audiovisual Communication bachelor degree at the University of Barcelona. Born in Zaragoza 37 years ago, Paula Ortiz wanted to share stories and decided the best way to start was studying how big stories were told in the Spanish literature. She graduated from Spanish Philology (University of Zaragoza) and studied a master’s degree in Screenwriting for Cinema and Television (UAB). She then studied stage direction in the Department of Film and Television and the Art School Tisch at the New York University (NYU), and finished her studies as screenwriter in the main training cinematographic centre of California. In addition, she obtained the FPU grant from the Education Ministry, and thanks to that she could work as a researcher and teacher in the University of Zaragoza, where she did her doctoral thesis on writing cinema scripts in the 21th century.


In 2011 she was nominated to the Goya Awards for her first feature film De tu ventana a la mía, in the category of best novice director. She won the 2011 Pilar Miró Award in the Valladolid International Cinema Week, among others. She has received lots of awards for her second work, La novia: after having been awarded six Feroz Award statues (which gives the Spanish film critic), Ortiz has been chosen as best director of the 21th Century for organizing the Medina del Campo Cinema Week. Moreover, she was one of the heroes in the Paramount Channel Awards (best film, best direction, best scene and best actress), and has been recognized with 4 medals in the Cinematographic Circle of Writers. She was nominated for the Gaudí Awards for the non-Catalan language film, among others, and got to the Goya Awards as a favourite with twelve nominations, which ended in two awards: best supporting actress for Luisa Gavasa, and photography director for Miguel Ángel Amoedo.
 

First things first, how does someone like you –who wanted to tell stories- end up in the cinema world?


On the one hand, this was my vocation. I was interested in the narration world. On the other hand, it was a logistic thing too; because I was living in Zaragoza and there were no cinema studies there. I was wondering whether to study Spanish Philology, English Philology, History of Art... I mean, I was interested in knowing about how the past was reflected on the world.


I do not know if everyone is sure of their vocation when they are young but it is something that keeps pushing. You do not take absolute sensible decisions. Perhaps, if I had written better I would have started writing novels. I don’t know. I think everything has to do with your decision: the circumstances, the background…


My bond with the cinema has always been very passionate and during my studies I started doing short films, testing spontaneously or through workshops. Suddenly, you produce a short film, you screen it on a room and you see people react to it. This encourages you to think on what you have done well and bad, and how to improve it. This process encourages you to continue and make another film.
 

Having a look at your résumé, it seems everything has come in handy. Despite being young you have already made a name for yourself in the Spanish cinema. Has it been easy to get here?


Not at all! Neither easy nor fast. I have colleagues who went faster than me because they were focused on the professional career. I focused on the theory, academic and teaching field. This made slowed me down. Other colleagues who started when I did have already made more films and series than me.


I got here little by little but it does not matter. My father always says that the “slowness sometimes makes you the first to get to places”. It is also each person’s decision- how to make your projects and which ones you want to make. I dedicated five or six years of my life exclusively on my thesis. And this is a thing that appears in a one-sentence only on your résumé. It is true that I got a grant. But this grant –that sometimes looks like being easily given to you- was a result of a lot of personal knockbacks. If only I told you what it was like to get that grant!

 

I think you see your career as a craftsmanship job.


True, because when you don’t have the means or cannot have films that other people could, or other projects, you replace money for time. Sometimes I feel we make authentic craftsmanship. It can be seen in our colour grading. I have seen how big movies are made and then how we make them. The work on colour in every closeup, the artistic direction, the clothes… In this sense I think the whole team puts more effort and time on this work in order to show it on screen.
 

You take care of every detail. In La novia, for example, sound is very present: we can hear the birds, the wind, the horses’ steps, there is a capela singing...


Yes. Sound is a very artisanal in La novia, and not everyone notices it.
 

And when you introduce the script, sound, photography and colour of the film, are they decided from the beginning?


Yes. Absolutely. Because in the script you have to write the feeling you will give to the spectator. If you have to direct it, you have to express everything with a lot of detail; because the ones who have to create this feeling have to do so with all the possible information. This is done from the very beginning because this is the philosophy of the film. Not only deciding this from the beginning but also specifying things in the style manual in order to make it easier for the artistic designer. Every explanation is in the style manual: the colour palette, the maps of the space around which we will be moving, the mental space the spectator will use, clothing, culture references the spectator may notice. Everything.


I guess you do not believe in improvisation.


No. The more studied everything is, the better. We have to work a lot in advance, in order to film within the little time we have at the studio. It is also a need. I think a lot of directors from the new generation have to work like this because there is not any other way. We film in short time because we do not have money. And I do not believe in improvisation when it comes to cinema. I don’t know if it was Buñuel who did it, but I don’t believe it. What? It’s impossible. Buñuel had everything planned. But I do think that if you come up with a solution you hadn’t thought of and it turns out to be better than the previous one, that’s valid. But in general we can’t make mistakes. If you don’t have money you have to do everything properly, because if you don’t succeed at first you can’t do it again. This makes you work very carefully. And it is not easy to cope with. You worry a lot during the filming because there is a lot of pressure.

 

I have read somewhere that a film which made an impact on you is The Neverending Story. In La novia there is some evocativeness from The Neverending Story and this state between the real and unreal, right?


Yes, it had an impact on me. But do you really see influences on La novia? That’s funny! (laughs). I hadn’t thought of that! Really?

 

Yes. For example, the walk of the horse reminds of the Atreyu’s trip, or the mud at the beginning, which reminds of the shifting sands.


The scene of the horse in The Neverending Story is one of the most traumatic I have experienced. I have never been able to watch it again, actually. I thought “how can be something that cruel?”. Probably… Usually, one produces the schemes s/he has seen. But in this case I wasn’t conscious at all. I was influenced by Lorca, and it is true that Lorca appears around here: this world between the real and the unreal, although it has been looked at from a rural perspective in Spain. Lorca, like all the classics, has a lot of possible interpretations. He creates unreal characters: for example the talking moon, or the death, that also speaks. It is true that there is also a fantastic world in Bodas de sangre which we have put on the film.
 

Why didn’t you keep the title Bodas de sangre?


It was a decision made by the distribution. The Lorca family didn’t have any objection to keep the original title, if we wanted to. But we thought that by leaving the title from Lorca could distance the audience thinking this was an adaptation from his work, and not the film itself. It was a hard decision because the signature of the film is Lorca: the great attractiveness of the film is Lorca. The dialogue has been 95% faithful, and the rewritten 5% is only made to connect. Not a single verse by Lorca has been rewritten. The only things I have rewritten are the connections. After talking it out, we opted for La novia.
 

Looking at the results, it worked. You have collected more than a million euros and it has been watched by more than 150.000 spectators.


Yes!

You keep winning awards since months ago. Apart from the excitement and personal satisfaction, what are these awards for?


Actually, the awards are an external and tangential thing. What surrounds the awards is ornamental. It is very strange because the awards come when you have finished the film for ages. Yes, they are a support for the team but they are quite far. It’s a way to know you have done a good job but it’s altogether: there are great films which don’t get to the Goya because of a bad timing. That’s why small productions struggle to be premiered in autumn.


What happens is that these awards take back the tangential films from a commercial point of view –like ours- and they involve a media exposure and a marketing that we wouldn’t have achieved. In our case, the awards have been fundamental for the film to get to a greater audience.
 

There are lots of coincidences in the actors of your works. Do you also work with the same technical team?


Yes. I actually work with 90% of the technical team again because the signature of the cinema is collective. The way in which a film is done is the result of the work of the director of photography, director of art… If we changed our art director the result would be a different one. Cinema is a collective art. The team is important and loyalty is a must. The film works if you are loyal to your team. The team works if you have worked for it. Loyalty is one of the things I have most respect for. It’s a quid pro quo.


As a member of the Cinema Women Spanish Committee (CIMA) and vice-President of the Audiovisual Women European Network, why do you think there are fewer women than men in cinema?


This is the reality. Not only in direction but in postproduction, direction of photography...there are sectors without women. The other day we were talking about the Goya awardees. The winners were mostly men. Women have been awarded in the categories of attire, makeup and hair. It isn’t successful that a woman wins the award to best actress because it will be for a woman by default.


In script and film editing there are more women –but not a lot- because these are things you can do at home. I mean, women write and prepare things, but they don’t film. Women in cinema have the same difficulties that they face in any other business area. But moreover, this is a very uncertain area. The projects are long term: you don’t know if you will get them, you don’t know if you will be paid for, and some women quit. There are more women on television and advertising than in cinema for obvious reasons: in advertising you leave your house for a week but you don’t leave for months. Not a single female photography director has been nominated for a Goya. There are not maternity leaves, or nurseries in the studio, which looks to me as a great claim. I have talked to female producers and they told me there is no money to do that. We need to change our minds.
 

In addition, it is a remarkable fact that when women work, they do so with lower budgets. Why?


In front of a jury, my projects are read in equality of opportunities. But when I’m out in the market, industry and the big media –which I still insist they should be analysed- don’t consider the possibility of a woman directing a big film. In Spain it has never happened. Isabel Coixet, who is one of the strongest and powerful film directors in Europe, says that whenever she is meeting executives she feels they think she will not be able to manage such a big amount of money. In Hollywood they are making themselves heard because all actresses are paid less than actors. The discrimination is dramatic.


I have several new scripts, and one of them is for a great film. But why do I have to give it a shot if they will reject it? It has happened to me before. I would like to give it to a male friend and see what happens.
 

It’s funny because there are more women at school…


Yes. This is something I keep insisting on, because I see it every day. There are more female students in the degree and they are very well prepared. I was lucky to have grants and be able to receive such an education and choose my studies. When it comes to education, we have reached equality, which was very difficult.
 

You said you have some scripts in mind. Can you tell us a bit more about your first project?


They still have no film so they are not real yet.
 

Share this at:
| More |
  • Follow us:
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Facebook profile
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Twitter profile
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Instagram profile
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Linkedin profile
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Youtube profile
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Google+ profile
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Flickr profile
Member of: International recognition of excellence HR Excellence in Research logo del leru - League of European Research Universities logo del bkc - campus excel·lència logo del health universitat de barcelona campus

© Universitat de Barcelona