Documentary, Fiction, or just Film? (1)

I wanted to find a more organic method of developing a film,
to experiment with an hybrid form
and to have a film with as little story as I could
and as much depth as possible.

My motivation to make a film never comes from the need to tell a story or to document an aspect of the world. The real force that drives my filmmaking is the desire of developing projects that reflect on film language or film form and that experiment with creative techniques. Story is always the last element to come into place and it is the most likely to change at any point of the creative process. For Pablo’s Winter the idea was to develop a film in my hometown that would feature my neighbours and would combine documentary and fiction film elements and techniques.

I have always been interested in two main approaches in filmmaking: the realist cinema and the modernist cinema. The immediacy of the realist films, the simplicity of their storylines and the urgency that they convey have been a great source of inspiration for me. In the other hand, Antonioni, Godard, Kiarostami and more recently Lisandro Alonso have fostered in me a desire to experiment with film form. Films that combine a realistic and a modernist approach such as Antonioni’s Il Grido or Alonso’s La Libertad are amongst my favourites. Through Pablo’s Winter I wanted to amalgamate the realism of real settings and real characters playing themselves, a common characteristic of the documentary film, with a “hybrid” form that incorporated fictional film techniques, for instance the use of a minimalist narrative or improvised drama.

That slight variation of the documentary approach, which brings Pablo’s Winter a bit closer to fiction, was the devising of a simple minimalist narrative for our main character. This story element (Pablo’s relation with smoking) had beginning, middle and end reference points in place before shooting started. They were not established to fully explore the dramatic possibilities arising out of that anecdote, but as a structuring element to help organise the material and create scenes in the absence of a conventional script.

Working with my neighbours

Adapting real lives to imagined outcomes creates that space where writing and directing seem to feedback each other. You write what you think your characters might be able to successfully perform, and you direct wishing that the writing and the performing disappear in a way that you end up seeing only the real lives that you started from. It becomes a question of finding the limits, the points where the naturalness of the real characters start turning into phony performances, where real life turns into bad acting. For instance, no matter how natural the characters of Pablo’s Winter are most of the time during the film scenes, that immediacy was destroyed when I tried to make them repeat certain lines of dialogue that they have used before in a spontaneous way. Therefore, I soon abandoned the idea of suggesting lines of dialogue and look instead for ways of prompting certain reactions that I had already observed in them.

Shooting days started rather early for me, at around 6:30 am. I would spend around two hours writing the scenes to be filmed that day, writing down the objectives for the scene, defining taglines, finding the potential place for the scenes within the film, etc… Everything will fit on a card in my pocket, which was the script for the day. I worked with every scene in the same way. In addition, we granted ourselves the luxury of spending whole days in Pablo’s house, sharing time with him and his wife Jose, and we became friends rather than just collaborators. I believe that the increasingly natural relationship of Pablo and Jose with the camera (even in crowded situation and in front of the whole village) has to do with this time spent together.

The process of writing while shooting and keeping an open mind about characters and story had its most significant expression in Jose. She had never been a strong character in the treatment, mainly because I did not get to know her enough before we started filming. Gradually, we realized that she was a great and significant character (as well as a catalyst for Pablo) and that the dynamics of their everyday life together was one of the most valuable aspects of the film. I started writing more about Jose and giving her more weight in scenes like the flea market, the bonfire, the dancing.

Read part 2 of this post.

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commented 2012-10-23 00:24:16 +0100
All the best for the festivals Chico!! A friend from the castle of culinary horrors…
commented 2012-10-08 11:47:18 +0100
Love it, Chicito! All the best on the way for this wonderful piece!

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