Interview with director Claudia Ruiz

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

I had graduated as a visual arts teacher, and I was called to work in a film workshop for children in the animation part. That’s how I started in the cinema. There I quickly saw that the still image and the moving image need us to think about very different things. So I started to study animation with a director from a neighboring city, so I traveled around every week. Over the years, I felt the need to start telling things from my own perspective. I love teaching animation, but I didn’t want to intervene in the children’s stories. So I started studying more animation script structure, looking at it much more and in a different way.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

I always believe that formal education enriches every journey, because one discovers the paths that others have taken, opening up a much wider and more diverse range. In my case, I feel that I entered through the window, and I am learning, and looking a little more chaotically, but I feel that it is necessary to find new ways to approach what I feel as a need: to tell stories.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

Getting started was definitely the hardest part. I’m happily a teacher. But changing the role to scriptwriter, director, animator was not easy. It was normal and easy for me to organize children and adolescents in the task, but doing it in a professional space was difficult. Also, because I am a woman, it was difficult for my colleagues to change the way they looked at my work. I was the teacher, I had always been that, now I was being a colleague, and it was also difficult for me to change my role.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

This is the first time I didn’t animate in the film, we worked with both sets simultaneously, so I alternated from one to the other and the next day we were replacing the shots in the animatic. That allowed me to rethink the expressiveness and playfulness of the forms, which I think is the interesting thing about animation. That’s how the idea of the number of arms that come to the mother with the sum of tasks, or the deformation of the final scene, came about. Both visual games generated in the spectators a feeling of identification despite the disproportion that was necessary for the film to close.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

When I started pre-production, I asked a friend if she could come with her 4-year-old daughter to record the voiceover so I could have a reference to think about the timing of each shot. When they came, Francesca lent herself entirely to the game, and her work was impeccable. So it was like the girl’s voice. As I worked on the animatic, I incorporated texts or modified some of them, so I quoted her again to record, and I also had to record the crying. But Fran, she cries inside, always. It didn’t work for me. I gave the mother a recording device to record any crying that happened, for the thousands of reasons that children cry. However, Barbara is a very good mom and the girls didn’t cry all week. I started a search among all my friends with small children. Meanwhile, she was learning the song. When she came to record, her mom came with her little 3-year-old sister. We went into my husband’s studio, who is the sound designer and musician, and spent almost an hour and a half with Fran recording the song and the missing lines. When we left, Valentina had fallen asleep. Barbara tells me: “get ready to record. I need to go to the bathroom, I’m going to give you Valentina, and when she sees me leave the room she’s going to cry”. As it happened. When Valentina woke up and saw that her mother was leaving the room, she started crying. Those are Ailin’s cries when she falls and when she is alone on the moon.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

The first decision was what technique to use and what I needed.  When we analyzed the script with the Art Director and the photographer, we decided to make two big multiplication tables (twice the one we had) and with many more levels of composition. The second challenge was the lighting, which led us to investigate how to illuminate, with what elements, (which ended up being strips of leds placed in U-type boxes that we made from black painted cardboard with black polyphane supports to hold them and minimize glare). We also had to make several sketches and studies to make the two tables, which are not the same, as one was used for all the general plans and another with more mobility for the detail plans.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

I teach animation at the Juan Mantovani Provincial School of Visual Arts and at the Film School, where I meet a lot of talented people who I invite to the El Molinete project. Some are in some projects, others stay for years. Like the animator, photographer and post-producer Marcos Martinez who has been with me for more than 15 years, or the co-writer of several projects and also the singer of Ailin’s song Adriana Pezzarini. Others like the animator, co-writer and assistant of Arte Malena Martinez and the sound designer and musician Mario Martinez who are my daughter and husband respectively, with whom we hold this as a life project.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

It’s hard to think what the public wants, it’s too broad a term, there isn’t a single public. In any case, the honest task of the artist is not to think “what the public wants” in the sense of “what the market wants”. The artist must be honest with what he wants to say. When I start a project it’s because I remember, recover, or find a story that I want to tell, because it moves me, because I feel it’s interesting, fun, necessary. Then I think about the best way to tell it.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

I believe that festivals have the enormous function of enabling screens to see a lot of good cinema that does not enter the commercial circuits and allows windows to be opened to other gazes, other poetics, other worlds. Personally, they have made it possible for me to speak with spectators as far away as Chile, Mexico, Istanbul or Japan, to share views and experiences with other filmmakers, to take incredible master classes… and to generate many ties with wonderful people.