Interview with director Pierfrancesco Artini

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

As a young boy I thought that I wanted to be a novelist. I used to write crime books at a very young age. However, when my parents made me watch Hitchcock’s “Dial M For Murder” at the age of 14 I discovered that cinema was the perfect medium to narrate my stories. Since then, I started writing screenplays and playing with an old video camera.

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

I certainly think that cinema universities can be very helpful, if you are lucky to get into a very good one. In my case, I got into University of Westminster, London, and I learnt a lot during the 3 years I attended the BA. However, I think that there is no greater teacher than real life working experience: a film set is tough and can be very overwhelming. So my best advice for young people is to try stepping into some “runner” positions in a good film/tv series production. Despite the fact that it is a very tough job, they will be able to really understand the dynamics on set and, if they are brave and driven enough, they will find a way to be hired with more important roles. I personally learned a lot while working as first and second AD in Tv series.

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

It is not hard to get started: at the beginning we all tend to be very focused and inspired. It can be very difficult to maintain that drive and not to loose hope. I think what a person needs to keep going is the faith for his talent as well as the understanding that failure will only make you stronger. For me it used to be very hard to accept this part: I wanted to achieve my goals immediately. Only now, at the age of 31, I think that failure is an unavoidable part of the journey and that you keep learning out of your mistakes. It takes a long time to master your skills.

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

Films are always a learning ground. Often they are a very stressing one too, specially in short films where the budget is not as consistent as it is in real movies. There are always unexpected moments, news, events that pop up last minute. In my latest film, Gabriel, director of Photography, who was travelling from London to Madrid, was caught up at the airport and for a few hours we thought that he couldn’t make it for the shooting that was starting  at 7 am the following morning. In the end, he managed to arrive with many hours of delay, just in time to shoot in the morning. The lesson is more of a moral one: even the most difficult situations find their good end eventually. It is very important to stay positive even when everything seems to fall apart.

  • 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?

It is really hard to make a short film happen, you have a tight budget, and making films costs a lot of money. So it is a very stressing process, especially if you are producing and directing at the same time. I found it particularly difficult to cast the perfect actors. I wanted to work with very talented ones. But talented actors are often busy, so it is hard for them to commit to a short film project if suddenly they are cast in a tv series. In my case, I was able to work with very talented actors Isabel Ordaz and Antonio Ibáñez, but they could confirm their availability only two weeks before the shooting. Imagine the stress. Making a cohesive short film is very difficult because of these issues: things keep coming up and sometimes it feels almost impossible to make the shooting/postproduction run smoothly. I believe there is a sort of divine energy that decides whether or not the film will work; in my case, despite all the odds, I felt like it was a “meant to be” project. All the problems found their solution in the end and we managed to have a strong film.

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

The hardest artistic choice was the decision whether I wanted to portray a male sex robot that had nowadays features (yes, male talking robots do exist now!) or not. From one hand, I would have had an actor covered with prosthetic and a metallic voice. From the other hand, I would have had a more fluid and charming – almost human-like – robot. At the end I decided the latter: the protagonist, Ágatha, needed to feel a genuine attraction for the robot, otherwise their relationship would have looked  a bit odd. I knew this decision may have created some arguments with the audience, but I went with my guts and went for it.

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

To make a successful film is very important to have a very professional and powerful team. I work with the same cinematographer and music composer all the time, because it is very hard to find a perfect A team. I met them in London, in a film where I was working as line producer. We bonded immediately and I respected the way they worked. Since then, we kept in touch. We have worked together in several projects and we are very good friends too.

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

Audiences tend to want an happy ending. I however tend to prefer an “ironic” ending: it makes you think more and question more about the meaning of the film. Like in real life. I think it is very important to keep the audience in mind: it would be crazy to make a film without considering the impact on the public. My role as a director is to challenge and provoke the audience. I don’t care if they hate the film, but I do want them to really feel something, anyhow.

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

Film festivals are vital for us young filmmakers: we need approval and platforms to show our new born films. Festivals can be very frustrating: there is a tremendous competition out there. Many times I felt gutted if a festival wouldn’t accept my films. Now I understand it is a very complicated process, specially in the case of Oscar Qualifying festivals. They receive a lot of submissions and it is very hard for programmers to include a very limited number of films.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

Never thought that safety is a good strategy. Directors with a distinctive voice should use it as loud as they can. However, the style of directors  is always connected to the type of story that they aim to narrate. In my case, I try to portrait different stories and visualize them in unusual ways.