Spanish director Ruth Caudeli will debut with ¿Cómo te llamas?

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Ruth Caudeli is a Spanish filmmaker who lives in Colombia since four years ago. She has written and directed three short films, has made some commercials and next year is going to release her directorial debut.

¿Cómo te llamas? (What’s your name?) is the title of this feature film written and directed by her that tells a love metamorphosis through the story of a women couple (starring actresses Silvia Varón and Alejandra Lara). Although director has chosen two women as couple, that process of love and dislike matches into any kind of love relationship.

Her cinema is very close to other talented and young Colombian directors like Franco Lolli (Gente de bien) and Jacques Toulemonde (Anna), who have already premiered their debut films. All of them make narrative films, universal dramas with a realistic style.

We talked with Ruth having missing just four days to finish the filming stage and visit one of the locations where was shot a decisive scene for the story (the first conflicts). The set was located at CMO Productions, cofounded by Aña Piñeres who is involved as creative producer.

Now, the film is on its color correction and sound design stage. ¿Cómo te llamas? has been funded by a successful crowdfunding campaign.

  • When and how born this film?

The idea was swirling around in my head long time ago, but it was quite real a little over a year ago. I have always been fascinated for relationships and I had always wanted to tell something close to me, something able to move inside, something originated from me.

  • This is a love and dislike story, how do you describe your film?

On this movie there is a lot of love between the characters, but it goes further than that. We talk about everyday life of love, about inherent deterioration that transforms love into a routine. My intention with ¿Cómo te llamas? is to show the reality of a couple. There are so many realities as human exist, but mine is one in particular. I think this is interesting because chemistry of these characters, to show what was euphoria and love at the beginning, has a trend to change always. It is something like the metamorphosis of love.

  • You have made some short films, did the idea come from them?

Yes, it took a real sense after my last short film, because I felt that my moment had arrived, so I told myself you have to do right now. My last short (Por qué no/Why not?) gave me the strength to start.

  • There was something that called my attention when I read about your career. You have always told stories based on self experiences.

Well, on this moment of my life I couldn’t tell anything external to me and all what I have written until now comes from me. Of course, when you put these experiences into a paper they transform, you change many things and characters are not the same you know, but everything has born with personal experiences. It is like a personal vocation to tell something.

  • Usually there is magic behind the selection of a title. How important was that to you? On What moment did the title come?

For me it is something very complicating because I think about it a lot. Usually, you think about something catchy and able to summarize the plot. With this movie the story was first. When I was checking all I realized about how a relationship starts … with the question “What’s your name?” I need to know your name in order to start any kind of relationship, but when this one continues it goes beyond that name and all fades. It was difficult to take that title, but I feel it expresses very well what we are going to tell in this story.

  • You are also the writer. Talk us about the creative process of screenplay.

I have written myself all fiction stories that I have directed until now, so I felt I should do the same with my directorial debut. Screenplay had several drafts, I don’t know, I think six or seven, with a process that took me more than a year because I was refining a lot of things. Despite some things change when you are filming or editing, the screenplay even remains alive. It is just simple another way of giving a kind of life.

  • So, the screenplay is more a roadmap than a straitjacket to you at the time to film?

Yes, because what is important is what you live with actors. You can write something, but when this is told, when this characters come to life, they can talk by themselves.

A year writing this story is a normal time if you consider some directors have taken seven, eight or even more years writing the screenplay, isn’t it?

Yes. The truth is we proposed a specific date for filming. If we hadn’t done that, I had continued writing and redefining the story. We reached the point where I felt the story was ready so we decided to close it.

You are talking in plural. Did you receive any advice in that point?

I wrote the story myself, but Ana Piñeres, the creative producer, helped me a lot specially to close the idea. With actresses we found the voice of these characters.

  • Did you have any directors or movies that helped or inspired you?

Yes, I had. I mention some films like “Blue Valentine”, “Like Crazy”, “Lost in Translation” and “Revolutionary Road”.

¿Cómo te llamas? is a movie with different contexts: It’s a love story, it’s an urban film and about everyday life of a couple. It seems you want to offer a film that feels different from the productions we see in Colombian cinema usually?

Really, the everyday life appears because I tell stories that are inspired on my closer context, how I have told you. Besides, as foreign person in Colombia, to talk about other topics result difficult to me and I think it’s unfair because I don’t know the reality of the country well. Like you said, my story is more urban, maybe, a little bit distance of common Colombian films, although I must admit they are trying to make different proposal right now. I based on something universal, in something that is happening here, Bogotá, and I am not trying to hide the city, but the feeling of love and the routine of that love go beyond the place and its own context. Like foreign person, I made the film that I would expect to watch in Spain, for example. I don’t want a film where I feel that is Latin-American or whatever region. ¿Cómo te llamas? is a universal story, so I hope it can be watched in other places.

Even though the routine affect any kind of couple you chose a women relationship, why?

Actually, I never wanted to focus on women for any specific reason. It could be anyone, but the context I have now made me to talk about a women couple. It was just logic to me. I didn’t make it for talking about sexual identity or things like those.

However, there are some topics producers avoid because they don’t want to take so much risks. Prejudices still exist. Was complicated to sell the idea?

I think it was the right moment to tell a story like this. Colombia is opening its mentality a little bit, but at the same time it had the necessity to show these things happen, that are part of everyday life and we haven’t try to hide them. I know, the story can generated some controversy depending on what sector watch it. Each time is more frequent to watch international productions that are trying to normalize the issue about same-sex couples without giving so much significance. Some people who read the screenplay told me, for instance, that they saw reflected themselves and independent to their sexual preferences.

  • Intimacy makes part of a couple, how did you deal with this in the film?

As I am looking for reality in my film, intimacy and sexuality have to be here. From both components come the first emotions, the spark of a couple, so we have to see them. Both are essential part in a relationship and they are the victim when time is passing by. I know there are taboos around this from audience and some filmmakers too.

  • But I want to insist on. Many directors lost their total creative freedom with some situations because the distribution is another factor to keep on mind. Finally, they want to reach the exhibition on theaters where there are other rules.

Sure, and we kept on mind because our idea is to go to theaters. The way we approached to these kind of scenes were giving them as normally as possible.

  • Talking about the casting now.

My biggest concern was they could transmit something real, that was organic to the point audience was able to identify with them, that felt an emotional connection. In the middle of the process Silvia and Alejandra came. More than made a casting process I just simple wanted to someone who connected emotionally with me. The work with these characters was very long and peculiar.

  • Why?

Because it took to us almost nine months to build their relationship.

  • How specifically was that process?

They read the script, but text was at the end. Before starting the filming, we tried to build a real relationship, that means, I wanted that if they had to love, they loved for real. I didn’t want to introduce them in the set and tell them what should do and this was all. I was really concerned about that.

  • So, you didn’t want they act, basically. Did you?

Yes, because there is a point with that. I think actors haven’t act, they have simple to be. There are key moments in a relationship that for time are not in the script, but I wanted to recreate them. For example, You and I have a common memory, one day in a dinner and we were happy. For the movie, we can ask to an actor that brings that moment, but it is better if he has lived it. So, all these moments that were not written were recreated before the filming. We recreated things like the day when they met, the first date, the first meeting with their families. We built all a universe until I felt they were loving for real.

  • Quite interesting! On this exercise, did they live together?

Yes, in the apartment you will see in the movie. We said them: “This is their home, live here together”. They made that and happened everything, even a pipe was damaged and they should solve like a real family. I  was always there like a ghost.

  • Did you shoot while you are watching them?

Sometimes, because I didn’t want to interfere. What I did was to stop in certain moment and starting a feedback in order to take what was useful for characters.

  • How was the filming plan?

We determined 23 days for filming and defined for locations as happens with independent movies regularly. I had very clear the places, although it was no easy in some cases. I needed locations according to my color palette, something that was selected with art department strictly, because this element of film language is very important to me. It tells a lot about a film.

  • Did you use a crowdfunding platform?

Yes, and it worked really well. It exceeded all expectations we had. In fact, we reached a second level – in a first level they reached 8.000 usd and at the end they funded 11.114 usd. But I didn’t think it was so hard, because you need to be awake 24 hours and so much support is needed.

  • What stage was crowdfunding use for?

A little bit for pre-production and a little bit for filming.

  • With all prior experience, how do you analyze yourself as a director?

Since short films and now with my feature film I like to give freedom to my actors, I like they can feel the text very well and when this doesn’t happen I prefer to change it together the actors. The change between a short and feature film is shocking at the beginning because the crew is larger, I had 50 people here, there are many things to control, more scenes to make, you should to control the tiredness and emotion, you can’t give all in one day, because everything is important.

  • How did you deal with that scene or text you image in the screenplay as perfect?

(Laughs) It’s hard because you believe, when writes, that in certain point is where the real emotion is and when you realize it doesn’t work in the set you feel annoying. But you should opt what is more organic. A good strategy is a desire to be surprised. An advice given to me before filming was: “If you imagine, do it. If you see something, do it. If you imagine a take, do it”. Sometimes I drove crazy to my crew, but it is better to do it. In fact, we have amazing things that were not in the script.

  • What are the things you like the most about this production?

Two things: the crew, whom I love. I worked with some of them in my short films or commercials. It is a group of young people who are doing their first job, but have a contagious energy. I think the passion they put here will be reflected in the movie. The another thing is characters. I love them because they were able to create a very real chemistry. You cry and laugh with them, even beyond the big screen.

  • Talking us about edition

While we are filming we checked some parts and worked also some themes about synchrony. The rest was left to edition room, because I am a little bit accelerated, so I need to calm my emotions before editing and I know this project is larger.

  • What is the stage now?

We are in correction color, musical composition and sound design now.

  • And what about the release on theaters?

We would like to attend some film festival and go to theaters in first months of 2018, but we don’t have a specific date now.

¿Cómo te llamas? cast also includes actors: Roberto Cano, Kristina Lilley, Cristina Warner, Andrés Estrada, Ana María Cuellar, Luna Baxter y Carlos Carvajal.

This interview was translated from Spanish language by translator of texts Sandra M. Ríos.

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