This Tuesday, Basque director Álex de la Iglesia offered the first of the master classes scheduled as part of the 66th edition of Seminci, a festival that is also paying tribute to him with the awarding of one of its Spikes of Honour. During his conversation with Seminci Channel presenter Eva Moreno and the audience, the director of cult films such as El Día de la Bestia [The Day of the Beast], La Comunidad [Common Wealth] and Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi [Witching and Bitching] emphasised the good moment that the Spanish audiovisual sector is going through, which in his opinion is one of the “most successful” in Europe.
“We are at a great moment to take advantage and to change everything: I have never seen better films than now. There have never been films of higher quality, more diverse and different…”, said the director, who considered that, at the present time, the Spanish audio-visual model is probably one of the most successful in Europe “and nobody is saying that.”
De la Iglesia, who referred to the “democratization of content,” that is, to the fact that some Spanish series have 110 million viewers around the world, insisted that the present is a time of great opportunities to tell stories because there is a “real thirst for content,” which can never be considered a problem and must lead to reflection on new models of expression that tell things differently and also on “how old some approaches are.”
“We are now at one of the most exciting times: it’s a challenge, it’s changing the industry and market models. We sensed it ten years ago and it was rejected, and now it has become totally clear,” he defended before assuring that, in the face of it, one can react “with fear, apprehension, trembling or awe,” or it can become a challenge in which to perceive the possibilities of change that it entails.
Along the same lines, he considered that cinema is seen where the public watches it, since the public is “sovereign.” That is why, in order to get spectators to return to the cinema halls, they have to respond to this challenge and make the screenings “extraordinary”, because that is the only way to get people out of their homes, something that is becoming increasingly complicated.
The Essence of Laughter
A staunch defender of humour and laughter, De la Iglesia rejected any consideration that undervalues humour or comedians. “I hate the saying ‘laughter for the sake of laughter is worthless.’ Laughter makes sense in itself. In fact, the essence of laughter is to be meaningless,” he said before equating it with “the corrosive acid that dissolves” everything that generates suffering in people.
Convinced, therefore, that the very fact of laughing “justifies an existence,” the director and producer ironized about directors who boast about the philosophy or the messages about their vision of life that they convey in their works because, in his opinion, there need not be important things behind them, a reason, among others, why he likes Mirindas Asesinas.
“What do you mean that entertainment is frivolous? Work is important and entertainment isn’t? So, what is the purpose of life? To work? Something that makes you happy isn’t important?” he questioned before reiterating that humour “without moral or ethical compensation” is worthwhile.
Álex de la Iglesia, who was visiting the Seminci Festival for the first time today, also discussed some of the creative processes involved in making a film and, in response to a question from the audience, he referred to the role of screenwriters and the demands they face today.
“If there is something underdog in this industry it is the screenwriter; they are the most important department in the industry, because when there is a need for content their presence is invoked,” he explained before acknowledging that as well as being the “least attended to,” their work is subject to a “very damaging” way of thinking. “They are asked why they don’t have ideas that don’t cost anything but are super exciting… and that happens once in a billion scripts. To get that you have to be a tremendous screenwriter,” he acknowledged.
Life is Measured in Movies
The meeting with De la Iglesia, who in February will start shooting the second season of the series 30 Monedas [30 Coins], was full of memories and anecdotes about his life and his films, which, as he admitted, at a certain point became so close that the boundaries between one and the other dissipated. “At a certain age, cinema becomes a life experience and there is no distinction between cinema and life. You no longer count the years, you count the films. Suddenly, your life is your films… that’s the wonderful thing about making films,” he declared, and then acknowledged that he structures his life not according to the normal calendar, but through his films.
From them he also rescues people like the actor Álex Angulo, about who he was asked and about whom he assured that he made him “a better person” and taught him “honesty.” Angulo, an “incredible” guy, died in a traffic accident “out of kindness,” as he should have gone with a driver to the shooting and took his own car to save money, because it was a small production.
A man educated in the “Jesuit spirit”, Álex de la Iglesia also shared advice with the audience, many of whom were young students: “listen a lot but follow little;” “learn from everything, don’t let yourselves be guided by anyone’s univocal criteria… and go all out, because they will try to make things not be the way you want them to be;” “do you prefer to make your own mistake or live someone else’s success?”; “in a script you only write actions, not descriptions. The script is a measure of time and production and each page is a minute of a film” or “the editor has to be detached from the material to be able to edit with peace of mind.”
“There’s a golden law: if you’re dead or you’re from abroad, things go well,” he added. Although that was not true in his case….