Spain continues to lead the way with excitingly diverse genre movies and no more so than the recent indie sci-fi thriller gem LOS CRONOCRIMENES (aka Timecrimes) so Stu Willis was thrilled to take some time out with director Nacho Vigalondo to discuss the film and his career in general in our exclusive spotlight interview
Stu: Congratulations on your film, it's a fantastic triumph of ideas over budget. I'd like to start by asking what the overall budget of the film was.
Nacho: To be honest, I donīt know exactly. And, to tell the truth, I donīt wanna know. When it comes to numbers, I become quite nervous. All I can say it that I intended to make a little film for two reasons: I had no big budget, but, I swear I love small films, in which the ambition doesn't have to do with size. All my ideas for upcoming films are contained and cheap.
Stu: How did you go about getting financing for the film? Although the story doesn't rely in special effects heavily, I imagine some potential financiers must have found the ambitious storyline daunting?
Nacho: My little trick is being a tiny Oscar nominee with a short film. I thought to myself "This is my momentum, I have become a golden boy or so, now they'll let me make this crazy confusing film". Well, at the end of the day I made the film. But it took too long to finance it, and even with all the shooting finished, it took a year to find money to finish it. In that sense, I feel this film as a failure. No movie should take four years in your life. This feels worse when you are dealing with such a little story.
Stu: Did your initial budget overrun? If so, what was the cause?
Nacho: We had money for making the shots, but if you wanted to repeat anything...ĄYou were fucked up!
Stu: In terms of production, were there any unforeseen headaches or problems that you encountered? If so, what were they and how were they overcome?
Nacho: My biggest challenge, as big as writing the story itself, was finding the locations. We didn't have money for going through the country, filming here and there, so we had to find the indoor and outdoor places close to our hostel. Finding the locations and setting the camera, so everything would look isolated... That was exhausting. We were shooting most of the time in a populated town!
Stu: Was there anything you couldn't overcome and therefore had to compromise?
Nacho: I have to say that anything that fails is my whole fault. I took full responsibility of what you see on screen.
Stu: You made several short films prior to LOS CRONOCRIMENES. Can you explain how they helped you prepare for making a feature-length film?
Nacho: "7:35 in the morning" was an Oscar-Nominee. That is why the let me doing this film (they almost didn't let me, even). In other sense, the only way to prove yourself that you can shoot, and improve solutions to unexpected problems, is shooting.
Stu: The story is a remarkable one. What was the initial inspiration for the story?
Nacho: My love for this kind of conceptual science fiction. I remember that my first thought was "What If make a little crime film, like the american Fritz Lang's, but, thanks to a time travel, I make the victim, the killer, and the man behind the curtain to be the same guy?".
Stu: How long does it take you to write a script for something like LOS CRONOCRIMENES? How many drafts were there on this occasion, and what were the key differences between the original and final drafts?
Nacho: That was torturing. I made 10 or 11 drafts, in my leisure time, through several years. Thought I was clear about the ending, and the whole basic structure, when each draft came I had to "move" some elements to the left or right, and every specific "movement" caused a lot of inconvenient echoes forward and backward... So I had to make some changes, and the echoes continued...
Stu: I felt the film was very reminiscent of "The Twilight Zone" series - it had that vibe. Is this a series you recognise as a specific influence?
Nacho: That series was not easy to watch in Spain during my childhood. But I knew about this kind of twist-at-the-end sci-fi tales. Anyway, my TV influences in this sense are the awesome Hammer House of Mystery and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, maybe the best series ever.
Stu: If you could sum the theme of the film in one bite-sized sentence, what would it be?
Nacho: When it comes to clean your conscience, you become a real son of a bitch!
Stu: Reading reviews for LOS CRONOCRIMENES, I note people often mention Hitchcock. How do you react to such comparisons?
Nacho: Itīs not only that I really love Hitchcock. Itīs the truly fact that you cannot escape from him. Hitchcock is modern cinematographic storytelling. For example, I noticed that this movie would be a "Psycho" kind of film. Karra Elejalde and me watched Psycho carefully. Norman Bates would be a time traveller... He is his own mother, you know.
Stu: Although your film doesn't rely on special effects for its thrills, there are set-piece scenes such as a car crash, a time machine etc. What was the most elaborate "effect" created for the film?
Nacho: Itīs not about the effects, but I really loved how the time machine looked. The most elaborated things are some camera movements. Well, there are some digital effects, but most of them are invisible. The antenna is a whole 3-D model. And Barbara Goenaga, the girl... She had some tattoos that they had to erase.
Stu: I've got to mention the music in the film. Not just the fantastic use of Blondie's "Picture This", but Eugenio Mira's brilliant thriller-style score. Can you talk to us a little about the music and what direction, if any, you gave on this front?
Nacho: Eugenio Mira is a filmmaker too. He made the astounding "The Birthday", a really daring film with Corey Feldman. He understood I wanted a really peculiar soundtrack, not an oversized soundtrack, and not an always-emphasizing soundtrack. He is a crazy mess of influences, from John Williams to Depeche Mode. I thought he could find the perfect tone of the film within that tone.
Stu: Can you tell us a little about what you were doing prior to LOS CRONOCRIMENES? In particular, I think readers may be fascinated to learn about "Gran Hermano"! What was your involvement in this Spanish TV show? It sounds wild.
Nacho: I was a writer in the second season, when Big Brother was a colossal phenomenon. I was part of the team that made all the little contests, the incentives... And I worked as an editing assistant. I had to watch ALL the stuff that came through the cameras. Pretty sci-fi, if you think about it. Anyway, my past is filled with short films, commercials, some theater, some TV writing... just like many others.
Stu: You've worked extensively as a writer, actor and director in the past few years, as well as dabbling in production. Was it difficult acting as writer, director and actor in LOS CRONOCRIMENES?
Nacho: Itīs not a difficulty when you love it so badly.
Stu: With your own acting experience, do you find this affects the way you direct other actors?
Nacho: When you have felt all the weakness of being an actor, you are closer to them, for sure. I hope this helps me.
Stu: LOS CRONOCRIMENES has won a clutch of it's own awards already. Which one of it's awards means the most to you, and why?
Nacho: The first ones. The ones I won at the Fantastic Festival, in Austin. I went to that festival without having watched the five reels together. That was my very first projection! And, to tell the truth... I didn't know if my movie was good... or a total piece of shit.
Stu: What's your reaction to all the positive response to LOS CRONOCRIMENES?
Nacho: "Wow, I hope this helps me to make the next one faster!"
Stu: Internet rumours suggest that a US remake of LOS CRONOCRIMENES is afoot. Are you able to elaborate on this? Is it true? If so, how do you feel about that - really?
Nacho: Yeah, they are making it this year. This whole thing has put my name in a better position in Hollywood, and I truly believe the remake is gonna be great. Steve Zaillian, Tim Sexton (Children of Men)... They are behind the remake, and I had an opportunity to have breakfast and dinner with them... I am still young, I have only made one feature, and Iīm still a film geek!. Let me enjoy this!
Stu: With the above question in mind, this is something I frequently ask filmmakers. If your film was to be remade with a Hollywood A-list cast ... who would be your ideal cast? Who would play yourself, for example?!
Nacho: I always felt that Bruce Willis would be a perfect Hector. I thought of that even before knowing my movie would be made.... I would like if the scientist is played by, for example, Adam Brody, Michael Cera, Seth Rogen... Itīs free to dream!
Stu: Spain has enjoyed a huge renaissance in terms of genre cinema over the last decade. Where do you see yourself fitting in?
Nacho: Iīd love to be remembered as part of a wild bunch of filmmakers that made hundreds of awesome sci-fi, horror, and crime films through the decades.
Stu: And what's next for you? Have you got anything currently developing that you're free to share with us?
Nacho: Iīm into several projects, and don't know which will come next. But I'll keep to this kind of cheap science fiction, this portable paradoxes.
Stu: Any ultimate ambitions in terms of filmmaking? Want to go on to direct a Bond film, or the next Star Wars, or whatever?
Nacho: Iīd LOVE to make a DIE HARD one. A real-time non-stop roller coaster, just like the third one!
Stu: Finally, in your time travelling to festivals promoting LOS CRONOCRIMENES, can you recommend any films that you've come across that have personally struck you?
Nacho: I felt in love with such films as JCVD, Martyrs, Let the Right One In, The Chaser, Astropia, Tokyo Gore Police, The Girl Next Door, Five Across The Eyes... making the Festivals tour is SO COOL!
Stu: Thanks for your time, and congratulations again on a superb, entertaining film. Good luck for the future.
Nacho: Thank you so much, I hope you like the next one!
TIMECRIMES is out now on DVD from Optimum Home Entertainment
Special thanks to Nacho Vigalondo and John at Optimum