Interview with Chus de Castro

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With their short film LOVE CRISIS Olga Ruano and Chus de Castro aim to spread a message filled with hope regarding the worldwide financial crisis, with an approach that’s sociological rather than political. We spoke to Chus de Castro after LOVE CRISIS screened at the Cambridge Reel Women short film event in July.

Faye Gentile: Most of your short films are below 5 minutes. What are the benefits of making them so short?

Chus de Castro: Films and short films are based on the same goal: telling a story. The shorter the story the better, if the directors succeed in their attempt of telling it in that brief time. I love challenging myself in terms of movie making. The other practical benefit is that many film festivals appreciate shorter films simply to prevent short film programmes becoming too long and even tedious.

FG: How do you go about writing such brief films?

CDC: That’s actually my main challenge as a writer-director, to be able to tell a complex story with many different nuances and contradictions in just a few minutes. As the saying goes, “Brevity is the soul of wit”. I just don’t like redundancy. I watch such great shorts and films that repeat the same ideas over and over again and, in my opinion, that’s a mistake from the point of view of storytelling. I believe audiences are really intelligent, they really get everything right away. It is like not only telling the same joke twice but also explaining it.

I do remember that, at the beginning, I wanted all my characters to have great characteristics and peculiarities and I wanted to make them say great lines of dialogue and, also, to make them do a lot of things in order to tell a complex and complete story. Later, I understood that it’s action that defines character, and not the other way around. As they usually say, plot comes first, then it is about defining what your characters do and that’s what tells us who they are. That’s a truth in the dramatic narrative but it is also true in life, isn’t it? Actions speak louder than words, and having that clear in terms of writing was a big one for me.

FG: You star and direct in a lot of your films, can you tell me why you choose to do that?

CDC: I am an actor, that’s what I am, so it was the natural thing to do for me. I studied drama and later screenwriting. I wrote and acted for First Team, a film foundation run by Assumpta Serna, a really prestigious and amazing actress/director/producer in Spain, and Scott Cleverdon, a fantastic Scottish actor/screenwriter/director. At the beginning, I did not dare to direct because I thought it was too much: acting and writing was more than enough for me. But then, they started encouraging me to do it myself since they truly believe that actors are authors and that no other director was going to fully understand what I really wanted to tell in my scripts. They believed in my own style of telling stories, so, I did it, reluctantly at first but once I tried it, I knew they were so right about it all. Now, I just want tell my stories in front and behind the camera with all the difficulties that it implies.

Acting and directing at the same time is not a good idea, you are stressed out for the most part, so this is why I usually co-direct my projects. I co-direct my films with some trusted professionals and friends of mine. Co-directing is hard too, it is a complex thing to attempt but in my case the results were great and I am very grateful of my colleagues and their beautiful job they made, so I might do it again. It is a tough job but very fulfilling.

“The only difference between reality and fiction is that fiction needs to be credible.”

FG: Where do you draw inspiration for your characters (such as in Ruptura Original (LAST STOP EDEN))?

CDC: Life itself. Many people believe that since they seem so authentic they all must be autobiographical and they have a point there since I’m always inspired by the truth. They are not me but when you create a character (as an actor or as a writer) you can’t help giving something of yourself here and there. Sometimes they are based on something related to you somehow, some other times they are pure inventions based on others, some other times it is a mere glimpse of something that could have happened but never did. One of the greatest screenwriters of Spain, Rafael Azcona, said that that in real life there are no genres, everything is all together. So, inspiration comes to me every day from the simple things and also from the incredible things that happen every day. Truth is stranger than fiction, so sometimes all you have to do is to take these incredible moments from life and make them to have sense on you fictional context, since as Mark Twain said, “The only difference between reality and fiction is that fiction needs to be credible.”

FG: How have your received all the positive response, did you expect LOVE CRISIS to be so successful?

CDC: My co-director Olga Ruano and I did not expect it at all! We were used to getting an almost immediate response from audiences since we made a bunch of short films for online film festivals that became very popular very quickly since people started posting them on social networks and all that stuff. However, since LOVE CRISIS was not going to be online and it was a low budget short film, we thought we weren’t going to be able to compete with really expensive budget short films in film festivals. But we did! We had tons of selections and we won awards and audiences on movie theatres loved them too and Olga and I, we are more than happy about it all!

FG: Would developing it into a longer film be a consideration?

CDC: As I said, I am not fan of that. Short films and films are two different formats and therefore, sometimes when directors attempt to adjust their short into a longer storytelling the result is a real mess. For me, it feels like trying to make a novel out of a poem. Novels and poems are based on storytelling, but they are different formats,and I just don’t want to mess with any of them just for the sake of making a feature. If I want to make a movie, I will start writing a movie, you know?

FG: Finally, what are your future projects?

CDC: I am going to make another short film this summer. I will co-direct it with Nacho Prieto, a brilliant Spanish TV and film director. In this case, this will be longer and this is going to be my most visual film until this date. It is almost a silent film. It is mainly a drama but with hints of humour. We are shooting in Madrid this July. Later, I might shoot another one in the UK but this one needs further development, so we will see. I’d love if that happened since it would be a great challenge for me, shooting in another country, in another language and with another great talented director, Amanda S Thompson who has a totally different background of mine. My fingers are crossed. What’s more, I have several TV, theatre and Film projects as an actress coming up while I keep on finishing my first directorial debut, I am still writing my first feature film and I’m pretty excited about it!

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