A Victorian story about life, death, and everything in between.
Hi Javier thank you for talking to TNC, how are you handling the lockdown?
Thank you for having me! I am busy writing the script of the feature film, and everything is fine so far. I have to say, “Flora” reminds me a little of these dark times that we are living with the virus. Because Flora, like us, is confined. And there is something invisible and dangerous that can kill her .... it's strange but I can't help but think about it.
Your film Flora has been selected for the 15th ÉCU Film Festival in Paris, what has it meant to you to be part of this unique film festival for independent filmmakers?
I am really delighted that "Flora" was chosen at such a prestigious Independent Film Festival. Competition is fierce! This is the very first time that the film is going to be screened in France.
Flora has already had an amazing festival run winning multiple awards for Screenplay, Costume & Cinematography, id you imagine you would get this type of reaction for your film?
I have to say that expectations were high. The film is very visual and that helps. Besides, the story, although based on real events, is unknown by a large majority and people watch it with more interest. Also, the exquisite photography of Michal Babinec and Ruth Morales’s wardrobe work deserve it.
What do you think it is about Flora that has connected with festival audiences so much?
I think few “period” short films are made. And that is a new thing. You do not usually see vintage costumes, mansions or sumptuous sets in a short film. The audience is intelligent and appreciates traveling to another era, even if it is in a short film format.
Can you tell me a little bit about Flora, how did this film come about?
I had read about the historical “green dye” phenomenon and I decided it was interesting to tell about it. Because many people had no idea what really happened. And it kills thousand of people!!
The entire film is about loneliness and loss. I think loneliness is one of the great evils of our time. The two women live next to each other but they do not share a single word in the film and they appear repeatedly in the same rooms of the house with a delay. To me that is loneliness, also. And is an interesting intimate character study of the fragility and solitude of women in the Victorian period.
What was the inspiration behind your screenplay, did you know much about the situation and experiences of Victorian women before you started making Flora?
I really like the Victorian era. I usually watch a lot of English cinema and I also read the classics of that time like Brontë, Wild, Carrol, ... ("Harriet" by Elizabeth Jenkins is an absolutely disturbing book). But I had to do a lot of research to find out specific details about the women: how they wrote a letter, the social rules, what was allowed for them and what wasn't… It was fascinating.
What was the experience like working with your actors Gillian Apter & Alexia Giordano?
Alexia and I did not know each other. I chose her by photo and I did not see her until we did the wardrobe fitting in London the day before filming. As soon as she read the script, she accept. I can't imagine a better Flora than her. With Gillian I had worked on my previous short film, “Nevada”. She has a truly amazing character possession capacity. They both are absolutely wonderful actresses.
What was the most challenges scene for you to film?
Maybe Flora’s walk in the garden. It was that "blue light" moment and you have very little time to shoot because the light changes so fast. She was only wearing a nightgown, the grass was wet, it was cold… but she had to convey happiness. It was her release after such a long time in seclusion and it’s the sequence in which we discover her true reality. There is a fight between life and death, joy and sorrow, loneliness and belonging, and all of this gives the sequence a strange calm.
Looking back what would you say has been the biggest lesson you've taken from making Flora?
I have not learned a thing. I have verified it. If you want to make a project, you need a good team that support you all the way.
The production was extremely extensive and without Jon Fernandez, the Producer, whole thing would have been a trip to hell. Fortunately, I had the best team and everyone knew exactly what to do. And the magic was done!
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Since I was so young I used to go away with my super 8 camera making films with my brother and friends. And there has always been an important film culture in my family.
"...surround yourself with people who know more than you."
How much has your style and approach to your films changed since your debut short?
I feel much more confident now than on my first films but I have not changed my style. Although the stories are different, I try to be faithful to a very precise narrative and visual style. I know what I like and how I want to transmit it. I accept suggestions from everyone but in the end you have to stay within your own esthetic. If not, you end up making someone else's movie.
What has been the best piece of advice you have been given when you started out?
Someone once told me: when conflict is inevitable, it is best to lead it.
Do you have any tips or advice to offer filmmakers about to make their first film?
The most valuable advice I can give is to surround yourself with people who know more than you. This is an orchestra and you are going to conduct, but the musicians have to be the best because it is their instruments that will be heard. You just put order!
What are you currently working on?
I am finishing the script for a feature film. A story about the power struggle on television networks.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Flora?
I really hope people think about the ones they love before losing them.