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Toronto International Film Festival 2021
Short Cuts Programme 02

Julia Yolanda
Art Director 
The Infantas / Las Infantas

It’s Carnival time in Barcelona, and the owner of a hair salon wants nothing more than to give her daughter an opportunity to shine on the Dominican float. Yet what’s meant to be a day of celebration culminates in a standoff in Andrea Herrera Catalá’s insightful and energetic story of family and identity.

Hi Julia thank you for talking to The New Current, how are you held up during these very strange times?

I feel the film industry has learned their way to get covid measures quite efficiently in order to keep the work done. I am so grateful everybody involved in a project is aware of the situation and is making an extra effort so we can keep making films. 

Has this time provided you with any new creative inspiration or opportunities?

Absolutely. During the severe three months lock down in Spain back in Spring 2020 I was, as everybody, really frustrated every project was cancelled or delayed. I took advantage of the time off and wrote a script for a short film. I presented it to my friends in film companies Amor&Lujo and Erika Lust Films and we started pre production right away. We did 99% of online meetings and in the moment the covid measure permitted us to work we shot it. It was my first experience as a director and it was great! I feel I wouldn't have sat to write if we hadn't had that free time.

What does it mean for you to be able to Premiere The Infantas in the Short Cuts Section at TIFF?

I think it's a dream come true but also I consider the piece really deserves this much attention and recognition. To me it has been a very special project from the very beginning. I love how the effort of every person involved has really paid off.

At what stage in a films productions does an Art Director come on board?

It depends on the project but usually once the script is written an Art Director starts the pre productions with a conversation along with the director and DOP about the look of the film. In my opinion our main job is to get our job done in order to support the narrative of the story we are telling. An art director must understand the script and the artistic intention of the director and work in the same direction.

Can you tell me a little bit about how you got involved with The Infantas?

As a friend of Amor&Lujo since a long time I had heard about the project for a while. But it was when they got financial funding when I got a call from Andrea to offer me the role of the art director. I've worked with them for a really long time, but this particular project seemed a special one, really intimate so I wanted to be a part of it.

What was the experience like working with your director Andrea Herrera Catalá and how important is the collaborative relationship between an art director and director?

Andrea is a very intelligent and charismatic leader. She is an Aries, like me, so I think we share this straightforward energy and have the ability to communicate what we want clearly. As a friend of hers I could see so much of her persona in the project and immediately knew how important this piece was going to be for her. Andrea and I had long conversations about the two spaces in the film, the hair salon and the home. One so public and loud and fun and the other one private, intimate, holding the mother and daughter special relationship. 

What were the biggest challenges you faced working on The Infantas?

The biggest challenge was the dimensions of the location. Although it was an amazing location, and served the story really well it was too small for a film crew. We shot in August and it was really challenging to work in such a small place in the middle of a heat wave. Also as the space was so small I wasn't allowed to bring an assistant or props master with me. So the art team was just me, so I was quite limited. Thanks to the kindness and familiar atmosphere in the film crew everybody was helping each other so the result is on point.

How different was your approach as an Art Director on The Infantas compared to your other work? 

For this particular project we had to represent part of the Caribbean community in Barcelona. Andrea, the director, is talking about herself and her heritage so she knew what she wanted to transmit. For me, as a total foreign to this community I wanted to be as respectful as I could be, so I tried to see and learn about images of Caribbean hair salons in Barcelona. What symbols they usually have and find a way to recreate all of this in our film set.


Have you always had a passion for Art Direction? 

I've always been a very visual person. Since a child I've enjoyed the narrative behind the background of a painting and the many things colours, shapes and figures have to tell in any art work. When I decided to study cinema I already knew I wanted to lead my path into art direction. I love the collaborative aspect of this job, in almost every film project the art team is so loving and friendly, it is great to work with such amazing talented people that are always helping each other. 


"This is a collaborative job and it is important to take care of the team and try to make things easier for everybody."

What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you have taken away from working on The Infantas?

At the beginning of this project I wanted to have more time, budget and team members in order to transform the space. After doing it with less resources I feel the input in the film was put into the acting and the improvisation of the cast, which I think is the joy of the film. I've learnt sometimes you have to take two steps away to let other aspects of the film shine.

Is there any advice you would offer someone thinking about getting into Art Direction?

My advice would be to always be aware you are not working alone. This is a collaborative job and it is important to take care of the team and try to make things easier for everybody. And be used to not knowing everything about your job. As an art director you are always learning something, it is important to not be afraid of not knowing something.

And finally, what do you hope audiences will take away from your work?

I hope watchers will enjoy the film. I want people to feel the joy and opulence of the hair salon and then understand and see the mother and daughter love and challenging relationship in the space of the home. 

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