17th Berlinale Talents | 2019
Mireia Graell is a writer/director based in Barcelona who is also the founder of Ringo Media is a production house.
Hi Mireia thanks for talking to TNC, you all set for the Berlinale?
Hi, it’s a pleasure. Yes, all ready for Berlinale, especially the schedule of meetings and events.
Are there nerves ahead of the festival?
Actually, a little bit. I’ve attended the festival before but always on behalf of other companies or to enjoy the screenings. This is the first time I’m personally invited and I have my own company, so yes, a little bit nervous.
What does it mean for you to be part of the 17th edition of Berlinale Talents?
For me, being part of Berlinale Talents was a very big surprise, I wasn’t expecting it at all, and I look forward to it with great honour and respect. It means becoming part of the Berlinale community where I’ve seen filmmakers grow and where colleagues have found partnerships or friendships, so I’m really excited to be part of it.
How important are opportunities like this?
I really believe in opportunities like this because they help newcomers get into the industry. On one side they give you the inside to such a big festival as Berlinale, but at the same time, they allow you to network with colleagues from other places that are at the same point or similar point of the career as you. So, you feel less lonely and more hopeful when talking about problems, mistakes or success. It makes growing into the industry easier and less scary.
Can you tell me a little bit about your work, what was it about filmmaking that interested you so much?
Whenever I think about this question I don’t really know what to answer, because there wasn’t a specific event or moment in my life that brought me to filmmaking, it was more about decisions made as I was growing up that led me into this world. I do remember always enjoying the cinema experience and thinking it would be great to be in that business.
However, it wasn’t until I studied filmmaking in London when I really fell in love with the craft. I enjoyed the creative process of creating a world from your imagination and bringing all the pieces together through different departments and different voices. As well as the art of simply telling a story to someone, but with filmmaking being capable of doing it through images and not only words, transcending to another level of storytelling.
"I try to keep loyal to atone and type of cinema."
As a producer/director what draws you to a film project?
I normally work as a producer, actually, as a director, I’m currently working on my documentary feature debut, so the decisions behind picking a story have been very different. I would say as a producer I really like talking with the talent behind the story and understanding their way of working in film as well as their own voice in filmmaking. I like people who are passionate about their work and who transfer this passion to their surroundings. Stories are obviously very important to me, but I think I would never go into a process of making a film with a person I can’t bond.
However, as a director, what has led me into a project has always been a personal motivation towards the story. Some kind of connection with the subject I’m talking about or the characters. Sometimes at first, I didn’t really know what it was that draw me into the project, however, I quickly discover, because if not, I don’t believe I would be able to invest so much of my time.
What was the first film you worked on?
In film school, I worked in many short films in different roles, but particularly one that made me grow was CHONO LULU (Come to sleep) by Vaagn Avakin, shot in black and white, in 35mm. I was the producer and the camera operator.
However, the first professional set I worked in was THE GUNMAN by Pierre Morel. They were shooting in Barcelona and needed extra PA’s. I had just moved from London and a friend of mine was working there. He got me in the days they needed extra people and on my first day of shooting my job was to look after the production truck which was parked in an underground car park. I was in there for at least six hours, where my only contact with the set and what was going on was a walkie-talkie. Looking back it seems horrible, however, I remember being very happy that day.
Do you ever find yourself getting too attached to a project or are you able to walk away once it is done?
You never really let go of projects, or at least I haven’t in my case. In my experience, the projects I’ve carried out have had a very “natural” development and whenever the right time has arrived it’s easy to me to let them go, especially if the following process is treated by the right people.
In other words, when projects have needed much more of my attention I’ve been extremely attached to them, but on moments of production when I’m not so required have arrived, I’ve been lucky to work with people whom I can trust them with, and positive they will be safely treated. In addition, I’m also very careful in the number of projects I have in my company’s slate, I try not to bring too many just in case I cannot take care of them properly.
What are some of the easy mistakes a first-time producer/director might make?
Working as a producer/director is very rewarding and at the same time difficult. In my case, I’m learning how to manage the situation of which hat you’re wearing. I mean, when sometimes I’m working on creative aspects related to visuals or how I want to shoot, the producer inside me pops up and “breaks the dream” very quickly. Therefore, I’m learning how to allow my imagination grow without the borders of budget or logistics and give myself space to create so that further on I can wear my producer hat and give a creative solution balancing desires with realities inside our probabilities.
What has also helped me a lot is sharing the project with other heads of departments such as the editor or the cinematographer. This way you create the team around the project already and are able to verbalize your ideas with others but still keep 100% control of your film.
How important is the collaborative process in what you do?
I think I always mention the importance of collaboration in the creation of a film because from what I’ve worked in it’s essential. The team helps you in so many ways that the way I understand filmmaking could not be possible.
Since the beginning of an idea, I always like to share it with my closest surrounding and attending workshops or industry pitchings has also become very important to me in order to hear feedback and impressions of what I’m working on. At the end of the day you make the last call on how you want to make your film, but hearing others and sharing the story is very enriching for me.
How much has your approach to your work changed since you started out?
Not that much. I always like to work on stories I say I would go and watch in the cinema, and up until now, those are the ones I’ve developed. I try to keep loyal to atone and type of cinema. What I would say is that it took me some years to find this loyalty, at first I was very lost, I liked all kind of cinema, however, once I’ve opened my company and projects come onto my desk I had to make this kind of decision in order to establish an editorial line, and at the end of the day that one would be the kind of cinema I liked to work on.
What are you currently working on?
We are currently working on several projects. In postproduction, we have a short film set in the Pyrenees after the Spanish civil war. I’m personally working in the world of fantasy for the first time so I’m very excited about it.
We’re also shooting a short film in March directed by Álvaro Gago that will be ready in summer 2019 where we talk about woman abuse, and the documentary I’m directing/producing is aimed to be shot in late summer 2019, where we tell the story of the Vivancos dancers’ family which had many siblings, seven mothers and one father.
We also have projects in early development such as Alvaro’s first feature film.
And finally, do you have any advice or tips for any thinking about getting into filmmaking?
I don’t know what to say really, I just believe that if you work in filmmaking or any creative sector there has to be a passion towards it because it can be like a roller coaster sometimes and you need this passion to carry on when things get complicated. There has to be something inside you to help you move on when necessary.