You’re the Master of Mysterious. Did something real or unreal trigger this narrative?
The film is based on a true story that happened a couple years ago in a village in Kazakhstan, where most of the population fainted and fell asleep suddenly without any reason. They woke up between two and six days later a bit drowsy but they were more or less fine, their health was not harmed. But no one yet knows why, there are tons of theories but not one of them can say exactly why it happened, it’s a big mystery. A very cinematic mystery.
I started to think about how it would feel to be one of these people, to be surrounded by this happening. Everyone would be on edge, afraid, that this thing would happen to them and if it had already happened that it could happen again. Being afraid but not understanding or knowing what you are afraid of. I thought it was an awesome metaphor of fear. How people’s lives can be controlled by fear in a way that is hard to fathom. Fear makes ordinary situations and places strange and confusing. Fear can be used to control people and populations yet it’s intangible.
Did you write the voice over script? And did you shoot the film to fit the voice over or vice versa?
I had the concept and the true story of Kalachi, the Kazakhstan village, and when we’d found a good bunch of locations we begain writing the story around those locations.
First I started to write with another Spanish script writer, called Daniel Remon, he’s amazing, and when it was finished Paul Weston, the executive producer of Colonel Blimp, thought that the script needed something else. To start with I wasn’t so sure but he was right! So we worked further on it with Joe Rosen, he is so talented, and he helped give the voice over that musicality and poetic pace, especially at the end of the film. Then I could combine the words and the locations and I started to figure out the tone of the voice over. I wanted it to feel authoritative yet untrustworthy somehow…. that was the process.
You’re also good at framing characters within landscapes where did you shoot your film?
Thanks, for me locations are essential, I always work a lot trying to find the best locations possible.
In this instance the idea was that the locations should be emotional landscapes that show the inner fear of the people in the film. We shot on the Azores Islands in Portugal, specifically on San Miguel island. My sister has lived there for 13 years and every time I’ve visited her I’ve thought, “I have to shoot here”. When we were talking about the film I showed Paul pictures from when I had been staying with my sister and we started to work out how to set this film there and make it happen.
What were the main challenges of the production and how did you resolve them?
Probably the main thing was to get the 35 mm film cans to Azores, there were a lot of problems at the airport because they wanted to scan the film several times with very old and very strong scanners but finally we achieved it and the film literally arrived the morning of the shoot. It’s such a shame that people can’t shoot more on film, the world is just not used to it anymore.
Also because the Azores Islands are not quite Hollywood, it was too difficult to find fixers and people to help us with the production there. Finally, we found a wonderful old school producer called Joao Daponte who did an amazing job.
What are you working on now (if you can say!)?
Sure! I’m finishing a music video, we are now in postproduction stage and it will be released very soon… I’m quite happy with the result. I’m also working on the script of my first feature which is very very exciting.
Seen any good films lately?
The last film I watched in the cinema was ” Arabian nights. Volume One: The Restless Man” from the Portuguese director Miguel Gomes, it’s not so perfect as his previous film “Tabu” which I think is a total masterpiece, but it’s an independent movie with some brilliant moments and surreal beauty, it’s different. I love that guy.
Anything else you’d like to share?
That I really enjoyed making “You Are Awake”, I think it’s an unusual film because the process was unusual. I spent two weeks finding locations for a four-minute film, we were such a small crew in a van moving fast from one point of the island to another, all of us doing the jobs of at least two people.
I was the DOP, the camera operator and the director, Corin from Colonel Blimp was the producer and also the AD, Jose the art director was also the costume designer and Corin’s assistant….. and all of us except me luckily as I was holding the camera appears as extras more than once. We laughed a lot, we ate amazingly, and shot on 35 mm… it was some of the best days of my life!
Directed and photographed by Pedro Martín-Calero
Written by Daniel Remón, Joe Rosen and Pedro Martín-Calero
Edited by Sacha Szwarc
Music by Olivier Arson
Art direction and costume by Jose Tirado
Executive Producer Paul Weston
Produced by Joao Daponte and Corin Taylor
Produced by Colonel Blimp