Viaje/Paz Fabrega

Over the course of a weekend, two young Costa Ricans share newfound love, laughter, and light-heartedness as they explore their country and each other.  In luminous black-and-white, director Paz Fabrega has fashioned a modern fairy tale for anyone who embraces romance. A highlight of the Tribeca Film Festival 2015.  Availability:  Check Tribeca Film Festival schedule.  Thanks to Christine Richardson and James Moore, Tribeca Film Festival, for arranging this interview.


DT:  Costa Rica is so glorious in color.  Why shoot black-and-white?


PF:  For that exact reason. Because this place was so green and so lush, it took on too much importance. The film looked like a nature documentary. This is a story about characters and relationships, their gestures and their interactions, so we needed to put the landscape behind. I also think that landscape in black-and-white is very interesting.  It’s unusual.  It’s something different. This place has some mineral, I don’t know what it is, that makes things white. It’s not white-white, it’s a dirty white, so in color it just looks muddy, but in black-and-white it becomes something.



DT:  So you also tried it in color?


PF:  We were already thinking about shooting black-and-white, but we shot both when we went scouting. Then we decided to shoot it straight on black-and-white, which is something you should not do normally. It was great for us, because on the one hand we didn’t have color monitors, so we were just looking at the screen on the camera. That allowed us to find interesting black-and-white compositions right away, because we were working very fast and very improvised.  It also made color corrections much easier, because normally you would have all the color information and then you would take the greens and do separate corrections. It made post very simple because there wasn’t that much we could do.  And I liked that. When I went to film school, it was still film. With film there’s not that much you can do in post, and that’s the way I like to work.  You have what you have, and you have to commit to that.  You can’t change everything around once you’ve finished the film.


DT:  What camera did you use?


PF:  The Canon 5D Mark II.


DT: Neto Villalobos [Costa Rican director of Por Los Plumas {All About the Feathers}] also shot with a Canon 5D [Mark I]. How do you shoot an entire feature with an SLR?


PF:  We weren’t sure it was going to be a feature.  We were just going to see what we would do with the material.  It was three years ago when these cameras were coming out, and I loved that you could use photographic lenses on them.  I guess now there are more options, because you have the Blackmagic. That would probably be better, but I bought this camera because we could have the freedom to shoot whenever we wanted. We didn’t have to think about rentals or borrowing from someone, and that was what I could afford.


DT:  How did you do sync sound?


PF:  We recorded sound with an H4 recorder and a boom mic.  And then we used a clapboard to sync it up.


DT:  A little old-fashioned way of working.


PF:  It’s a pain in the ass.


DT:  You established a production company in Costa Rica.  What’s the film industry like there?


PF: It’ not much of a film industry. It’s hard to get projects going there. When I finished film school in London, I went back to Costa Rica. In London it was easy to find people—sound recordists, editors—who were working on different projects and would come to yours.  Even if it was a low-budget project, they’d do it for less than their usual fee. I knew lots of people who had well-paying jobs, and then they had their personal projects.  In Costa Rica there’s not so much of this. Because there just aren’t that many people working, it’s harder to bring together a team of people to work on your film.  That’s the one hand.  On the other hand, it’s all independent filmmakers.  There’s no structure. I think that’s very good for us, because nobody’s wasting time trying to get a job or trying to get into the industry.  Everybody’s just going out and shooting their films. It’s the way I want to keep working for a while.


DT:  So you’ll keep working in Costa Rica?


PF:  I want to make a few more films there.  I can apply for a fund and get together a group of people and just go out and shoot a film.  I’m still exploring.  Unless there’s some amazing script that I feel is exactly right for me, I don’t see myself going into a structure where I have producers and investors and all this apparatus.


DT:  So what does it mean to establish a production company there?


PF:  It’s just a legal thing you need to have in order to apply for funds.


DT:  Local funds, government funds?


PF:  Local funds, but when I established my company, my first film [Agua Fria de Mar] was a five-country coproduction with Europe. A lot of films are made as Latin American or Latin American–European coproductions, and for that you need to have an established company.


DT:  How developed was the script when you gave it to your actors?


PF:  They never got a script.  I had a structure—the man and woman meet, they go away together, and at one point she reveals she’s in a long-distance relationship with someone else. I knew she was leaving, but I wasn’t sure about the ending.  I just wanted to see how it went.  Initially it was more about a girl that has decided to leave and starts sabotaging her own decision, but when I saw my actors together, it was so much more interesting. They were so great together.



DT:  They were adorable.


PF: I just loved filming them. The stuff where she was on her own just wasn’t as interesting as the material when they were together, so the film became more about that.  That’s very much what I wanted to do with this project.  When you’re making a film, you have to plan everything beforehand. Then suddenly you get your actors and there’s this amazing thing going on, and the script is saying, Look this way, but you’re saying, No, this is great, let’s just go with this. That’s what happened with Viaje.


DT:  Do you plan on working that way in the future?


PF: I’d like to work that way, but you can’t do that on every single project.


DT:  Not if you have producers.


PF:  Especially if you have producers.  People want to know what you’re going to do before you do it.  But as I said, because in Costa Rica we can work with funds and do our own sort of thing, we have a little bit more freedom in that sense.  But I also think that if you want to be more well-financed and have producers, you can do that process beforehand.  You can get in touch with the actors, do some previous work, write a script, then hand it to your producers so they have some assurance which way it’s going.  You know which way it’s going because you’ve already seen it.  Mike Leigh sort of does things like that.  He doesn’t ever hand over a script, but by the time they shoot, everybody knows what they’re doing, which helps when you have producers.


DT:  It also helps if you’re Mike Leigh. What’s your next project?


PF:  It was meant to be a documentary but couldn’t be shot as a documentary. It’s about a group of kids, like a soccer team that came here for second division or minor league soccer. They played three games and didn’t score a single goal. They lost sixteen to zero, then thirteen to zero, then eight to zero. Then they disappeared, and nobody saw them again.


DT: This is a true story?


PF:  This is a true story. It turns out it was a group of kids that intercepted an invitation to a real team so they could immigrate to the States. When they got here, even though they didn’t play soccer and didn’t know each other well, they had to go and play with semiprofessional soccer players.


DT:  Great story.  I’m looking forward to seeing the film.


Copyright © Director Talk 2015