Blur’s Asturian new director on her impressive (and delicious) creative heritage, the solitary nature of photography and how she made her enchanting short ‘__/__/__’
As one of the select few directors featured in the 2019 Saatchi & Saatchi New Creators Showcase, Claudia Barral is certified hot creative property right now. The short film she was featured for is called ‘__/__/__’ (or ‘Places’), an intriguing exploration of space and time intersecting. Inspired by Richard McGuire’s interactive comic ‘Here’, Claudia describes how in it, “we explore the limits of time and its course. It captures the trip to different instants, always from the same place, expanding the possibilities of the ellipsis and giving birth to an artistic universe that evokes memories using always the same spacial coordinates.”
She’s a deep thinker as well as an image-maker. With a grandfather who paints and a father who writes poetry, Claudia’s creativity was always encouraged and stimulated.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with the Blur Films director to find out more about what feeds into her work.
LBB> You're originally from the north of Spain before you moved to Madrid. What was it like growing up there?
Claudia> My roots are in Asturias. I have been lucky enough to grow up in a very natural environment and I think it is something that is now reflected in my work. Both narrative and photographic, musical... I feel that simplicity is a present element in all my work, humanity in the stories and the purity of the ingredients that surround them, locations, natural light sources...
LBB> You come from a creative family, I hear. Can you talk about how art and creativity played a part in your upbringing?
Claudia> Absolutely. I have grown up surrounded by art.
Besides being a painter, my grandfather had a bakery. He was (and still is) an absolute magician of chocolate. He built huge impossible buildings, from Oviedo Cathedral to the Eiffel Tower, all in chocolate. I think those splendid shop windows were etched in my retinas somehow.
I used to make collages with my father. We took spare copies of an edition of painted postcards that he had made as a young man and we painted over them, we looked for cuttings in the magazines of that week, we mixed everything... we gave them a new life. He is a natural-born creator, although his strong point is writing, and I am convinced that my projects’ metaphorical and poetic approach is thanks to him.
LBB> How did you first get interested in photography?
Claudia> It was luck or destiny. Photography had always fascinated me and when I started my Fine Arts career I was fortunate to have Rafael Trobat as a teacher in my first year. Rafa, besides being a photographer, was at that time the laboratory assistant of Cristina García Rodero (photographer for Magnum). We worked on analogue photography for the whole course and it made me discover it from its most romantic side. I learned to think about every shot, to carefully frame and wait for the perfect light.
LBB> And how did you end up getting more involved in moving image?
Claudia> After specialising in still photography, the idea of working in as solitary a profession as photography scared me a little. That's why I researched new ways of portraying moments. Cinema gathered all that I was looking for, the framing, the light, a story from a moment... in addition to working as a team and bringing together in one discipline so many others that I was passionate about like photography, music or narrative.
LBB> What attracted you to Blur?
Claudia> I think Blur is different. I identify with their style, their aspirations and their way of working. It is a production company that is committed to more artistic productions and this is not a simple thing to find. They are impulsive, they dare with everything and that is something that also attracted me a lot. In addition, they are stepping up their content department and I think it is a very interesting space with many possibilities in which I would like to grow.
LBB> '__/__/__' is totally enchanting and unlike any film I've seen. What were your main ideas for the film?
Claudia> Nostalgia is an emotion that has always moved me. The return, the memories… I discovered ‘Here’, Richard McGuire’s book at the beginning of last year. Everything fell into place. I had just come up with the precise format to describe these universal sensations (and so personal at the same time).
With this project I was clear that I wanted to develop a concept, not a story. Visually it was already powerful and I wanted most of the attention to be focused on this aspect. That is why I narratively worked on the concept of space/time and let the images themselves tell each of us our own story.
LBB> And what were the biggest challenges or considerations in making it?
Claudia> I think that one of the biggest challenges was being able to shoot such an ambitious project with the low budget and, therefore, little time. It was a very easy path thanks to the talent and favours of many colleagues and friends from the beginning. I think that without all that generosity the result would have been certainly different.
On the other hand, these limitations forced us to calculate minutely each “strip”. The props, for example, reached just to the limit of each of them, that is, we tried to economize at the art level by strictly working the necessary meters. We also had to develop a very thorough shooting plan to be able to shoot the 37 sets / eras in just two days.
Finally, when we edited the film, it was difficult to establish an order, since they played many factors: the rhythm of each strip, the text off, the music... I did not want a result with too many overlapping stimuli so to work in parallel with each department helped the final result to breathe as I wished.
LBB> What other projects that you've worked on are you most proud of?
Claudia> I think that this is the project with which I identify the most and, therefore, feel the most proud of. I think that it defines me among all (which are not many) of those that I have done so far. If I had to choose another special project for me it would be ‘Those Freckles’, it is a very short piece and one of the first ones I developed as a director but I think that, despite its simplicity, it has a great strength and having achieved it was very satisfactory in that moment.
LBB> A lot of your work is rooted in fashion. What do you think is the most exciting thing happening in fashion filmmaking right now?
Claudia> I would say that most of my work is focused on aesthetics. I love to work the image itself, count through the visual. I have often started a project from a painting or a photograph that has fascinated me to later tell a story from and around that element.
I think fashion is a discipline with a great aesthetic weight. The purpose is none other than to portray beauty again and again so I feel very comfortable there.
LBB> Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Claudia> I think my influences start a lot from the artistic field and that's where I look for myself. It inspires me to visit museums, listen to music and go to concerts, read, travel... besides watching movies, of course. I also consume a lot of audiovisual content in the small format of online platforms, such as music videos or projects from younger directors with more personal character.
LBB> What do you do outside of work to cool off?
Claudia> It is complicated because I feel creative work is very linked to my day to day and my experiences, so in the end the way to disconnect ends up becoming inspiration on many occasions. So my answer would be similar to the previous one!
LBB> What tips would you give to somebody hoping to break into directing?
Claudia> I think the most important thing is to remain true to oneself; it may also be the most difficult one. Following trends is very tempting but in the long run I think it becomes somewhat frustrating. I would therefore advise to look a little inside oneself, devote time and nurture stimuli, with art, with stories.