PABLO MAQUEDA: 'Cinema with #littlesecretfilm is a byword for absolute pragmatism'

By Cristina Álvarez Cañas | Pablo Maqueda. May 9, 2013


“Shhhhhhh. Silence, action”. Never has such quiet onomatopoeia shouted so loudly about a film project. #littlesecretfilm is a platform committed out of love for cinema to the production and distribution of films on the Internet, following the principles of a challenging manifesto that attempts to shake up the filmmakers’ creativity. One of its clauses states absolute discretion in all areas until the film premieres. Back in September 2012 Pablo Maqueda (a director himself), creator along with Haizea G. Viana, sent out an email requesting feedback –also secret from his network of contacts. Those who gave him their opinion started to forge #littlesecretfilm until in the end over 100 professionals across all the films played a starring role in the massive virtual launch that took place in February. Since then, the platform, which is open to any filmmaker, has attracted more than 40,000 viewers and continues to add new cinematographic experiments.

Given the series of interviews that visualMAG is devoting to the fascinating concepts that have emerged on the web
#littlesecretfilm couldn’t stay quiet for long. Pablo Maqueda tells us about it.

So what’s #littlesecretfilm all about? Is it a one-off project or a fixed platform for exhibiting the work of visual artists?

We are not presenting ourselves as a definitive concept, such as a film festival on the Internet, for example. We’re an evolving digital model with a clear global character, which is why our manifesto has been translated into several languages. We wanted to launch the project involving various professionals in the industry (directors, actors, photographers...). We’re gradually adding more and more names in support of #littlesecretfilm, whether just talking or thinking about it, or as filmmakers. New films are being produced right now that will premiere very soon. We’re very happy with the response.

At what point did you judge it was important to draw up a manifesto?

The manifesto springs from a fun and playful spirit, rather than an intellectual basis –from the idea of playing around with cinema and trying to open up new pathways. It’s a small exercise in innovation in the seventh art. Putting all these clauses in canon, in a decalogue, is something that I think invites people to join in. It’s a challenge that attracts directors: throwing themselves and their teams against the ropes to make cinema in such an extreme way. In fact, Jordi Costa says that what prompted him to take part in the project was the chance to get on board in such a pragmatic way, particularly now with the current situation of Spanish cinema.

What was the original goal of the project?

Perhaps to be more as a reference model than a platform: we wanted it to be a stimulus that encouraged the industry, the press and the viewers to reflect on what the Internet is and does. We wanted it to honour the web as a distribution channel in its own right, as opposed to the image it has of being the place where feature films go to die. It’s about premiering a film exclusively on the Internet, because this is what it has expressly been made for. One big inspiration was the American Mumblecore movement and the way it persuaded the industry that digital is no longer an inconvenience. This is similar to what we wanted to prove with #littlesecretfilm that there’s no excuse anymore not to direct cinema; anyone can make a film these days. That’s not to say that it should be done at any price. Although video cameras have democratised production, we’re the ones committed to making a good film.

So it’s not absurd to suggest that some of the films from #littlesecretfilm might be seen at a festival…

We’re working on it. We can’t say anything yet, but interesting things are definitely emerging. The industry was the first to embrace the model –it wasn’t seen as an enemy– and they want to present it as a model of innovation. This is important, and it’s something we like to stress. #littlesecretfilm is not a defence of the “everything for free” mindset; it’s simply an act of generosity from a film team that is shooting free of charge as a gift to the viewers and the community of fans. It’s an act of love for cinema, which is complemented by our jobs –at no point are we advocating the destruction of our industry; it’s our living, after all. In fact, my next project has been funded and I want to do it using the Internet innovation too, but looking for a return on my investment in order to pay my team and make an income.

Will it always be “secret”?

Yes. Maybe this is the most romantic aspect of #littlesecretfilm. At the moment, we are saturated, thanks to crowdfunding, we know all the details of the films before they are premiered, or even before shooting. Maintaining this secrecy and bringing the viewer to a movie theatre –in this case, the Internet– unspoiled and without any previous knowledge increases the surprise factor and is good for directors, creatively speaking. I didn’t realise until I had actually experienced it myself. To be directing and experiencing the height of the creative process, unable to share it with people, took me to a more intense work level: it was important not to hoodwink people and just focus on my work.

Your manifesto is perhaps rather more oriented towards technical restrictions –why is this?

We didn’t want to champion an intellectual dogma –that would diminish the filmmaker’s creativity and would go against the model. The nice thing has been that we’ve come up with a very diverse and heterogenic concept. There are very few films that resemble each other. What I was initially expecting would be a series of very conversational films, kind of like Before Sunrise, with characters chatting as they walk through the streets, has become a range of very varied concepts. Crazy comedies like La pájara by Jimina Sabadú, or Desmadre en la noche de la quietud, by Pablo Vázquez, to musical documentaries, thrillers and dramas such as Piccolo Grande Amore, by Jordi Costa. At the end of the day, each director has really grabbed hold of the idea and run with it.

One of the guidelines of the manifesto is to shoot the film in just 24 hours. That must be an adrenaline-filled ride…

It’s a challenge. We wanted the project to be seen as a bet on risk. The fun is in taking a risk and knowing that there’s a chance it might all go wrong. And if it goes wrong, then it goes wrong. #littlesecretfilm is a byword for absolute pragmatism. You’re betting on the fact that the actors will be able to bear up well and improvise, that the DP will take care of the lighting quickly... You also have to bear in mind that the team will start to think differently after hour twelve, so you have to know how to adjust this to your film.

With all this experimentation, everyone will be asking you what your conception of cinema is.

I think that these days cinema is reformulating itself –very quickly, too. It’s essentially a question of recording images, telling a story, touching the audience emotionally and bringing them to a screening. I think that the filmmaker’s ability does not lie in deciding what is or is not cinema, but in moving the viewer in every possible channel, and in a multidisciplinary way. We don’t have to restrict ourselves so much to a prescribed definition of how to do things, and we can help the industry advance.

How does the Internet change the relationship between cinema and the viewer, in your opinion?

The Internet is advancing in leaps and bounds. Every month holds new surprises. If you asked me that question every day, I'd give you a different answer each time because the new developments just don’t stop. Initially, the Internet was viewed as a much more alternative channel, but today it has proven to be the perfect way to enjoy audiovisual elements. The Internet has also changed the entire paradigm of the traditional industry. Although I believe that this will continue to exist, it seems to me that people will be opting more for “distribution niche” formulas, funding films through their own niche or targeting the viewers for whom the film is intended. A similar thing occurs when it comes to interacting with the viewer. I’m a great champion of the rite of going to a theatre and seeing a close-up on a 50m screen. That’s cinema; that sense of spectacle. Twenty years ago, only cinema was able to offer you that possibility, but today there is a much closer and more global interaction between the audience and the filmmaker. We don’t want a change that breaks with everything that has gone before –we want something that coexists alongside it.

And just to finish, the protagonist of your film Manic Pixie Dream Girl wonders if life would be happier without the Internet. Well, our generation doesn’t need to imagine this –we experienced it. What do you think?

Despite everything said in the film, I believe that we are happier with the Internet. The important thing is what we choose to do with it.

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