Javier Marco’s short film ‘Face to Face (A la cara)’ follows the story of a famous reporter as she confronts a cruel internet troll. Looking to create a more expansive feature-length version of the story in the near future, Strand spoke with the director to delve into the challenges and rewards of creating the short.
Credit- Javier Marco
Greta Fazzi: ‘Face to Face (A la cara)’ speaks on a contemporary issue that is not frequently addressed in movies. How did you come up with the idea?
Javier Marco: The idea was born in 2019 when the screenwriter Belén Sánchez-Arévalo and I were talking about how social media can be a toxic environment. We knew famous people that had quit social media because they couldn’t tolerate being threatened and were tired of all the hate. We thought that we had an interesting story since we also wanted to understand why haters behave the way they do. It starts with small insults, and then they go further and further, so we thought that if they knew the damage they had caused, maybe it would discourage people from doing it.
GF: Despite the short amount of time allowed by the film, you were really able to elicit empathy for the protagonists. Was this an intentional move?
JM: Yes. We don't think that trolls are necessarily completely horrible people, and we wanted to understand why they insult people online. We also didn’t want to have the ‘bad guy’ and the ‘good woman’; we tried to understand both. In the short, we don't say it, but the woman has lost her daughter, she feels guilty for not spending time with her, and she might also have done bad things in the past. That’s what we are going to talk about in the feature film.
We also examined ‘haters’ on the internet and realized that, among the many reasons for their behavior, loneliness was a big one. When you write online you are noticed by others, and those are the only ‘friends’ that online trolls have. That makes them feel that they belong to something, to a group of people, even though in real life they might be lonely.
GF: What was the most interesting part of working on this project and what was the most challenging one?
JM: The most difficult thing was finding the house, which we found 5 days before shooting. The house was not perfect at all: originally, we had some scenes that we were supposed to shoot in other rooms, but we had to adapt the script to the setting and therefore shoot the movie mainly in the kitchen.
The part that I enjoyed the most was working with the actors, especially during rehearsals. They had a strong chemistry and they really liked to improvise. As a director I love that! When you try new things while shooting, those are magical moments, so you must be open minded and let the actors try something different each time.
GF: Why did you decide to expand this short into a feature film out of all the others you’ve worked on?
JM: We thought that we had so many more things to say, and 14 minutes wasn’t enough. When the film ends, the reporter leaves the house, and the audience doesn’t know what happens to them. Also, we went to many film festivals and people would tell us that they wanted to know more about these characters. So the beginning of the feature film will be the short film, then we are going to focus on both of their lives separately, first focusing on his and then on hers, and at the end they will meet again.
GF: Did directing short films in any way help prepare you for directing a feature-length one?
JM: Yes, and every short film has taught me something, even the first one I made as an amateur. I think learning is a process and the more films you make, the better the next one will be. My most recent films have less mistakes than the first ones and that’s why I don’t think I could have made a feature film without having done shorts before. In feature films you work with 60 people, and you need to know how to guide them. If you’re prepared because you’ve done that before with shorts, then you know how to do it. That’s why I made so many shorts to start with- I wanted to be prepared for a feature film. Nevertheless, I enjoy shorts and I will still work on them in the future. It’s very interesting and challenging for me to create a story within ten minutes.
GF: Since you have made many shorts, ranging from comical to dramatic, do you think that there is a genre more suitable for shorts or a genre that you personally feel more comfortable with?
JM: In general, a ‘good comedy’ is as good as a ‘good drama’. In our case, we started with comedy, but the good thing is that the more projects you make, the more you discover your own style. When we started making dramatic short films, we really enjoyed the process and our style started to go more towards it. For now, we don’t feel the need to go back to comedy, so we’ll stick to the drama, but who knows what will happen in ten years, maybe we’ll go back to doing comedies.
GF: Last but not least, do you have any tips for film students who want to make their own short films?
JM: I would say work as much as you can. It’s a very difficult job, it’s stressful and you might lose money instead of earning it. It’s very difficult to make a living out of short films, at least here in Spain, and you often have to have another job to pay the bills, but if you love cinema, you’ll find a way. You need to be patient; you’ll receive many “no’s” but someday you’ll have one “yes”. You must fight for that one “yes”.
‘Face to Face (A la cara)’ has screened at over 90 international film festivals including the Oscar qualifying ‘Huesca International Film Festival’, ‘Foyle Film Festival’ and ‘Clermont - Ferrand Short Film Festival 2021’.
Edited by Saffron Brown Davis, Film Editor