The challenges as an independent filmmaker

Why did you attribute yourself to filming? Why don't you have a normal job like bus driver or bank employee?

I studied computing science engineering in university. While I was studying, I started making films as a hobby. The more I got into film, the more I loved it. And then there was no going back. Filmmaking gives you a different challenge for every project, for every day. It’s hard for me to live with a routine, and filming keeps it interesting and exciting. You meet lots of talented people from different fields (actors, musicians, photographers, editors, sound editors and mixers, etc.), you get to travel, brainstorm, create… I don’t really see myself doing anything else.

How big and how connected is the film community in Catalonia, Spain?

Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, has the most film and commercial shoots in Spain after Madrid. Even though it’s a big city, in the end most of the people in advertisement and film know each other. It’s hard to begin, but once you start to have a name, you get to meet all the key players.

How difficult was it for you as a filmmaker to start your own business? Does it get easier over time?

As a director/writer/producer, you’re your own business. I guess it’s hard everywhere, but I can only talk about my experience. Barcelona has a lot of work, but at the same time it has a lot of competition. There are many filmmakers who want to direct their films and commercials, and you’re all fighting for a little piece of the cake. If you keep trying and working, in the end you have more films/commercials for your reel, more people know you, and it gets a bit easier. As many things in life, not giving up and hard work is very important.

«Filmmaking is a true team effort and without all your cast and crew, you would get nowhere.»

What helped you?

First thing I have to mention is everybody that has collaborated with me. Most of the times the director is the one who gets recognition, but filmmaking is a true team effort and without all your cast and crew, you would get nowhere. I’ve been lucky to work with many people who have believed in me and have helped me create, experiment and grow as a filmmaker. I also think it really helped me to work in other roles inside the industry: casting director, assistant director, producer, etc. Thanks to that I’ve learnt a lot, seeing how other directors work and making money inside the industry until I got more work as a filmmaker.

How do you get commissioned work, how are you looking for customers? Do you participate on pitches?

Three years ago, I was lucky to find a really good film agent that has changed my film career. It’s really hard to get meetings with production companies or get them to read your material. It’s understandable as they probably get hundreds of emails per day. Having an agent is like having a guarantee, someone who vouches for you. And that is very important in order to get the producers attention. Nowadays most of my pitches are arranged by my agent. We study which companies or producers would be the most interesting for the projects we have, and he organizes the meetings.

Does the effort you put into making a film for a client pay off for you? Are the hours spent in proportion to the salary you get?

I think it pays off, if you don’t look at it from an economic point of view. Creating is something that is very fulfilling for me, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Do you think filmmaking is a well-paid job?

It’s hard to answer that. It can definitely be a very well-paid job. But it’s hard to get to the point where you get paid a lot. At first it’s very common to make projects for free, in order to make connections and to get people to know you. Then you accept low fees so you can build a reel… And you do all of that because you love what you’re doing and because you expect one day you will have more experience and you will get the opportunity to work for a lot of money.

«This wouldn’t happen in a bar for example. You wouldn’t work as a waiter for free.»

Many people take advantage of that, and produce films or commercials with not so much money, knowing there will always be someone eager to work, even if it’s not paying very well. It’s a problem that happens in many industries, when people are working in something they love and are passionate about. This wouldn’t happen in a bar for example. You wouldn’t work as a waiter for free. It should be us fighting for our rights and minimums, but it’s also hard to change something like that at this point.

What do you prefer to do, short films or commissioned work for companies? What’s the difference?

I’d rather not choose. When you’re doing your own short films, you’re obviously more excited because it’s more personal. But doing commissioned work not only pays your bills, it also gives you the opportunity to practice your craft and keep learning. Also, when you’re working for someone else, you’re not so personally involved and the point of view is different. You have to make compromises and get in line with the vision of someone else. So combined, both are a great way to keep growing as a filmmaker.

After all this time in the film industry, is filmmaking for you a passion or a calling?

I think both. I’m passionate about making films and I can’t even imagine myself retiring. If I can, I will keep doing this when I’m 70 years old.

Where do you get your inspiration for your film ideas from?

Everywhere. Watching other films or tv series, reading, from my own experiences, or from stories people tell me. Inspiration can come at any moment, from any place.

If the film industry is over your head, where is your place to recover, how do you fuel up?

Traveling and going to the nature really help me connect with myself again when I need to. And some times it’s ever easier: I just need to spend time with my friends and all the problems go away. Then it’s easier to see the bigger picture and put things in place. I like a saying about creation. It goes like this: if you have a cup and you’re gonna offer it to someone, first you have to fill it up. So it’s the same when you’re creating, first you have to find your way to fill your own cup. Then you will have something to offer the world.

Ignacio Rodó's work has won more than 100 awards and has been selected for more than 700 international film festivals (including several Oscar qualifying), where his style has been called experimentally commercial. Many of his films, including Tomasito, Exposure and The afterbirth, are official selections of Retrospective of Jupiter.
Watch Ignacio Rodó's short film Tomasito

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