Director Koldo Serra (Bilbao, 1975) is back once again in this new season of “El Ministerio del Tiempo” (TVE), a series which he has combined in recent times with his work on “Money Heist” (Atresmedia, Netflix). Koldo also directed “Caminantes”, the drama horror produced by 100 Balas (The Mediapro Studio), with a screenplay by José A. Pérez Ledo, soon to be released on Orange TV. “Caminantes” approaches the terror genre with an adrenaline rush suspense and where the principal narrative resource will be the “found footage” subgenre, where footage from cell phones will play a central role in the story.
We talked to the filmmaker about his work and his projects in film and television, about female characters in his stories and also about the future of the entertainment and broadcasting world.
You’ve directed episode seven of this fourth season of “The Ministry of Time”, which has just been released by TVE. What is it like to be involved with a series that has such a distinguishable and successful style and characters?
It’s wonderful because, as a director, you know that no episode is going to be like any other. Each episode takes place during a period of history and it’s like making a different vintage movie every time. In addition, the characters already have great significance of their own, they are immediately recognizable, so that you focus the work based on what happens in that specific episode. I had already shot two episodes from last season, also vastly different.
What is the secret of the series’ success?
I think there are two reasons. In the first place, the writing, and the characters, and, then the combination of adventure fiction (time travel) which blends seamlessly with the history of Spain. In other words, on the one hand entertainment and on the other its didactic. It’s great fun to watch. Each episode is its own period piece, different from the previous one, and in one instalment you find yourself in a coven with the poet Bécquer and the next you’re filming “Viridiana” (1961) with Buñuel or sharing in the exploits of El Cid. On the other hand, the fact that each character is “from their own time”, allows for great flexibility in creating comic situations during highly tension-charged moments.
You’ve worked on another currently successful series, “Money Heist”. How do you manage to keep audiences hooked?
I think the secret is that the show grabs viewers early on and doesn’t let them go. The tone, which is more “comic”, plays around with some pretty incredible things, but defended always from a standpoint of the truth. We all believe in the tale we’re telling; producers, directors, screenwriters, actors … We all experience it like it were real. And that, added to the fast-paced editing, keeps viewers peeled to the screen.
Do you have a pet actor? Would Hugo Silva be a perfect actor for your kind of arguments?
Hugo is a great actor, I’m a big fan. And he’s like a fine wine, the more years he takes on board, the better he gets in every aspect. He’s one of those actors that oozes charisma from every pore in his body, and on top of that, he likes to take risks with roles and to get out of his comfort zone.
And when it comes to actresses, perhaps Emma Suárez?
If it were up to me, I’d have Emma playing the leading role in every movie I make from here on in. Despite being a veteran of her profession, you can see that she enjoys her work like a kid enjoys playtime and puts her all in everything she does. At first, she didn’t see herself in “70 Big Ones”, but she trusted me and went along with it, with blood, sweat and tears to give it her all. She loves what she does, it’s a matter of pure passion.
What’s your memory of your directorial debut, “The Backwoods” (2006), starring the immense character of actor Gary Oldman at the helm?
It was a really tough shoot, my first film, practically everything was filmed using scenery and natural exterior locations, and it was one of the wettest summers I can remember in the Basque Country. That, added to the fact that we had extraordinarily low budget and incredibly famous international actors with their dates closed, made it a really challenging experience. I didn’t have a good time, but I remember it fondly, and I think the resulting film is remarkably similar to the one I had in mind. Hey, but there you go, first film with Gary Oldman in the lead. That’s what I would refer to as a ‘Bilbao thing’.
After that came movies like “Guernika” (2016) and “70 Big Ones” (2018). Your leading actors always end up suffering terribly, right? To save their skins, to make ends meet…
Possibly, but then, without conflict, there’s no story. The protagonists in both films are two strong single women, fighters in hostile environments. One, for her ideals and the other, because she is a born survivor.
You really take great care of the female characters.
I like them, and they really appeal to me because I think they’re hugely important. Although we still have a long way to go, it’s important that there are more and more interesting leading female roles in the movies being released. We come from a cinema tradition with a very masculine outlook, and this has to change. It’s great to see more and more movies each day with female directors, cinematographers and being scored by women. Also, I like to surround myself with great actresses I admire. I mean, you just have to look at the list we have: Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Emma Suárez, Nathalie Poza, María Valverde, Virginie Ledoyen, Bárbara Goenaga, Ingrid García-Jonsson… And Marta Nieto, Marian Álvarez and Alba Flores, on television. What a list of talent!
Can you name six directors who’ve been a reference for you?
Six? Impossible. Alfred Hitchcock, Sam Peckinpah, Sergio Leone, Quentin Tarantino, Álex de la Iglesia, Chicho Ibáñez Serrador…and that’s leaving out a thousand other names!
Unavoidable question: How are you dealing with sheltering-in-place and what’s your outlook for the future in general, and the entertainment and media sector in particular?
I’ve been dealing with lockdown patiently. We’ve only been asked to shelter-in-place, so I’ve been killing time partly working and partly catching up on books, comics, and movies that I had pending. Regarding the immediate future, I always try to be positive, but obviously it’s going to be a challenge to pick up the pace of productions like before. Thanks to the demand for content from platforms, we were living in a time during which there was more filming going on that I can ever remember. Now, with all the logical fear, filming protocols and so on, things are going to slow down. But I have no doubt that, in a few months, we’ll be back shooting and producing audiovisual content again.
Projects? What are “Caminantes” and “Perros Muertos”?
The next thing I’m embarking on, as soon as possible, will be the fifth part of “Money Heist”. “Perros Muertos” is a feature film project that I have been working on for years, but I don’t know if it’ll ever make it to the screen. It is small-time crook type cinema and for the infected, mixed in with some Almería from the 80’s. And “Caminantes”, series produced by 100 Balas (The Mediapro Studio) for Orange TV. It is a horror series shot using found footage on mobiles phones, where, in the style of the movie “The Blair Witch Project” (1999), the story is told through the telephone footage from a group of kids who disappeared while on the Camino de Santiago. We’re waiting to be informed of the release date, but it will be sooner rather than later.