EDN Member of the Month – Primavera Ruiz
In this monthly interview series EDN focuses on one of its many members to show both members in the spotlight and the diversity of the EDN membership group. Our EDN member of the month for March 2015 is Primavera Ruiz, Director / Producer, Prima & Vera Productions, Madrid, Spain. EDN has among other things talked to Primavera Ruiz about her latest documentary Ata, Painting Black.
Primavera Ruiz has a degree in Audio-visual Communication from UCJC (Spain), a Film Certificate from Tisch School of Arts, NYU (USA) and a Digital Cinematography Master, ECAM (Spain). Now, she is taking a master in Visual Communication Management and is an active young member of the film and television industry. She mainly works as a line producer and has produced for the award winning short film director, Esteban Crespo who won the Goya Awards in 2013 and was nominated for the Oscars in 2014 with That wasn´t me.
Besides the recently completed Ata, Painting Black, Primavera has previously directed Ana and I (see trailer on Seed & Spark). This feature film was developed in EURODOC 2011 and produced by Kerry Fulton (Out Of The Box Features), a NYC based production company, and co-produced by Janne Niskala (Vaski Filmi), Finland.
Primavera also works under her own banner (Prima & Vera Productions) producing documentaries, music videos, corporate videos and still photography, which is her other passion.
EDN: Can you start by telling us more about your background and your road into film directing and producing?
PR: Unfortunately I didn’t grow up surrounded by a cinema-interested environment. Nobody in my family was related with the industry. I barely remember having a photo camera around during my childhood. However, I have always been interested in communication and images. I often dreamt about being a War correspondent and so I decided to study Communication with that intention in mind. Once I was studying I became more and more interested in film, especially in the production part of it. I was inspired by learning/discovering the work and people who are behind a film production.
It might have something to do with the fact that I was in the National vaulting team for years. Until I was 20 years old I was dedicated to this elite sport, which consists of doing gymnastics over a horse galloping. This sport involves enormous discipline, a logistic sense, strong organizational skills and a big understanding of effort and perseverance. I think this was a decisive step for being able to assume and accomplish with success the duties that producing a film requires.
Later on in my studies, I developed a keen interest in the documentary genre, a genre in which I feel more confident about taking on directing. In making documentaries you have to take care of and think about production day by day. So the skills you need for both directing documentaries and leading production are very much connected.
EDN: When did you launch Prima & Vera Productions, and what was your motivation behind launching your own company?
PR: I launched my own company when I was in the Film School of Madrid (ECAM). I asked for a loan and I decided to produce a short film that I wrote. It was clear that if I have a camera I could shoot by myself. So I decided to buy a good camera. Having the equipment was the key to start filming my own projects. I think if you have a sense of everything, you can be a better producer and director. If you are able to show your work, you can better sell yourself.
EDN: Do you work with both fiction and documentary? And is there a common theme, style or genre in the projects you are involved in?
PR: What I like the most is to tell true stories or content based on a true story. That could be the common theme. Storytelling about real people who have something worthwhile to show about their lives, personalities or interesting personal circumstances.
I’ve only worked with fiction as a producer. However, with Ata, Painting Black I was able to combine directing and producing. They go together this time. One of the things I like the most about making documentaries is the fact of working without a script. You take the risk of knowing that any setback can occur, anything can happen, I find that exciting. It is very stimulating to create something at the same time that it is happening. I love that feeling.
Regarding working with fiction, I enjoy all the production processes of getting everything ready for the director and all the planning before the shooting as well as preparing everything that is necessary to carry on the development of the screenplay.
EDN: Your company is based in Madrid. How is the independent production environment there and what are the possibilities for obtaining funding for documentaries?
PR: It is currently very difficult to get a documentary project off the ground in Spain. Producing documentaries in Spain has become a very hard work to do, almost impossible without foreign coproduction. The market niche for documentaries is very small. There is no economic support for young filmmakers or space for screening documentaries for bigger audiences. It’s not much better when it comes to TV options for selling your film. There are only a few opportunities in Spain to get to reach potential co-producers: One is organized by San Sebastian Film Festival, the other is the Pitching forum organized by DocsBarcelona.
From my experience the best thing you can do is being selected in Pitching forums that take place outside of Spain in order to learn how to show your story and take notes of all the suggestions the experts can provide you. Sometimes you can then get co-producers and distribution companies during these events.
EDN: You have just completed the documentary Ata, Painting Black produced by Prima & Vera Productions and directed by yourself. What is the film about and how did you get involved in this project?
PR: The film tells the story about Ataulfo Casado. Right when Ataulfo was consolidating his career as a painter, a degenerative illness took away his sight, plunging him into a depression that would keep him away from his art. Today, Ata is 65, and he has retaken to painting with the help of his young assistant Kike. Art and colours are the axle of their relationship. 'Without his eyes I could not paint, neither without his hands' says Ata. However Ata's dependency becomes overwhelming and Kike has other plans for the future...
At the beginning I was interested in Ata and the way he does art. I felt I could help him in making this film. But over time, the magical atmosphere he and his assistant create became much bigger. It almost seems as if they became one. Also, Ata´s satisfaction when he is finishing a piece of art, that he will never be able to see, makes me want to tell this story to everyone. I hope to reach someone who sees the beauty that Ata imagined for them and which makes them happy. Moreover, this overcoming attitude works as a universal role model. Everybody should meet Ata. He is wise and kind, and he gladly tries to pass all his knowledge and philosophy to whoever approaches him. The way the crew can work in front of Ata is very unique because they feel free to move around and do not need to worry about distracting the character. The story flies through Ata´s paintings and relationship between him and Kike. This is a human and social story about art.
EDN: The project participated in the EDN workshop and pitch Lisbon Docs 2013. What were the benefits of participating in this programme and how did it contribute to the further development and production of the film?
PR: As mentioned being in a Pitching Forum is a great opportunity for a documentary in development. I had the chance to meet other producers, sales agents, distributors, festival programmers and the most important thing to be able to pitch my story. I developed the idea and found out how to finish it. Even without closing any deal at that moment, I am getting very good feedback in the follow up.
EDN: How is the film financed? Is it co-produced with other countries/companies?
PR: The film is produced by my own company (65%) and coproduced with Currito is Filming LLC (35%), a USA production company.
EDN: For your directorial debut Ana and I you had two producers on board, but for Ata, Painting Black you have worked both as director and producer. How was it for you to take on both roles and what were the biggest challenges during the making of the film?
PR: The biggest challenge was to complete the postproduction, it has been a very long process and the most important part where, as a producer, you have to be very involved. I have taken the risk of making this film on my own because I really wanted to tell the story before it was too late. I couldn't take too much time looking for financial help.
EDN: What are your current plans and aims for Ata, Painting Black?
PR: The film is finally finished and it is easier to move and meet distributors or sales agents once you have a final cut. I am attending the East Doc Platform in Prague this month. I am actually closing meetings with some guests. My intention is to find a distribution company or a sales agent for the TV version. Also, to meet festival programmers because I am ready for the premiere.
EDN: What lies next for you and for Prima & Vera Productions?
Prima & Vera Productions is developing a TV Show: The Training Show. It is a programme for TV and Internet about fitness, sport fashion and low carb food.
I just finished the shooting for my short film, Once Upon a Time in the Reservation. It is being edited in New York because it is coproduced by Horns & Tails, a New York based production company. The film is about a Spanish man who is living in the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona. He pilots an ambulance plane and he has a son with a Navajo woman.
Furthermore I am also writing my first fiction film based on the memories from a Spanish Republican exiled in France during World War II. He escaped from the refugee camps and Nazis to meet his lover in Paris.
Link to the trailer for "Ata, Painting Black":
Link to "Ana and I", a previously released film directed by Primavera Ruiz: