Interview with Filmmaker Mariana Conde (C.T.R.L.)

We were a little nervous and excited; it felt like we were secretly spying on the audience, like a fly on the wall!…..Hearing C.T.R.L being described as simultaneously fun, playful and slightly uncomfortable to watch is fantastic. That is exactly what we were aiming for, so that whilst entertaining we could raise awareness to issues that are relevant to our society and important to us. Ultimately, we loved the debate it spawned on technology, social media and privacy issues, the underlying theme of C.T.R.L.
– Director Mariana Conde on the WILDsound experience (Review)

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video for the Short Film C.T.R.L.:

Matthew Toffolo interviews Filmmaker Mariana Conde:

Matthew: What motivated you to make this film?

Mariana: My partner Stu is a web developer and is really into a games. We’re a competitive couple and test new concepts by pitching them to each other. When he came up with the idea of a phone app that can control people, I jumped at the opportunity to make a short that, not only had the potential of being extremely visual, but would also add a spark to the discussion of how far we are willing to take technology.

Matthew: From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

Mariana: From start to finish, it took us two years and a half to make C.T.R.L.

As an advertising Producer, I know it could have been made in a couple of months, if we had a proper budget. As a self-funded short, we had to fit it in around everyone’s free time. I’m glad we didn’t rush it though, as it allowed us to get the very best people involved and make the best short we could at the time.

Matthew: Talk about your cast: The performances were all exceptional? How did you find these actors and what type of rehearsals did you have?

The performances were extraordinary!

As the short involved dance, Stu and I decided to take a few lessons ourselves. That’s how we found B-Better, a hiphop education company open for everyone, including total beginners like us. The lessons were great fun and super inspiring. The organisers, Louisa Andrea and T Damien Anyasi, shared our values of self-expression, so it didn’t take us long to realise they were the perfect partners to get C.T.R.L off the ground. Louisa as casting director and Damien as the choreographer.

We put together a website for C.T.R.L to help us pitch the project and used word of mouth, fliers and social media to reach out to the best dancers and actors in London. We advertised on casting websites such as Spotlight & Starnow and even engaged a couple of schools such as Bird College, known for training the best talent for dance and theatre performance.

For the casting we hired a dance studio and saw some very talented people. It was difficult to choose our cast, but Helena Dowling really stood out… We’d actually ran out of time in the studio and had to audition her on the street! She was so comfortable in the role and we were so impressed by her acting and dance skills that she immediately got the role.

Matthew: What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Mariana: Our biggest obstacle definitely has to be when we lost our location. After spending two rainy days around the city on a recce, we had finally found a really cute café on a quiet pedestrian side street, it was perfect, and as you can imagine, a location like that is hard to find in a city like London. However, the week before we were due to shoot the café demanded an extra thousand pounds to use the location before signing the contract. We were worried but, all was not lost. Helena had recommended a rehearsal space in East London called the Vatican, and, as soon as I set foot in there, I knew we had found it. I immediately sealed the deal with the owner and got in touch with Art Director Bobbie Cousins, who did a fantastic job at making it look like a hip café!

Matthew: How is the film scene in your city and country?

Mariana: London is a pretty cool city to make a short. Most of the people you work with are highly professional and skilled, so you know you can get a good crew on board. There is a strong community of very creative people collaborating to get their films made, but unfortunately the funding is limited and there aren’t enough incentives for upcoming directors.

Matthew: What were your initial reactions when watching the Toronto audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Mariana: We were a little nervous and excited; it felt like we were secretly spying on the audience, like a fly on the wall! It really is a unique opportunity to be able to hear what the audience thinks of our film without us being there to influence the discussion.

It was great to hear the lovely comments about the dance and performances. I was particularly happy to hear a member of the audience mention how much she enjoyed the actor’s facial expressions, as we worked hard to get the right balance of emotion without being over the top.

Hearing C.T.R.L being described as simultaneously fun, playful and slightly uncomfortable to watch is fantastic. That is exactly what we were aiming for, so that whilst entertaining we could raise awareness to issues that are relevant to our society and important to us. Ultimately, we loved the debate it spawned on technology, social media and privacy issues, the underlying theme of C.T.R.L.

I should also take the opportunity to answer why we chose to have the waitress sneering at them… We wanted to create the feeling that maybe this wasn’t the first time that the controllers had been playing these games in the café, plus, in a big city like London, people aren’t always in the right frame of mind to enjoy beauty.

Matthew: What film have you seen the most in your life?

Mariana: It might be Black Cat, White Cat by Emir Kusturica. It’s such a fun film; shot with no studio constraints, wonderful music and an invigorating energy. Plus, the actors are super expressive, which is something I really appreciate both when watching or making a film.

Stu is much more of a geek, he is a massive fan of the original Star Wars, Empire strikes back in particular.

Matthew: What is next for you? A new film?

Mariana: Stu and I have just arrived from a research trip in Morocco.

Originally the aim was to develop an idea I’ve been paying with for over ten years, but we actually came back with two very different projects we’d both love to make.

The first is a short currently named Aisha Qandisha about Sarah and Lila, two girls from very different backgrounds who find themselves traveling together through exotic Morocco, walking the limbo of their fragile identities and sexuality.

I’ve just created a Facebook page for Aisha: /www.facebook.com/aishaqandishashort, in case you’d like to follow this project from the very start!

Stu’s idea is more likely to be a feature and is currently called Medina of the Dead.

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3 thoughts on “Interview with Filmmaker Mariana Conde (C.T.R.L.)

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