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Interview with Paul Urkijo, director of Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil
By James Whittington, Thursday 1st March 2018
One thing that Horror Channel FrightFest prides itself in is by championing new talent. This year's Glasgow event is no different with a whole host of newbies bringing their first features. A real highlight is Paul Urkijo's Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil which is a sumptuous piece that Terry Gilliam would be proud of. Here he chats to us about this stunning movie.
HC: Where did the idea for Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil come from?
PU: I was inspired by the Basque story "Patxi Errementaria". He was registered by JM Barandiaran, an anthropologist priest who dedicated his life to recording stories and legends of the Basque Country. It is a legend about a blacksmith who was so evil that even the demons of hell are afraid of him. It has elements of terror and humor. It was my favorite when I was little and is part of a compendium of European stories that speak of the relationships that certain characters have with demons from hell.
HC: Did the script change much during the writing process?
PU: The original tale is very short but I took the elements of it and developed it by doing something quite different but that keeps the soul of the story. I placed it in the nineteenth when tradition and superstition collide with the mentalities illustrated and modern. And just after the 1º Carlist War, a civil war, that took place in Spain generating a very suitable environment for a drama with demons. I added many characters that are not in the story and expanded the world of own story used element of the other legends of the Basque Country and the most universal demonic imagery, such as classic books of demonology.
HC: The cast are amazing, especially Kandido Uranga, Uma Bracaglia and Eneko Sagardoy, did they rehearse much together?
PU: We rehearsed, but they did not need many rehearsals, they are very good actors. It was a very hard shoot, in winter in difficult situations with many physical scenes... And they all looked like masters. Kandido with his high age, hammering blows, Eneko with the prosthetics and acting wonderfully and Uma being his first film behaved like a veteran in a recording that not all children could endure. A marvel of cast.
HC: This is your first full length feature, what did you learn about the art of directing when working on this movie?
PU: I've been doing short films for 15 years. I always tend to get into complicated stories of shooting: with ambience, action, monsters, fx... however, a feature film requires a lot of psychological strength. You have more pressure for the budget and you can not pass the time. Many times I had to react and modify the planning to be able to tell the story in time. I think that what I have learned the most is to adapt myself without stress.
HC: What sort of budget were you working with?
PU: We had around 3 million Euros. You know that is not a lot of money to make a fantasy movie located in XIX century with a lot of FX, action and VFX. Even in Spain this is the budget to make a casual comedy movie. We shot in 7 weeks, very fast. For me it was very difficult because I had to make modifications on the same day of shooting changing the storyboard lot of times (for example from 14 shots to 5 shot planes). But I think this is the work of the Director. You have to adapt to that you have. It was very hard, but you enjoy a lot these kinds of challenge and I think that the hardness and violence of the shoot is printed on the movie.
HC: Were there any pieces you couldn't create due to time restraints or budget restraints?
PU: Of course, action sequences, more creatures... For example Alastor the big Demon in the beginning had a mouth in his belly and he spoke from there. The last scene, was going to be bigger with more demons and souls and action... but we got to where we could. Anyway, I'm very happy.
HC: Do you have a favourite shot or moment in the movie?
PU: It is very difficult to say this... I love every appearance of Sartael. When it appears for the first time for me it was a dream come true. When I see this, I think... "Yes, I made a story about demons!" On the other hand, a love when Usue Patxi speaks for the first time. I think that there is the heart of the drama. It is very difficult to choose a part. It is my creature... I love and hate him from beginning to end.
HC: A lot of the effects seem to have been done on set, how did you achieve such amazing shots? PU: I have played a lot with the visual trick, most of the FX are made with animatronics. For example, in Sartael, the only digital thing is the queue. And we did not have cranes and cables for the action scenes, so I played a lot with the shadows and other theatrical resources. Finally, the shots are the result of a teamwork of acting, make-up, lighting, decoration, wardrobe ... All as one!
HC: It has a feel of Terry Gilliam to it, was he a big influence on your work?
PU: Terry Gilliam is one of my favourite directors. When I made the film, I do not have a reference when I work because I try to create my own style. But it is a fact that unconsciously he is a great influence for me. Fantastic cinema owes a lot to Terry and more of it has traces of fairytale. It is definitely an honour if my works are somewhat similar to his films. I admire him a lot and you do not know how happy I was when he finally finished his movie "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote".
HC: What is the film industry like in Spain and is there a large horror/fantasy movie following there?
PU: In Spain it is hard to make films. You have to work for years (In my case 7 years) to get the money to make a film. Also the theatres are full of foreign movies with a stronger industry behind them and it's very hard to challenge and if your film is a fantasy movie this is even more difficult. But there is a lot of public who love our genre. But I can't complain because my film has reached to UK! So I'm happy.
HC: So what are you working on at the moment?PU: I'm working on a couple of films of the same genre that are based in the Basque Mythology and folklore. I want to share the fantastic stories of my country to whole the World. But for that the public have to like my first movie... I cross my fingers!
HC: Paul Urkijo thank you very much.
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