10/23/2018.- Catalan director Juan Antonio Bayona revealed several anecdotes about the beginnings of his career in the master class he offered today at the Aula Mergelina of the University of Valladolid as part of the 63rd Valladolid International Film Festival. Looking back, almost all of the director’s memories are rooted in cinema. As a child he dreamed of making a film, spent many hours in front of the television set fascinated by the horror films of Chicho Ibáñez Serrador, and took his first steps by recording his cousin with his parents’ video camera when he was only 13. By 16 he would sneak into all the sessions of the Sitges film festival he could, and tried to talk to the leading figures who attended the event. Sometimes it worked too, because that is how he met Guillermo del Toro. Later on came the ESCAC (the Cinema and Audiovisual School of Catalonia), and years of learning and hard work that made him into what he is today: a director with international influence.
Bayona, accompanied by festival director Javier Angulo, spoke of his beginnings in the cinema world in a room packed with mostly young people who listened to him enthusiastically. He remembered how fascinating it was as a student to be able to study film at the ESCAC, although some of the courses, such as mathematics, were not his cup of tea. At the ESCAC he learned to do everything from recording to editing, all of which he continues to put into practice today. One of the aspects he stressed the most during his presentation was the importance of following one’s creative instinct. “When I taught at ESCAC I used to tell my students that I did not want the next Almodóvar-to-be. I told them to be themselves (…), because the difficult thing is to develop one’s own judgement, to know what you want to tell,” he said. “The way you choose a shot, the staging, the light — all that reveals something true about yourself, your approach makes the film personal,” he continued. Bayona also recognized that one can learn from their mistakes, and insisted that failure is an opportunity to learn because “success captivates you”.
While each author’s career is different, and there are some who start making feature films right away, Bayona said that he directed his first full-length film, The Orphanage, when he felt really prepared, that is, after making almost thirty music videos, several commercials, and two short films.
He also acknowledged how hard it is to find funding to get a film project off the ground, and admitted feeling lucky for having been able to count on Guillermo del Toro for his first film. “Cinema is both an art and a business, two antagonistic ideas that have to live together because cinema costs money,” he said.
In 2019 it will be 20 years since Bayona made his first short film, Mis vacaciones (My holiday), with which he achieved so much success, and which allowed him to make it to Seminci. “I put a lot of work into it. Also, I was lucky it was well liked and I received many awards. That’s why film festivals are also important as one of the industry’s engine”, commented the director. No doubt he had luck on his side. The talent, however, was already in his DNA.