Argentinian filmmaker Martín Salinas was Julia Solomonoff´s screenwriting and editing consultant on El Último verano de la boyita, which screened as part of ¡Viva! in March 2011. Here he gives us an insight into the process behind his directorial debut feature film, Ni un hombre más, which screens as part of the 20th edition of the ¡Viva! Festival…
My original inspiration came from a conversation I overheard between two women who had divorced after having children, and a third who was about to turn forty and was still trying to find the perfect man. She badly wanted to have a child of her own, but within the perfect marriage. The subtext of their conversation was the conflict between pure animal reproductive instinct and cultural norms (the perfect marriage, the idealized nuclear family). Triggered by what I saw as a funny dilemma, the Karla character popped out of my imagination. I had just read Konrad Lawrence´s book on instinctive behaviour in animals: animals follow their instincts; we usually don’t – we turn instincts into symbols and give them meaning. Animals kill other animals to survive, but we may kill another human being because of what they mean to us, sometimes even out of what we call “love” (which itself is just a symbol). It’s ridiculously funny and terribly tragic at the same time. So I wrote this scene for Karla in which something of this kind happens, and as I began to explore what could have happened before and after, it just got funnier. Then the iguanas showed up, with their specific social and sexual behaviour, which in turn inspired me to shape the rest of the characters in the script.
I had thought of Valeria Bertuccelli as Karla since the day I applied to the Argentinian Film Institute First Feature contest, but her participation seemed far beyond the restrictions of my limited budget. Nevertheless I called her wonderful agent, Alejandro Vannelli, and he agreed to pass her the script. Three days later he called back to say she was on board. Then Martin Piroyansky and the rest of the cast smoothly slotted into place. Acting auditions are the crucial first step when you direct a film; although the screenplay has already been written, it’s like refilling a blank page in a way. I felt that the characters in the script were being reborn and that I had to become sort of a midwife to help it happen.
It was quite a collaborative filming process with the actors. I drew a storyboard for the whole film, but kept an open mind to whatever came up on the set, which really helped with the action sequences. It was a question of improvising and developing the story, with minimal rehearsals. Directing your own script feels like you are still rewriting it, but now with light and sound, and other peoples’ bodies, souls and emotions. I had previously directed three short films, and spent a few months in an acting-for-the camera workshop for theatre actors. So when I finally got to the set, I was somehow ready to enjoy it. Which I did, thanks in large part to my producer and guardian angel Juan Pablo Miller, as well as the co-producers, the cast and everyone on set.
The film opened in Argentina towards the end of 2012 and, I am delighted to say, was very well received! It has since been screened in film selections and festivals in Madrid, Sydney, Melbourne, Los Angeles and Mexico, and has been awarded Best Screenplay, Outstanding Performance by the Ensemble Cast and the Press best screenplay award at the Huelva Film Festival. The audience seems to laugh with gusto everywhere, and I take delight in the alchemist’s trick of turning Sunday evening dread into raucous laughter. Maybe sorcerers know what I am talking about.