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  • Writer's pictureCine Review

Interview with Alvaro Pruneda, "The Grandfather" screenwriter, director, director of photography.

Cannes 7th Art Awards, April 18, 2024

CR: Your first realized film: expectation and reality. How did you come to cinema?

My first experiences behind the camera happened in school. At 15 my classmates and I made a few videos. During that time we also participated in a school news show which was pretty successful and allowed me to understand the concepts of production as well as its financing. 

CR: Who influenced you in choosing cinema as a profession?

I was always inspired by Steven Spielberg, Ivan Reitman or Joe Dante. I’m an 80s child so I enjoyed Ghostbusters and Gremlins but I’d say The Shining by Stanley Kubrick was the first movie that blew my mind at 12 or 13 years old. It instilled in me a taste and an interest for movie development. It was beyond seeing it and enjoying it; it sparked an interest in me for what happened behind the camera.

In my personal life, my parents always encouraged me to do anything I wanted with my future. At 18, I had a choice between Medicine (I wanted to be a doctor) or Cinema, I chose Cinema. I mostly do not regret this decision. Mostly. 

CR: How do you shoot an outstanding low-budget film? Of course you have to be as talented a screenwriter, director, DOP and editing engineer as you. Are there other ingredients in the "recipe"?

Aside from the natural talents you might have in this or that area, I think the key is to have a good story and a professional team that believes in you, supports and trusts you. Cinema is a discipline that must be done as a team, and when your budget is low, you have to take advantage of the talents and good will of those around you. If your team has talent and good will you will rarely fail. 

CR: "The Grandfather". What was the basis for the making of this film? Is it based on real events?

The Grandfather was the necessary next step in the path set forth by my previous short film “Bucle” (“Loop”). This movie put our foot in the door of independent film festivals and showed us what works, what is appreciated by moviegoers and what isn’t. Loop is a horror short film and it opened 30 doors. With The Grandfather I wanted to expand those possibilities and thought of a story that was more dramatic with hints of horror. I would actually classify it as drama, rather than horror, so this expanded our possibilities from 30 to 60. There are many more drama festivals than horror ones. 

In regards to the story, it all began with the idea of psychophony. This phenomenon always interested me and scared me. So, the main idea was: “What would happen if you could hear a dead relative through a speaker?” This took me to find a main character and a setting that wouldn’t allow her to escape the phenomenon: a radio booth. And the spectacular part of the story is complemented by a very real fact that happened in Chile -where I’m from- on February 27th, 2010. That day we were hit with an 8.8 Richter scale earthquake followed by a tsunami that killed many people. Stories and myths have sprung up around this topic since. I took all of that, put it in a blender and got the script. The story is based on true events (the earthquake and tsunami), and accessorized by fiction. 

CR: What difficulties were encountered while working on the film?

This shooting was relatively fluid and simple. The main difficulty has always been to generate the necessary money to develop everything that is needed: effects supplies, salaries, logistics, food. Luckily, we already have all the technology we need, since we are a production company. But, having 20 people working full time for two days takes money and that came out of my pocket. Other than that, the days were super fun and I remember them fondly.  

CR: What scene in the film turned out better than you planned, expected?

Hands down: the moment when the grandfather places his hand on the main character to pull help her up from under the table. I had thought about what the hand in the shot might look like; the lighting and make-up. The work of Carlos Morales, the special effects artist, was awesome. Bárbara Saavedra’s acting and the staging created a moment that surpassed all expectations. 

CR: Do you put any meaning into your work, or do you leave the search for that meaning to the viewer?

I definitely do. I am very touched by the fact that I am a father. I have two daughters; there is a very special bond between a father and his daughters, and I wanted to show that father figure in the movie. The concepts of family, the importance of remembering and of protective paternal figures have deep roots in me and it was part of the message I wanted to convey. I would like to be remembered by my daughters or grandchildren for being a good man, someone who took care of them and did the best he could for them. I know that resonates with spectators and that, in the end, it moves them.

CR: Do you have any feature-length films? If they are still in development, we look forward to seeing them on the big screens. Please share with our readers about your future projects.

In 2016 I made my first feature film titled “The incredible metamorphosis of Juan Perez”, which you can stream on in Chile for free. This movie was my first taste of what making a movie from scratch entailed, especially when it came to a consistent development of the script, human and technical resources, and execution times. The movie was a great trial for all of that. Today, I look back on that movie and think it could have been done a lot better. 

For the future, I have two projects in mind which I would like to dive into after Cannes: one is a fantasy short film about a person determined to build a home-made rocket ship to get to the stars. The second, more ambitious one, is a feature film, at the moment titled “Bajo Astral” (“Lower Astral”). It mixes drama and horror, and is a sort of extension of The Grandfather, which tells the story of a father that is searching for his missing daughter. He begins to experience clear and undeniable signals of his daughter in everyday situations, until he becomes a portal that can communicate to another dimension to help himself and others living similar hardship. Both projects are in the ideas and script development stage and we’re looking for people that would like to join our team. 

CR: Alvaro, you have the artistic expression to capture the emotions of the characters and catch the moment, you inspire your team to give their best with limited resources and the result is quite stunning.

All jury members of the C7AA unanimously awarded your film The Grandfather 4 prizes. Your film is Art. Every frame is a painting. We believe that you will be noticed by big producers. We look forward to meeting you to present your prizes at our booth at the Cannes Film Market in May and to celebrate the Art of Cinema together.

Director's Bio

Alvaro Rodrigo Pruneda Negrete is a Director, Screenwritter, Photographer and DOP.

Born in Santiago Chile in 1980.

He has directed videoclips, corporate content for companies and advertising.

With his own production house, Voilà Estudios, he has developed several fiction projects:

"The Amazing Metamorphosis of Juan Perez" - feature film 2015

"Olimpia AI" - Short film 2020

"Web Business" - Short film 2020

"Bucle" - Short film 2022

"The Grandfather" - Short film 2023



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