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Interview: Director Juanjo Giménez on his Oscar Nominated Short Film ‘Timecode’

February 25, 2017

Film + EntertainmentReview | by Cormac O'Brien


Dance and musical are a big theme at this year’s Oscars with La La Land touted for numerous awards.

Bringing up the Short Film section is nominee Timecode from Spanish director Juanjo Giménez. With more than enough charm to bring home the prize, having already won big at Cannes this year, it’s a sure contender.

Mixing dance with narrative and with an almost complete absence of dialogue, Juanjo’s film tells the story of two people who work on opposite shifts as security guards in an underground car park. Gradually a love of dance and a love of each other blossoms as they leave a series of increasingly elaborate dance videos on their security cameras for each other.

Juanjo told Candid about real life secret passions, being an atypical short film director and his love of 1950s Spanish film director Luis Berlanga.

What was the inspiration behind Timecode?

I think it was a mix of two ideas. First, it was a mix of personal experience. I had been working for a big company back in Barcelona for a couple of years ago and I had some free time during my working hours. I took advantage of that to write some text and scripts and ideas. A colleague of mine discovered that writing that was my secret and he used it not in a very polite way. Nobody there knew that I was a filmmaker there until then and, of course, nobody know that Diego and Luna are dancers.

I also think that art and beauty can be found even in the dullest and harshest of places. Initially, you recognise people by their jobs or their uniforms. You see people in uniform you cannot think about his interest in art or maybe how he is spending his personal time. I think that in my film, I try to show that behind that uniform or boring job you can find art and beauty.

So you were writing in secret just like they were dancing in secret.

We changed writing for dancing and that’s the big idea behind Timecode, ha!

Do you think writing is quite like dancing?

But they are both creative art forms, but we thought dancing was more cinematic. I wanted to do something with dance in the first place.

How did you find the two main actors?

They’re both professional dancers but they didn’t have any cinematic experience. They are really stars. There is no dialogue in the movie. I wanted to communicate feelings or emotions without words and I think that with dance we are doing that. They are communicating only with their bodies. I think that’s bigger than dialogue.

How did you start making short films?

I started making films thirty years ago, I have had a long career as either a producer or as a director. This is my ninth short film as a director. But I’ve made feature films too. After making my first feature I returned to making short films again because I love the format, I love explaining things in ten or fifteen minutes. I don’t have the normal profile of the normal short director who is trying to make his first feature. I have a long career behind me.

What do you love about the short film format?

A lot of things, I think you have a lot more freedom because you don’t have a lot of money at stake. If you have more money invested in a film. There is more pressure. In shorts you have less pressure and you can try things in a feature that are impossible. In Timecode I didn’t go through a normal audition process, for example, we just didn’t want that hassle at all. You can’t do that in a feature film.

And the writing process?

I was a writer before going into directing or producing. I wrote short stories, I love writing short stories. I remember first watching the films of Jim Jarmusch or Francis Ford Coppola in the late 80s and I decided to become a filmmaker. I realised that maybe that no one wanted to direct my scripts so I decided to direct myself. So that was the first inspiration that I remember.

I went to film school too, I don’t remember learning too much from my teachers but being in contact with other students and other people with the same passion I think that’s important because you can share experience then as you’re trying to find your own voice.

What Spanish filmmaker inspired you?

Luis Buneul he’s one of the masters of cinema, of all ages, but he’s not the only one. I love Victor Erice. Have you seen a film by Victor Erice called The Spirit of the Beehive. I think it’s one of the most beautiful films ever made. You must watch it. Maybe Berlanga. I have made some comedies before and some people told me that it reminded them of Berlanga’s work. Berlanga is the master of comedy in the late 50s and 60s in Spain and he is a great filmmaker. And there is more of course, but with these three, you have a wonderful example.

What has your experience been in the Oscar?

Until now everything is positive, when you are making a film or a short, you never think about an Oscar. I won the Palme D’Or in May in Cannes. That was amazing too, we are trying to enjoy every moment in the adventure from week to week, and to share the experience with other people that worked on Timecode. I’m the voice, and I understand it of course, because I am the director. But the film is made as usual by a team. Also, usually in short films you don’t get paid what you deserve, so this award is for something we all made.

Timecode is funny? Where do you find the comedy in life.

I tend to put comedy in every script and every idea that I have. This is my nature, I think. Even when we tried to write a script with my co-writer which is drama or tragedy, I always tend to write in comedy. I learned over the years that I cannot avoid it. This time I think we have some comedy in it, but it’s not only that. I think it’s a mix, you have some mystery, you have some musical, you have dance. You have a mix of everything in only fifteen minutes.

And there’s a big romance too. They fall in love.

I think the big romance in my film is love for dance. Of course, you can understand that there is a romance between Diego and Luna, between characters but I think above that there is a love for dance and art.

Words by Cormac O’Brien