Timo Vuorensola interviews Nicolas Alcala, director of The Cosmonaut

April 30th, 2013 by Timo Vuorensola

The Cosmonaut, a Spanish film about Lost Cosmonauts, will have its’ premiere on May 14th. Iron Sky team has been tracking down the production process of this crowdfunded science fiction masterpiece for a several years now, and we are all hyped about the upcoming release.

I had a chance to screen the film in advance, and I can tell you, it’s definitely worth the wait; an instant modern indie scifi classic, right up there with Moon and, well, I’d like to think Iron Sky as well!

We are urging Iron Sky fans, friends and followers share their enthusiasm, that helped us to make Iron Sky such a successful film worldwide, to The Cosmonaut as well. Best way to help out the film is to spread the word (sharing the link to their homepage, for example) and if you are in US, go see the film in one of the Tugg screenings – and if none are available in your area, you can easily create your own The Cosmonaut screening to a theater near you! Just go to Tugg.com and click Create Event on the top right corner of the screen!

The Cosmonaut Trailer (In all your screens – May 18th 2013) from Riot Cinema on Vimeo.

But, as it’s always with films, crowdfunded-, sourced- or plain good old “normal” films (whatever that means), the director is the one who lays down beat, the style and the feel of the film. Meet Nicolas Alcala, a 25-year-old Spanish filmmaker, a film school reject and a university dropout, who rather spent his time making his dream come true – according to his own words, “doing The Cosmonaut was so much fun and a lot more interesting.”

What was the biggest thing that made you realize you want to make this film?

Probably the first time I went to Star City, the real place where all the cosmonauts have been training to go to space since the sixties. It was a hidden city for many years and even now it’s not that easy to get in. Being in that place, which is frozen in time, with all those big training facilities, the military part, all the mockups, the cosmonauts walking around to buy bread at the bakery, or with their kids, the museum… it’s a very special place and I realized there was a huge story to be told about it.

Star City in the distance

You’ve had a long and windy production; what were the highlights and lowdowns you think you’ll remember the rest of your life?

Phew, so little space to write them all! It’s been a roller coaster. When you read all those stories about difficult shootings in films like Fitzcarraldo, Apocalypse Now, Blade Runner… They sound like fun. It’s not so much when all the hell breaks loose on you – but hey, it’s always nice to have enough stories to write one of those books by yourself. I wouldn’t change a single second of the last four years.

The best moment? The first time we saw the ending credits and we realized we’ve made a real film after all. And all the talks and master classes I’ve been lucky to be invited to, that relation with the audience is very special.

The worst is probably the moment when our russian co-producer dropped out a week away from the shooting taking with him 150.000$… but it wasn’t so bad since we asked for help to our fan base and we managed to raise 170.000$ in 3 days.

Talking about crowdfunding and -sourcing – what were the pros and cons of those methods, would you use them in the future, and what’s your take on the future of crowdsourced and/or -funded films?

PROS:

I have made a film.
I have made the film I wanted to do.
I have made it with complete (and I mean it) creative freedom. Not a single producer/distributor/investor up my ass telling me what and what not to do.
I have made it with 5000 new friends I made along the way, who were there for me through the good and the bad moments, and who will talk about their movie much better than I will ever be able to.

And all this allowed us to not only make the film we wanted to, but also to be able to skip the intermediaries if we needed to, to be able to negotiatie in our terms many times and to distribute the film the way we wanted.

All of this ROCKS.

CONS:

Melville once said that your first film should be made out of your own blood. That was definitely our case.
It has been the most difficult challenge of our lives. It has been painful and exhausting and nasty some times.

I would use it in the future but I think it shouldn’t be the basic funding for the film. It should be used to raise a community of people, fund like a 10% of the film and be able to make cool stuff for your fans and raise awareness. Our problem is that since we were going to license the film with Creative Commons and distribute it for free and on a day & date release… every other way of traditional financing came apart and we had to manage with only the crowdfunding funds, which are difficult to raise.

I think, in the future, crowdfunding will be a small part of film budgets and a big one if you are really famous like it happened with Veronica Mars and Zach Braff.

So, if The Cosmonaut is the love child of Tarkovsky and Kubrick, who are the rest of the closest relatives?

There is no way to answer this without looking like an asshole… so I’ll go for Wong Kar Wai and Aronofsky.

Russian space exploration is often easily being overshadowed by American achievements in films. Was this one of the themes of the film?

The first reason to make this film were there characters and the relationship between them. The second was a thing that interested me a lot: the solitude of a man lost in space, hundreds of thousand of kilometers away from home, knowing he is not coming back. Then came all the historical context once I started reading about the Soviet Space Race, which I feel have been totally overshadowed by the American side of the story. There are a lot of fucking epic stories from the soviets and I felt it was a great field to explore.

In the end, not much of the stories ended up in the film, which is focused on the characters, but they are on the 34 transmedia webisodes that we produced, which tell more about how the cosmonauts train and prepare for their missions, and give clues of one of many conspiracies that might have happened without us even knowing.

The Soviet Moon landing

What was the decision behind making the film in English language, rather than in Russian?

When you make your first film, you usually go Kevin Smith -style: 3 characters, a couple of locations, 3 to 4 weeks, your home town – you know, easy stuff, to be able to control as many variables as possible.

I went for a period film, set in Russia, shot in Latvia and Moscow during 11 weeks, with literally more than a hundred locations, with a tenth of the budget you will need to shoot the 90 minutes of the film and more than 200 of the transmedia pieces we shot.

Going for the Russian language, finding the russian actors, having a translator on set, not being able to direct them – that might have been too much for us at that time. So we decided to make it in English and make the film as international as possible.

What’s your take on the Torre Bert recordings, you think they were a hoax?

I think some of the them were probably made up or at least shined up a bit but, hey, who cares? The Cordiglia brothers story is so incredibly amazing that deserves all the credit. I can’t understand why nobody has made a film about them yet. It has everything: young passionate guys in the sixties, secret agents, conspiracies, dead cosmonauts, groupies, love…

Would you participate to Mars One -mission, the mission where you’d be sent to Mars to build a colony and live your life there, but would never have a chance to return back to Earth?

Not in a million years :)
There is a quote in my film which I really relate to, even though all the love I have for space:

Stas – So… you didn’t came to work here because you loved your work?
Yulia – I hate space. There is so much to see down here…

Reading through a crystal ball, I can tell you your near future: you will be running around the world in festivals with the film and being invited to gazillion crowdfunding-, sourcing- and transmedia seminars as a speaker. But what do you envision, how would you ideally see your career grow? Would you rather go towards Hollywood, or focus creating the career here in Europe?

Thanks but no thanks. I love going to seminar and so on, but what I really want to do is films. I believe in this great idea of “one for them, one for me”. I would love to do films in US, which is a little bit more oriented towards the big audiences, and then smaller and more personal films in Europe. At the same time, working in transmedia stories for my own, or someone else’s films. And having fun.

The Iron Sky team wishes the best to The Cosmonaut team for the release. You’ve done a big job so many others only dream of, and I can assure you, the upcoming year is going to be all about reaping what you’ve sown.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • MySpace
  • Tumblr
  • del.icio.us

Comments are closed.