In a corner of the offices of production company Escándalo - the industrial arm of the Film and Audiovisual School of Catalonia (ESCAC) - on the floor and resting against the wall, lies the class graduation photo of the institution's first intake of students, who began their studies there in 1994. In the image you can see Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage), Roser Aguilar (Lo mejor de mí), Kike Maíllo and a host of other faces, many of them now distinguished film technicians.
Any movie lover will already know Bayona and Aguilar, but what happened to Maíllo, Bayona's companion at festivals and in other adventures and the director of shorts such as Las cabras de Freud and Los perros de Pavlov? "Well, I devoted four years to adapting a play that never happened in the end, which I'm glad about, and I then spent another four years on Eva," says Maíllo, who, as well as spending four years as a student at ESCAC, has also spent 11 years there as a teacher, as well as directing TV shows and music videos.
"You discover your phobias by watching films, but you only find your voice by making them. And at ESCAC we shoot and we shoot," he says.
Now he is arriving on the scene as a director with Eva, "a melodrama with something of Beautiful Girls about it," as he himself defines it, along with a touch of science fiction (there are robots). "I'm delighted to debut with Eva, because it is not a commission, but a work that contains a lot of myself and of which I am very proud," says the 36-year-old Barcelona-born director. The film is released in Spanish theaters today, having got positive reviews at both Venice and Sitges.
Eva wasn't shot like any other debut. The digital retouching required meant that postproduction lasted two years. What's more, when Maíllo and the producers began the screenplay, they decided at the second draft stage that they needed a playwright. They asked writer Sergi Bellver if he knew anyone and Bellver himself signed up for the job. Then Daniel Brühl (Good Bye, Lenin!) took the lead in the film - not because of the script, which he thought was good, but because he saw a teaser that convinced him of the digital effects. And Maíllo kept pushing forward: "I never doubted that I was going to make a film and at the same time I was conscious of all the people who missed that career path."
The director describes the movie as a hymn to "retrofuturism." "I didn't want to fall in that damp, cold, apocalyptic futurism. Most of us who make films are middle class and there is nothing that makes us think that in two centuries the middle class is going to disappear. That grimy future is born out of comics: it arouses tension but it isn't honest. In many houses there are old pieces of furniture and an iPhone - that is retrofuturism. It's an aesthetic paradox that I like and follow; nobody throws all their things in the trash."
With that idea of "the future is already here," Maíllo hopes to see Eva with an audience not used to science fiction. "It is a melodrama with melancholic characters." And now? "It's much easier to shoot a debut than a second film. But I already know I need to have projects on the go... and I have them."