The Repeater is ready to debut
Grete Suarez's first short film The Repeater is now entering the festival circuit. Grete explains how it all came about.
It started in the summer of 2020.
We hunkered down in Puebla de Lillo, a little village in Leon, Spain. There we have a house with a garden, but other than farm animals, there's nothing more than beautiful nature set in the picturesque mountains.
I made a routine of writing screenplays since I rarely had the time to do that before when I was working in New York. Suddenly, having time to pursue my passions feel so strange to me, it took me months before I got comfortable with it! But then, I knew I wanted to make a short film while we're here.
I first wrote RECOVERY, a SciFi thriller story I had conceived in New York after going through the horrors of the hospital system there. But that's a harder story to lift due to special effects and the need for resources.
There's a repeater tower on top of the mountain that services the village and it reminded me of Franz Kafka's The Castle. Like K, it's that place you will never reach.
So I turned my attention to my backyard. Every second/third day I would run up the mountain along the many trail routes. It inspired me to write another short called SPECIAL ONE, it's like WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE meets VAN HELSING, and it could've been a fun TV series (to be developed later). It's low-key, we had the resources to film this and also picked out an incredible location in the Piñares (pine tree forest) of Leon. But then I ran into the problem of actors - where am I going to find 1) native English speakers 2) an 5-8 year old native English speaker child actor 3) a grand total of four actors during a pandemic in Spain?
I need to simplify, so I went back to the drawing board.
During my run up the mountain, I came across an old man from the village taking a stroll. As is customary in Spain, you would greet them, so I did and went off my way up. On the way down, the old man is still there. I would wave yelling "hola!" or "hasta luego" and keep going. The next instance was the same - same old man, same wave up, then down. It became groundhog's day as I kept bumping into this same old man who seems to always appear whenever I'm on the trail - and I was feeling creeped out.
There's a repeater tower on top of the mountain that services the village and it reminded me of Franz Kafka's The Castle. Like K, it's that place you will never reach. The idea for The Repeater started formulating.
Then during our family walks, we came across an abandoned derelict water deposit in the village. A lightbulb went off and I started writing The Repeater.
We're in the thick of a pandemic, so loss, sadness, isolation are themes that I can't help but feel important to portray, but told through a dark comedic way.
The Repeater has one main protagonist, Uli Murray, and I thought, surely it should be much easier to find ONE native english speaker! I started digging through actor reels, Madrid Players, Facebook sites, even asked an Expat group (bad idea), Linkedin, and reached out to a few actors. Producer Alejandro Suarez Lozano also reached out to his film colleagues and asked around. After a couple of "maybes" we were sent Oliver Green's reel. He was a bit younger than the character I wrote, but I said, what the hell, let's try him!
Oliver worked relentlessly to flesh out his character, brought his charm, and made Uli Murray real.
It's a match made in heaven.
Oliver worked relentlessly to flesh out his character, brought his charm, and made Uli Murray real. He's such a gem to work with.
And since we were delayed in production due to weather and a slow search for the right actor, we went ahead and tried for some funding, and the generous Junta de Castilla y Leon government granted us! This is all perfect, and we know we won't let them down since the film is 100% shot in the region.
But the winter kept going.... every week I told Oliver and crew, we need to wait until the snow melts! We need to do the "good weather" dance, because we can't film in the rain! That's the pain of having an all natural exterior as your film set (although I recommend it, there is such a value in having all this nature around that you cannot replicate indoors).
During this time, we planned every detail. As a first time director, I cannot stress enough how important planning is. There were tricky shots I wanted to pull off but within a low budget. All my DP has is a body suit rental, stabilizer rig, a tripod and a trusty ladder - so none of that fancy dolly tracks, crane stuff, not even a drone (let alone having an AC, focus puller... we don't have that kind of people power) - so we mapped out how the shots could be achieved with what we have. I remember looking at Pablo saying, "are you sure this is going to work?" He shrugs (a very Spanish gesture) and said, "why not?" I shrugged back and said, "Okay, I trust you, you're the expert."
ALRIGHT! Let's shoot already!
We had to make the decision - we have to film this soon if not we'll run afoul with the grant conditions! So Alejandro and I picked a week. Rain, snow, hail... we're going to shoot. The crew was down, we're all friends to begin with so this feels like a family film.
Each day as we inch closer to filming, we checked the weather - snow! ARGH NO! Wait, it's sun again... No wait, it's now rain, not snow. We started sending each other GIFs of snowgeddon and the snow parties we would have. I was even thinking, right, as long as it snows for three days, then we will have continuity!
I'm so proud of them [the crew], the dedication, passion, and positive attitude, believing in the story and helping me bring it to life. Their hard work truly shows in the film.
Filming week arrives, and it's sunny but with some rain forecasted. Not bad. Then it was TOO SUNNY (anyone in film will understand that's also a challenge)! This never ends, but I am super grateful to the film gods for holding the rain until our last shot! It's as if when I said "CUT" for the last time, the clouds got cued to let go and the rain poured. But it doesn't matter. We made it!
Although we had a small crew - largely days with 8 people on set including the actor, we pulled off a feat for 20. I'm so proud of them, the dedication, passion, and positive attitude, believing in the story and helping me bring it to life. Their hard work truly shows in the film.
I hope the audience and festival programmers see it too. We can't wait to share our pride with you.