We chatted with Juan Antonio Chavero, the young director of La Sombra, a post-apocalyptic indie film that thematically draws heavily on The Last of Us, the Naughty Dog video game. How do you manage to make a feature film with almost no means?
We all come to a point in our lives where we have to make a decision: Where do I want to direct my life? Throughout the educational process we are prepared to “The most important decision you will ever make”. Even if you later discover that nothing is truly immutable.
Juan Antonio Chavero he knew the answer to that crossroads even before he had to ask himself. He knew better than anyone what he wanted to do: who. And most importantly, he was willing to give everything to achieve that goal.
This is how, in June 2020, he put an end to the post-production of his first feature film, a project that lasted more than three years and that, in its beginnings, seemed impossible. The shadow yes the “gold” era.
La Sombra prides itself, even in its marketing, on being “The first 100% Cordoba post-apocalyptic film”. No one can argue with you. Tells the story of Juan and Lucia, two survivors that after years of fighting together their paths begin to separate little by little. But everything changes when they meet Elena, a girl who says she is looking for her family. On their new journey they will meet other not-so-friendly survivors, who will make things very difficult for them. And also with some other zombie.
Although he had been with the idea in his head since long before, Chavero wrote the first draft of La Sombra in a single night, in 2017. Naturally, like any script, it went through a lot of rewrites and revisions throughout production, but the idea was already there. He was very clear about what he wanted to tell. And it was ambitious. In spite of have already worked on a dozen short films and web seriesIn practically all fields (also in front of the camera), the jump to shoot a feature film was abysmal. And even more so a genre film, which implies extra work on locations, makeup and wardrobe.
“With little media it sounded a bit crazy, but as you could see in the script, and everyone who joined the project saw it, it’s a very intimate film. Few zombies appear and in the background, it focuses on the characters, on their personal journey “, he tells us. “It was something viable, which does not mean that it had an extra effort.”
Again, the decision that his first feature film would happen in a post-apocalyptic world was made before he even considered whether he could shoot it. “I love the post-apocalyptic genre, it has been with me for as long as I can remember, and I wanted to do my bit to that genre that has given me so much.”
Chavero cites references such as Cormac McCarthy’s Highway or I Am Legend. However, none is as obvious as The Last of Us. “It was inevitable that if I was going to make a movie of the genre, it would be very inspired by the game. It marked me a lot, it was a very cinematic game, I had never seen anything like it. “ Also acknowledge that his story shares the character archetypes of The Last of Us, and can be traced parallels between Juan and Joel, Lucia and Tess, Ellie and Elena.
Even so, it makes it clear that it is not an adaptation: With a familiar starting point, it’s a story of its own. Something that, certainly, could also be said of The Last of Us itself, or any new production that starts from a post-apocalypse world. A genre that, not because it is so trite, stops having less potential. In fact, he acknowledges having found parallels between the story of La Sombra and the one he later saw in The Last of Us Parte 2 (which came out with the finished film).
This sequel, by the way, seemed to him “la obra magna de Naughty Dog, with a narrative ambition rarely seen, with characters with contradictions that they have handled very well, and that goes beyond cinema “. “If it weren’t because you’re playing, killing, and feeling through command, it wouldn’t be as effective.”. Without a doubt, it will be an inspiration for future projects.
Now, yes, their efforts are focused on giving bellows to La Sombra. The movie is already finished, but now it remains to move it through the festival circuit while they gather new collaborators. He does not know when it will be shown, but like any project of this nature, it needs to go through as many festivals as possible and gain traction before it can think of a commercial distribution.
And is that in La Sombra there is no great producer behind. With the help of a few local sponsors (mainly, the Córdoba Comic Planet burger joint and its owner Emilio Martínez) managed to reunite a budget of 1,500 euros, a really tiny figure for a project of these characteristics. Thanks to the trust gained over the years with his regular collaborators in short films, brought together a team of up to 70 people (who offered their own technical material), including Juan Jesús Granja (producer), Rafa Armada and Adrián Ortiz (cinematographers) or Víctor Vargas (sound technician).
And of course, to the interpreters: Rafa Blanes, Silvia Navarro, Carla C. Romero, Iván Ojeda and Victoria Castillo. In fact, Carla, who plays the girl Elena, has continued to act in other projects in the wake of her debut in La Sombra.
All of them participated in the project because they believed in it, despite the financial risk that it might entail. How many people can say that they have been part of a movie? Was a team of people united not by individual interest, but by the collective. A common dream in which they also had absolute creative freedom (as long as it fell within the limits of the budget), something very unusual. That does not mean it was easy: the shoot, of 20 days throughout the summer of 2019, had marathon sessions of 12 hours in a row.
But despite going against the tide, the movie is over. Lasts 113 minutes.
And that’s not counting the prelude Caminos, an independent prologue short film that you can watch here:
Juan Antonio Chavero, with only 24 years old, he has already directed his first film. And it is exactly the movie he had in his head. It has done without the help of a patron behind, and without an academic degree prestigious under the arm. He has done it without a plug. But he has not done it alone: He has been helped by a team of people he already considers his family, and that he met thanks to attending some modest local art and film schools. One of them, in fact, has already closed. He does not forget Esteban Díaz or Iván Molina, people who helped him take his first steps in the world of cinema with his shorts, and who have also participated in La Sombra. A team that helps each other.
“It is normal to have doubts, it is a complicated job”, explains when we ask him what he would advise someone who wants to dedicate himself to cinema. “If you know that this is what you want to do, go head first. There are many places, if you have the means you can afford a bigger school, but if you don’t have them you don’t have to stop. There are usually places that we don’t even know: I had to look for the Córdoba Theater and Film School (ETC, now closed), and I had it next to my house. There are also many self-taught options, there are always possibilities ”.
But much more important than the training place is the attitude. “If you go to a big school where you don’t care about everything, it won’t do you any good. You have to focus 100%, the less you focus, the more it will take. If you are not willing to sacrifice certain things, as hard as it is, it is difficult for you to get there. “ Most importantly, he emphasizes, is to find people like you, willing to help you get your ideas ahead, and that you help them.
And it reminds us that it is not a bed of roses. In your experience, you have to be very self-critical of yourself. “You have to fail to succeed. But by that same journey of effort, they will end up noticing you. By finding the right people and the right place, we are getting to do great things. ”
HERE IT IS! Official Trailer for #LaSombraPelicula, our independent film shot last summer in Córdoba.
DISSEMINATION IS THANK YOU!
I hope you like it, we continue with the postpro!#PostApocalipsis #Drama pic.twitter.com/Bq44YbxzAX
– JuananChavero (@JuananChavero) April 17, 2020
If you want to be aware of the route and news of La Sombra, keep an eye on their social networks.