documentary filmmaking: interview with a new filmmaker Enrique Pacheco

Enrique Pacheco – A different way of looking at the world
thenewfilmmaker: What is the idea, story and visual concept behind your short film “Winter in Hell” ?
Enrique Pacheco : Since the first time I came to Iceland I tried to look at it in a different way. I was amazed by its raw landscape and rough nature, and I wanted to show it in that way. My challenge was to represent the Icelandic winter in beautiful shots. Then the volcano erupted at the top of the glacier Eyjafjallajokull and when I saw the fire, lava flowing and melting the ice, I knew that this will be the topic of the film: ice and fire.
thenewfilmmaker: How was the creative process working on your film? How did you develop the ideas for the film and what inspired you?
Enrique Pacheco : Most of the people come to Iceland in summer, when the landscape, colour and light is quite different. Not many people come in winter, because of the bad weather and the difficult conditions to shoot. But I think it is much more interesting, more authentic. That’s why I started to shoot this film in February 2010. The winter in Iceland is very inspiring, the atmosphere created by the few hours of low light and the cold, makes you feel more integrated with the environment, more close to nature. It’s difficult to explain, but those hard conditions helped me to develop my ideas. I went to many locations around the whole country, always looking for those icy, cold, raw landscapes, and trying to avoid the tourist spots.
thenewfilmmaker: You wrote ”I shot this film over the course of a year. It then took me a few months to edit and colour grade it.” What kind of difficulties, challenges and experiences did you make during this time as a filmmaker?
Enrique Pacheco : I can say that shooting this film has been the best experience of my life. I had a wonderful time, because the whole shoot took place in nature. I have great memories of some time lapses I took in the Snæfellsnes peninsula, where my friend Jon Pall has a cabin. A small house in the middle of nowhere, with no heating, no water and of course no phone or internet. It was great going out to pick up ice to melt it and be able to cook, drink or sleep around the fire and waking up every couple of hours to put more wood in the fire place and trying not to get frozen. These were unique experiences. But of course the most amazing one was to climb to the top of the volcano: 7 hours hiking by the glacier carrying all the equipment with temperatures of -15º, to finally reach the top and see that stunning show that nature created.
thenewfilmmaker: Your film ”Winter in Hell ” shows the Eyjafjallajökull vulcan in Iceland, the volcanic eruption which brought Europe and the world to standstill in 2010. Some scenes show the volcanic eruption very detailed. How did you manage to get so close the volcano and what film equipment did you use?
Enrique Pacheco : Eyjafjallajökull erupted two times, in the first one I shot those pretty images of lava and fire, some of them from just 300 meters. I hiked up the first time because there wasn’t any other way to get there. A week later, I went up two more times by jeep, always at sunset or sunrise, to have the best light possible. I have to say that the hike was the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done, and the jeep excursion, one of the most exciting. Few weeks later, the first eruption ended and almost immediately started the second one, the one that stopped the air traffic in all Europe, because the huge amount of ash. It was more difficult to get close to this one, and the authorities didn’t let people go up or close to it because the danger of the ash cloud. Even with that I managed to shoot from about 1km, and get those crazy time lapse shots with the ash pumping like an old train chimney. About the equipment, I used nothing really special, 5D MarkII and 7D with some Canon and Zeiss lenses. Just need to mention the Canon 300mm 2.8 that I borrowed from Jon Pall for the lava close ups, thanks Jon Pall!! The funny story will be the custom crane I made myself with aluminium tubes, because there wasn’t any way to buy that kind of equipment in Iceland.
thenewfilmmaker: You completed a course in professional photography at E.F.T.I. (Madrid), specializing in documentary photography. Can you give us an introduction to this school and could you please tell us about your time there?
Enrique Pacheco : I had a great time in photography school, it was long time ago, so I learnt how to expose and develop film, and I think that helped me to understand how to imagine my work. I have a photographic education, I worked as a photographer for a long time, and I think this is very important to my development as a visual artist. I think you can see it in my films, the photographic view is in there somehow.
thenewfilmmaker: You continued studying documentary filmmaking at the Instituto del Cine de Madrid (N.I.C.). Please also introduce this school to us and the experience you made there.
Enrique Pacheco : From my very beginning I felt attracted by documentaries, I started shooting documentary photography and when I decided to jump to video production, I thought this was the best way to proceed. I learnt a lot there about how to create your own movies, they were big supporters of low budget and independent movies, and that inspired me to continue in that way.

The RAW Iceland project

thenewfilmmaker: ” You are currently leading the RAW Iceland project, which include photography workshops, fine art photography and filmmaking. Can you introduce the project to us and what is special about it?
Enrique Pacheco : Raw Iceland is a project I started last year with the Icelandic photographer Jon Pall Vilhellmson, with the goal of showing other photographers and filmmakers the wonders of Icelandic nature. We design tours and workshops with many different topics that take place in amazing locations around Iceland. I’m very happy to be able to show other colleagues my favourite spots away from the usual tourist circuit.
thenewfilmmaker: There are different ways of filmmaking and films. Feature films, documentary films, animations ect. Why did you choose to do documentary films?
Enrique Pacheco : I used to work in features as well as DOF, but for my personal work I love documentaries. They give you the freedom and independence that you will never have in fiction. Some people could think that Winter in Hell was shot with a lot of equipment and quite a big budget. But the truth is that I just used a 5D MarkII, few lenses and a regular tripod. The budget was nonexistent, that’s the beauty of documentaries.
thenewfilmmaker: In film genres there are developments and trends. What kind of developments and trends do you see for the documentary film world and what kind of new “filmmaking spirit” do you bring to this genre?
Enrique Pacheco : I think that internet is the key in this theme, with this new way of distribution, everyone has the chance of showing their movies to the whole world, so that’s something that is having a huge influence in the way of producing films. Now they have to be more visual, shorter and concise, because I know that most people won’t pay attention for more than few minutes. It’s sad in a way because many films need some time to develop the story, and many people are not patient enough. Also the new technology is having a big role, now you can buy a DSLR camera for 600$ and shoot with a great quality, so everyone has the opportunity to show their talent and creativity with a more than decent image quality. I think this is the spirit I want to bring to the new scene, that you just need a camera, a tripod and a lot of motivation to create a great movie that could be watched by thousands of people around the world.
thenewfilmmaker: Who influenced your way of filmmaking? Do you have favourite film directors, documentary filmmakers or fine artists?
Enrique Pacheco : I think that I just have a name in my mind for this question, and this is Ron Fricke, his film Baraka is the biggest inspiration to me, but I also have big respect for the photographers of National Geographic. Most recently I have been inspired by masters of the time lapse and independent films like Tome Lowe or Murray Fredericks.
thenewfilmmaker: What would be your advice for a first time filmmaker?
Enrique Pacheco : Try to shoot as much as you can, no matter what. Choose a topic and go for it. Best way to learn is practicing, but don’t forget about reading. There’s a huge amount of information on the net, you can find almost everything, and it could even be an easier way to learn what you need.
thenewfilmmaker: What is your dream, related to filmmaking?
Enrique Pacheco : I think that like most of the people in this profession, I would like to shoot a big movie with a good budget, and not have the limitations of the independent movies. But I would love it to do something that allows me to travel with a small crew, capturing the beauty and wildness of the Earth. I know it looks like I’m talking about Baraka again.

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