Six years ago, Barcelona-born Carlos Marques-Marcet went to Los Angeles. There, for a short time, he tried to maintain a long-distance relationship. “Obviously it is not an autobiography, but something of that feeling is in the script,” says the editor and director about his feature debut, 10,000KM (or, Long Distance), which recently swept the board at the Málaga Film Festival and scooped the best acting duo prize at Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. “Winning at home is more exciting. It was funny: at SXSW we had a more receptive audience; in Málaga the 70-year-old grandmas left with tears in their eyes,” he says over the phone, just before heading back to L.A.: for filming reasons Marques-Marcet is constantly traveling back and forth across the Atlantic.
The couple at the center of 10,000KM, which will be released in Spain on May 16, is living happily in Barcelona until one of them, a photographer, is offered a year-long artistic residency in L.A. From there on the relationship continues via the computer screen, “which, for all of us who live abroad, increases communication,” he says with a grin.
At SXSW we had a more receptive audience; in Málaga the grandmas left in tears”
In L.A., Marques-Marcet forms part of La Panda, a film cooperative made up of 11 Spaniards: directors, producers, screenwriters, editors and cinematographers. “I arrived here with a film scholarship [at UCLA] and I started meeting people with common interests. La Panda was born with the idea of building bridges, and in 10,000KM the company served to do that, to unite. We were certain that we didn’t want to make the film in English, nor in Catalan, but rather we wanted it to be international.” Not in English? “It didn’t make sense, it wouldn’t have worked as well. Austin confirmed that feeling for me because people were laughing a lot; perhaps they found it funny to see it from the other side. Some of the jokes and puns are more directed toward a US audience.”
Although 10,000KM was shot entirely in Barcelona, there was a moment when the crew considered filming it for real both in the Catalan capital and in Los Angeles at the same time, just like the conversations you see on screen. “That’s where La Panda came in. And the producers threw themselves into it. But we cut the budget, and in the end although we did do them at the same time, they were both shot in Barcelona. It was odd for them because in reality the two actors were also working as the camera operators, and at the same it gave them a lot of intimacy and solitude that helped the film.”
The director explains that La Panda is going to grow and lists its members’ multiple projects, which are taking it further and further away from his original idea of a company providing services.
Marques-Marcet traveled to the US to go on making cinema, but “without having to work doing other things to do so.” When he was studying at university he didn’t drive and his daily hour-long bus ride from Echo Park to the UCLA campus helped him pick up ideas for the script. “You can observe the huge number of crazy people there are in this city, they are all so diverse,” he says with a laugh. “Seriously, I used it to write – there are whole sections of the script that were written on public transport.”
The film stars David Verdaguer and Natalia Tena (Game of Thrones). The first is a regular from Marques-Marcet’s short films, the second appears by coincidence. “Six weeks before we started shooting our actress fell through. And we couldn’t push it back because Verdaguer had some theater lined up. One of the producers read an EL PAÍS article about Game of Thrones and called me because they sensed that Tena’s energy went in the same direction as our film. I watched the whole series in one night, and I thought she was an explosion of life, who was right for a character with a lot of strength who was capable of holding it in. I flew with David to London, we met Natalia, and the chemistry automatically emerged between them. It was a gift straight out of heaven.”