NORMAL by Vadim Lasca
Director, writer, and editor, Vadim Lasca Orsini talks about his new film “Normal”.
Tell us a little about where you’re from.
I am a Venezuelan filmmaker, I live in Caracas, Venezuela. I was born in Moscow, Russia, son of a Venezuelan mother and an Uruguayan father.
What got you started making movies?
I come from a family of artists, mainly related to music and theater. From a very young age, I was very related to both: I studied music in a conservatory and had my rock band, and on the other hand, I acted in several plays, TV, and movies, I also directed the theater group of my school. When I discovered MTV I decided that I had to study "something" to make the music videos of my own band, that took me to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where my father was living at that time. I started to study Filmmaking in the Institute of Cinematographic Art of Avellaneda, and from that moment the cinema became my passion.
The Double life of Veronique; Kurosawa Dreams; Apocalypse Now; The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover
Krzysztof Kieslowski, Akira Kurosawa, Danny Boyle, Tom Hooper.
Favorite artists and influencers from other mediums
Music: Gustavo Cerati, U2, Björk, Massive Attack, U.N.K.L.E.
Art: Basquiat, Chagall, Guayasamín.
Writers: Cortazar, Saramago.
Where do you land on the scale of technician and artist?
I would like to think that I have a balance between both. Probably it depends on the project. I direct commercials and music videos too. The artistic part on them is more in the concept, the idea, after that it becomes a little more technician. On films, the artistic vision is always on.
Do you think of cinema in political terms?
Totally. Maybe partly because I've always considered myself a very political person because I'm passionate about the subject. In my case, and living in Venezuela, it is very difficult, and perhaps at times irresponsible, to stay out of the political fact. Politics directly affects our lives, our relationships, our environment, our hopes, and in my case I want to delve into those stories that we live daily and are affected by the political situations in our environment.
Tell us the story of how NORMAL was made
In 2014, just as now, the political intolerance that we lived in my country profoundly affected the relationships of people with different political positions. It is common to find families separated by their views and friends distanced or fought for the same cause. That issue of intolerance made me think about the need to tell the story of a couple separated by this cause, in which any small discussion becomes a trigger for a fight of greater proportions.
Writing the script was probably the most complicated part of the whole process. The original idea, the concept of the script I wrote it only in a couple of hours, but because of the nature of what I wanted to convey, the discussions between them should be balanced, it should be told from a neutral point of view, something very difficult considering that I am a very political person. To achieve this balance I had to write the arguments of each discussion many times and discuss it with people from both sides until reaching the point where each of them felt comfortable with the arguments of a character and completely dismissed the opponent's arguments. That process took more than two months.
Since I started writing I thought of Nina Rancel for the character of Alejandra. Nina is a great actress, with an explosive, natural acting style, at times aggressive and completely passionate. On the contrary, the character of Fabricio had to be more cautious, more measured, he had to manage a mixed measure of arrogance and irony with boredom and frustration. I had already worked with Slavko Sorman in a previous short film and I felt that he was the ideal actor to face Nina.
By that time I was making a lot of commercials, almost always with the same team, so there was a special camaraderie with them, and being a very low budget short film I turned to this group of talented friends to develop this adventure. There were some of them who did not want to participate, in part for fear of telling a political story in the middle of the complicated situation that we lived in Venezuela and for fear of possible consequences or reprisals. Mariale Fleitas, my partner, and Executive Producer managed to do an excellent job recruiting each of the crew members and to make possible to film it.
Recently I had filmed a short film with Reynaldo "Zitro" Ortíz as Director of Photography. The work, in addition to fun, was incredible, so undoubtedly he was the right person for the project. Because of his strong career in music videos, he is a person who likes to innovate, and that creativity became evident because the atmosphere that I wanted to achieve was as if the protagonist's house always had a bit of street atmosphere, which never It would show, a dark environment, with smoke, without much contrast, beyond a large red curtain that would serve to separate the reality of both of them from the reality of street protests.
The art direction was in charge of the most talented Daniela Hinestroza. Although the house of the protagonist had to give indications of the political position of him, we should not fall in common places with obvious symbologies of this one.
Probably the hardest decision of the crew was the sound since this would be our third character. The rioting of the streets and political unrest should be sound and should come from the red curtain, so it was essential to think 5.1 for this project. The direct sound was by one of the most important figures of Venezuela in the area, Frank Rojas, while the sound design (winner of several awards) was by Gabriel Delgado Patersen and the sound mix by Gustavo González.
I am very jealous of the editing of my materials, so I did the short film edition.
Talk a little bit about the marketing / release / distribution of the film
The tour of "Normal" in film festivals lasted two years, in which we obtained more than 25 awards and 100 official selections. I had several distribution and sales offers, however, I wanted to explore the options of taking it to a streaming platform. After studying in depth the various options I opted for Prime Video (where you can see it at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KWFG737/
What does this project mean to you?
"Normal" is the first short film that I do professionally. With it, we set ourselves the goal of reaching as many festivals as possible and achieve connect with the viewer with this story about intolerance, that despite the regional theme of my film, which is a universal ill, it achieved a greater acceptance of what we expected. Definitely "Normal" has opened doors to new markets and new projects that I have been doing.
What has your work leading up to this been like? How has your filmmaking changed?
Before filming "Normal" I filmed "Portrait of Family", a dark comedy completely different from the theme and style that I have today. After evaluating the opportune moment of the premiere of this, we decided to postpone it to take advantage of the political moment we live with "Normal". However, I was not fully aware of the level of professional and acting demand that would mean "Normal", in addition to approaching during these two years to an infinity of international short films of unique quality and very high levels. The answer of what has changed in me as a filmmaker after "Normal" I see it in direct relation with my relationship with "Portrait of Family", a short film that I filmed before and I must finish it later. The level of demand to myself, the criticism of each element of my processes as a director and the passion for socio-political drama should be a good summary of the changes in my filmmaking.
How has technology helped you make films?
I consider myself an audiovisual geek. I am a big fan of technology and how to apply it in my career. From the camera movements, corrections of shooting errors, editing, vfx, colorization, in every detail of the realization process, without neglecting the preproduction, the technological innovations have had a great and positive impact in favor of improving each one of these processes. However, there is a large part of me that continues to be considered a purist (I know, sounds a bit ironic), who likes to plan each plane in absolute detail, very old school.
Is there any technology you’re excited about using?
As I told you before, I'm a big fan of impossible camera movements. The beginning and end of "Normal" were made with a DitoGear omnislider, as well as one of the strongest scenes of the short film that takes place in the bathroom. For this scene I wanted to make a practically imperceptible movement in which the take began with the characters in a high-angle shot, almost at the height of the ceiling, and that throughout the three minutes that the scene lasts, the camera would move to end with the characters in a much closer low-angle shot. That was an impossible move when I was studying. If equipment that has been developed for camera movements is linked to advances in post-production, the possibilities for amazing plans is infinite, even in low-budget projects.
What do you think of the future of film?
The abuse of technology could come to play against the cinema as we know it. The ease that technology gives us and the amazing results we get should never become a substitute for the strength that a good story should have. Fortunately, there are more and more filmmakers with thousands of these incredible stories to tell, more and more the viewer seeks to be reflected in these stories, in which case the technology will be on our side to help make them possible.
Thoughts on digital versus celluloid?
Digital cinema has helped in an unthinkable way to make films in economic terms. Increasingly the quality obtained with the advances in sensors and cameras brings us closer to quality levels that border on the absurd, however, the nostalgia, the planning and the organic of the celluloid are definitely elements that will help it not to disappear.
What are some themes and topics you’d like to see covered in film? (i.e; social inequality, the internet, global warming, domestic abuse, religion)
Social issues, political conflicts, histoy and religion. I love documentary too.
Which countries’ and cultures’ film are you interested in?
No doubt Latin America culture. Asia, in general, has always had a series of cultural contrasts that has caught my attention.
What do you think about the current state of television / streaming shows?
Streaming and movies on demand have been the factors that have changed the way we consume films today. The TV series underwent an impressive improvement in both the ideas and the realization of them, approaching more and more to the standard of what we were accustomed to the cinema. The scope that a movie can have today is simply amazing, where every person connected to the internet becomes a possible viewer.
I'm finishing the post-production of "Family Portrait". I have two documentaries on the go and writing my feature film. In addition to my regular work that is directing commercials and music videos.
Major goals / benchmarks
Just make stories that can reach people and can maintain validity over the years.
What is the worst advice you see or hear being given to filmmakers?
"You only need a good camera to make a good film"
What have you changed your mind about in the last few years?
In the topics I want to work on and look for more simplicity in the filmmaking process.
What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
Don't wait for the perfect script and film more.
How has failure set you up for later success? Favorite failure?
The best school are my own failures, without them I would not have achieved anything with my career. Maybe the biggest mistake that most learning has given me has been not rehearsing enough with my actors.
Do you have a quote you live your life by or think of often?
"You can do that"
When you think of the word successful who is the first person that comes to mind?
What obsessions do you explore in the weekends and evenings?
New music videos
What purchase of $100 or less has helped you most as a filmmaker
Dropbox and Vimeo