Roberto I. Ercolalo

How’d you get into cinematography? Did you ever go to film school?

I’ve always been amazed by the magic that surrounds cinematography.
My older brother is also a director and, while growing up, we always heard about the topic at home.
I witnessed and also participated in lots of short films my brother made, and played different roles. I even acted in and produced the latest one (the only role I was missing ha ha). All of which made me learn and get to know a little bit about each of the film crew member’s tasks and limits, and then favoured me in the making of my first short film.

Currently, I’m a law student in the University of Buenos Aires. I’ve learned about film-making throughout different experiences and, fundamentally, from watching films made by the ‘masters’ dozens of times, analyzing and watching them again. I consider myself to be a severely analytical cinephile.
Fellini, Kubrick, Kurosawa and Aronofsky are my main influences regarding directing but I’m also a great admirer of Woody Allen, Chaplin, Murnau and Tornatore’s works. (specially this last one’s deeply moving and magical creations)

Tell us about your first film «Job Life». How did you get the idea to make this film?

I remember I was 21 years old at the time and Natalia, a work colleague, made me read a brief two page story that she had written, which was titled “Hurricane”, telling about the miserable life of an employee, who was tired of everything and of being abused (even sexually) by his boss, and decided to kill him.
When I read this I visualized each scene and thought it had potential, though we decided to give it a different spin and adaptation. But from the first moment I saw that it was achievable and could be turned into my first film. When I finished reading it, the first thing I said was: ‘Could you give me permission to adapt it into a script and make it a short film?’
A few days after that, those two pages became sixteen, with messages of social criticism that included metaphors and an oneiric scene. Two months later they were interpreted in the shooting of ‘Job Life’.

Your film was shot with pocket money ($200). Do you plan to look for more serious funding for your new projects?

Ha ha, yes, it was made with little resources. The only thing we invested in was buying a camcorder, with two small lenses, which costed $200 pesos. The idea was to be able to create something with what we already had. The locations, the actors, the music, the edits, etc (everyone) collaborated without any money retribution. Just for the love of art, which was really admirable.
For the rest of the films there were budgets and different types of techniques that were less experimental, of course. In fact, the soundtrack for the next film will be played by the soloist Tomás Alegre, who is nowadays one of the best young piano players in the world.

What is a perspective for an independent filmmaker in Argentina?

Filmmaking in Argentina is hard, not only because of the high budgets, but also because of the obstacles the country puts itself.
Parallel to that, its realisation doesn’t get promoted here as much as in other places. It’s rare to find proper funding, and we don’t receive support from the State either, so practically most of us have to make our projects with what we already have, independently, or they won’t come to fruition.
This is one of the reasons why independent filmmakers don’t get to spread their projects outside national territory. Most of them just limit themselves to sending them to a few film festivals that are held here, and in lots of other cases, that’s not even followed through.
However, society has a great love for films and lots of wits in its creations! In agreement with what Orson Welles once said, ‘my best films were those in which I had to implement my creativity by lack of resources’.

What do you do for a living? Do you plan to make cinema a source of profit?

I worked in my hometown’s municipality for a couple of years, in other areas that are far from being creative work. After Job Life, I collaborated as a jury in a festival in Los Angeles, and nowadays I own a small film production company, with which I’m making my next short film.
Regarding the second question; yes, it’s a dream of mine without a doubt, backed by this idea: “If your work is something you’re passionate about, you won’t have to work another single day”. I’ll try to undertake the adventure to make it there. I’m planning to move out to Madrid in the next months.

«Job Life» has an impressive final twist. How did you find this idea? Do you have any new similar ideas for short films?

Oh, thank you! I came up with an idea because of my career (one of the sociological subjects); Whilst working, I started to observe people’s behaviour, people coming from different social classes and backgrounds in my work environment. Then, I selected two types of employees: the typical depressed one, repeating the same routine over and over again, for years. And the other one would be The Boss, a workaholic willing to neglect their family, because of their self imposed demands. In my film, there’s a turning point between these two, because sometimes we embody the first one, sometimes we’re the opposite one, and sometimes we become both.
I found it interesting to represent these two concepts, expressing that even though we might be trapped in the system, the acceptance of it is always our own choice. Life comes down to images, a few moments… If we’re going to trade them for some colored papers (money), we should at least think twice.
Regarding the other question, yes. I finished shooting my new short film three weeks ago, ‘Nature’, and is being edited at the moment. Its production is superior to my last one, using professional equipment and still having been made with a modest budget.
This new film also counts with a critical approach: it’s a raw message about the environment and its relationship with our contemporary social model; the film is a great metaphor.

What films of last 2-3 years have made the greatest impression on you?

Regarding Hollywood, I was fascinated by Damien Chazelle’s directing in ‘La La Land’, Lubezki’s photography in ‘The Revenant’ and Eddie Redmayne’s outstanding acting in ‘The Theory of Everything’. Best I’ve seen in years.
But I have to admit I don’t consume too many contemporary films, I prefer going back to classics and keep discovering new things in them, or find films I haven’t seen from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, which I love.

However, I do watch new films every once in a while. Still, they can’t be compared; from my point of view, it seems as if today’s concept of cinematography is closer to being entertainment than being art. It’s different to european films. I watched ‘Dans la Maison’ by François Ozon a while ago, 2012 I believe, and I thought it was brilliantly narrated, original and had a very unique and fresh directing.

Do you plan to make a full-length film? If yes, how do you plan to seek funding?

Not at the moment, I’d like to keep doing more short films.
Even though I have written a script that has a polemic and revolutionary touch in it, its realization has to be done with a very good production and a budget that I couldn’t fulfill here. That’s why I’d like to go to Spain and find funding there, while surely sending it to script competitions.