Manuela Berlanga, 33, graduated with a degree on Education in the city of São Paulo, Brazil. After 12 years of working in the corporate world, she decided to quit her career to study film in 2014. Manuela studied screenwriting in São Paulo and in 2015 moved to New York to improve her studies. Back in Brazil, writing and directing, Manuela worked in advertising and institutional films and video clips. Inspired by a story in which she lived while working in the corporate world, she wrote “Ana”, where she discusses psychological disorders that she believes that need to be openly discussed: anxiety and depression. “Ana” turned out to be something bigger than she imagined. Manuela is now writing a TV show, called MIND, that will explore several psychological disorders.
Exclusive Interview with Filmmaker Manuela Berlanga
NY Glam: Congratulations on being accepted at the prestigious International Filmmaker Festival of New York. Can you tell us about the film and the process of making it?
Ana is a story that has been on my mind since 2012, when I was working in the corporate world. At that time I found myself very stressed and with insomnia, and I said to myself “one day I will make a movie that will tell the story of a woman that is so very tired that she won’t even be able to know what’s real and what’s not”.
In 2016, I was already working with movies and so I decided to take this story and turn it into one. I wrote the script, I recruited people, I borrowed equipment and audaciously I produced the movie, without any budget and with a lot of good people willing to help me!
NY Glam: How did you go about casting for the film?
Casting is a crazy process, because many times we create the character in our minds and when we meet some of the actors and we do the reading they surprise us and show something completely new. And then, together, begins a process of creation of the character’s personality. I made a few readings and little by little the characters began to come to life.
NY Glam: What is the story about and how did you achieve it cinematically?
The story is about Ana, a woman that suffers with depression and anxiety and is going through an insomnia crisis, which intensifies her disorders. I have always been very careful to tell this story because many people suffer with these, and because it is a delicate matter I looked for subtle ways to show it through images. Sometimes I would use a more distant framing, like if she was more disconnected and far from this world.
NY Glam: Will you be attending the IFFNY festival in New York in May?
Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend. I started my career with cinema in NY, I studied script at NYFA, I stayed there for an year and a half and when I decided to go to Brazil on vacations I had my visa denied to go back to United States. Hence having my movie at this festival has an extremely special meaning for me.
NY Glam: How long have you been making films and videos?
I started studying screenwriting in 2014 and in 2015 I moved to NY, where I stayed there for 1 year and a half studying at NYFA, and when I came back to Brazil I produced the short-film “Ana” and also worked with publicity videos and TV shows.
NY Glam: What film was your directorial debut?
My directorial debut was “Ana”, my first short-film as writer and director.
NY Glam: What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?
Making movies is a slow process that demands patience, dedication and lots of study. And for sure finding the right people to create with me was the biggest lesson I had, because the creative process needs to flow naturally with everybody in a movie set. No film is produced by one person and that is why it is so important for everybody to work well and in tune. And that is something that Ihave beenlearning day after day, set after set, and it is something beautiful to live and learn.
NY Glam: Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?
Both are very hard. It is hard to begin, because we are huge critics of ourselves and never believe that we are ready, that the script is good enough, that the moment is right. At this point it is important to ignore all the voices inside your head and act, because you will never be 100% ready, scripts change until de day of the shooting… And, soon after, it does not get any easier because there is always someone criticizing, saying that it would do it differently, reinforcing that you are really not ready! And also because it takes too much time of your life and if it is the case of someone like me that had no financial help it gets even more complicated. Quarrels with your family because they do not understand why you are doing this. Quarrels with yourself because you need to pay your bills. You have to give up so much…. Anyway, it is a daily battle with yourself and with all the “NOs” that you receive. That is why it is so important to track goals and make plans, like “how will I end this project?”, “in which festivals will I submit?” and “what will I do after this?”
NY Glam: How has your style evolved?
The more we tell a story the more we understand our style of telling stories. What and how we want to see a story. I am still in a constant daily evolution process.
NY Glam: What has been your personal key to success?
To work EVERYDAY with what I believe in. I don’t believe in luck, I believe in effort and dedication.
NY Glam: What are you thinking about doing next?
“Ana” has inspired me to create something bigger, and today I’m working on a project of a TV series called MIND, that will approach different psychological disorders, in a plot filled with suspense and issues that need to be addressed.
NY Glam: Where does your studio want to go from here?
To the world!