BEHIND THE SCENES: Laia Costa Discusses Breakout Role in 'Victoria'
On Oct. 9, Adopt Films will release "Victoria," a German film that impressed at the Berlin Film Festival and that went on to win the German Film Awards. The film is now up for the European Film Award and is expected to win numerous accolades come awards season.
Directed by Sebastian Schipper, the movie is being talked about due to the fact that it was shot in one take throughout Berlin. The film stars Spanish actress Laia Costa in a breakout role that has already won her numerous awards and that has gotten much attention.
Latin Post had the opportunity of speaking with the actress about her work with the director, working with no script and improvising with the one take.
Francisco Salazar: At what point did you get cast in the film?
Laia Costa: The casting was done in Barcelona a year ago in January. Sebastian Schipper and the principal actor Frederick Lau did the casting. It was an improvisation scene in a hotel with situations that were not in the film because at the moment they did not have a clear idea of the plot. Two days later they told me I got the role and a month later I was flying to Berlin to start the rehearsal period.
FS: What did the rehearsal process consist of since the script was only 12 pages?
LC: They broke the movie up into 10-minute segments for each location. So the rehearsals were about finding the scene for each location. For example she is in the club, she leaves, and she gets on the bike and goes for some beers. That was one segment. So we rehearsed like this for over a month. We improvised and found the characters in this way. We changed the characters all the time and we had a rule that we could never do the same thing whether in rehearsals or in the one takes. The one takes were all very different. So this was the rehearsal process before we filmed.
FS: What was Sebastian Schipper's direction for your character?
LC: Honestly there was no direction. It was a slow and creative process that took a month. We found different Victorias throughout that period. So we slowly started to keep the things that we liked about the character and if there was a new idea we would use it. When we found out that she was an idealist we separated it from the stereotype of the good girl that turns bad and the character really felt like it was fleshed out.
FS: In other interviews, you said that you don't play piano but your performance in the film felt very real. What piece did you play in the scene and how did you prepare for it?
LC: It's the "Mephisto Waltz" by Franz Liszt. It's a piece where Faust is dancing with the devil. It's an allegory for Victoria and her circumstances. It's a really hard piece to play and many people said that I would not be able to play it. That is why we liked it a lot because it gives her that idealistic character and her desire to break the rules.
I heard the music while in rehearsals and I saw the pianist who recorded it and I saw how she played it. I also took classes but I still can't play the piano.
FS: What are the challenges of making a movie in one take?
LC: It's definitely about organizing the whole crew. There are a lot of people working for the cast and the crew. And for us actors we had the liberty of improvising but at the same time we had to pay attention to all the technical aspects of production. We had to know when we were going to move from one location to the next. We had to know who was going to move first and we had to make sure that we all knew where each one of us was going. What I learned was that you are not only an actor but also a writer and director in many ways because everyone worked horizontally. It was teamwork.
FS: Is it more liberating or mechanical to work with one-takes?
LC: That really depends on the actor. For me, I always say it was easy but Sebastian always gets upset because he says it was not easy. He says that for something to look so real and almost documentary style it is not very easy. When the camera is in one place it is almost like a pistol. You can't lie to it because if you don't feel the actions or characters it will immediately be seen. It depends because there are actors who feel more comfortable and others who feel uncomfortable. There are also actors who prefer a script and direction at all times. It was a lot of fun for us as a team however.
FS: What time did you start shooting and how many takes did you guys do?
LC: We started at 4:30 in the morning and did three takes because there was no more money. It was done in three days.
FS: Do you speak German and how was it like to work with the German actors?
LC: I don't speak German. It was however amazing to work with them. It was also great to be in Berlin because it is like being out of Germany. In Berlin you can work and live in English because there is a mix of people. On set we all spoke in English. However, when Sebastian spoke to the actors in German, he would look at me and ask me if I had to translate, I would say "Do I need to know?" And he would say "No." So I told him not to because it was better for the character. Victoria also does not know German.
FS: You had to drive in the movie. What is the most difficult part about this?
LC: Honestly I didn't feel like it was difficult. I think it's harder to get to deep emotional places than driving a car. It was the first time though that I drove an automatic car that big. Because there are so many locations and technical things in the movie, for me it was harder to memorize the path that we had to go through.
FS: The film went to the Berlin Film Festival and won an award. Did you guys expect that reception?
LC: We expected nothing. I think when we filmed it we were expecting absolutely nothing. That is why we are so happy to be receiving so much praise. We were so concentrated on making the film. I thought it was a movie that my grandma would only see. But now were all talking about it. That is emotional and beautiful. We had such great reactions to it by the audience. But I think it's good never to think about it when you are doing a film.
FS: You won the German Film Award. What was that like to win an award in a country that isn't yours?
LC: It was amazing and I was not expecting that. I thought they were not going to give it to me. It's a gala that's been around for 65 years and that's the first time that a non-German actress wins it. That's even better than winning the award because I think of when was the first time that I did something for the first time. That is difficult especially when we're adults. I am so happy that I can tell my grandchildren one day that I was the first to win a German award. It was a party.