Blur director on her childhood adventures in nature, building a world for Glamour and her exhaustive list of inspirations
Despite being one of the younger members of Blur Films’ intimidatingly talent-heavy roster of directors, Anuska’s reel has a startling diversity of styles on show. From the high-concept artistic visuals of her ‘Gina’ film for Glamour through to the joyful documentary she worked on for Audi and DDB about Strelka, the stray mutt who became a hero of space exploration, she has quite a range.
Growing up in the Basque Country she never had dreams of becoming a director, but eventually met enough of them that she realised this was the life for her.
LBB’s Alex Reeves took some time to get to know her.
LBB> Tell us a bit about your childhood. Where did you grow up and what kind of kid were you?
A> I grew up in a small town in the Basque Country. I studied in my mother tongue, euskera, and was always surrounded by my cousins and friends. My village was a classic place where you go by yourself with a bike and your friends and try to have adventures. The place is surrounded by nature, mountains and the sea, so I have always had a close relationship with nature; I love surfing. Despite this, I was a shy kid. I don’t have brothers and sisters, so I learnt how to be alone when I was a little girl, playing with my puzzles and Lego.
LBB> What was it that inspired you to pursue a career in directing?
A> I have always wanted to be involved with the world of media, but to be honest, since I didn’t get into Barcelona [to study], I didn’t really realise that directing would be my final pursuit! I studied Humanities in the Basque Country and I then moved to Barcelona to find my destiny, but I didn’t know at that point what it was going to be. So, I firstly started working in a camera department.
I just love framing, lighting and all the technical components of filming. I think it is really important to understand how that side of things works. Whilst doing this job, and working alongside other directors, I realised that I wanted to direct. So, I started to do both camera work and directing because I still felt that I had more to learn before just solely directing. During this time, I worked with big directors and DOPs, and I learned so much from them. It was a really good time for me. And then when I felt ready to make my own way, I gave up my technical career to pursue what I had been preparing for: to direct.
LBB> What were your first moves as a director?
A> As I said before, I started working in the camera department. I used to do little things with my closest friends and colleagues, and one day, I was researching a competition and I saw that they needed an idea to shoot a little commercial. I wrote it and I sent it. A few days later they answered saying that they were interested and they gave me a small, small, small budget to carry out the project. I did it and It was my first time directing. I won second prize and I realised, most importantly, that I really enjoyed the experience. So, I think I learnt then that I wanted to direct.
LBB> Why did you decide to call yourself just Anuska and get rid of your last name?
A> This is a story that comes from my childhood. In the Basque Country almost everybody has a nickname and I was always asking for one, but all my friends used to say: “you already have a weird name, you don’t need one.” This was something that bothered me a lot when I was younger but, as I’ve grown up, my name has made me feel good, and made me feel like an individual. So, for directing, I decided to use only my first name. Even though I don’t have any problems with my last name (Ariztimuño in case you’d like to know) I think the name Anuska has a real personality of its own, and I love it.
LBB> And what drew you to join Blur?
A> I love what they do and I love what they stand for. I wanted to be part of a big family and Blur is the perfect place for that. People are what make me move, and Blur is made up of real and good people. Then, all you have to do is take a look at the stuff they do and the impact they have on the media.... it speaks for itself. Before I met them, I feIt, in a way, that they choose very carefully what work they want to do, and they do their work with quality and passion, two important virtues, from my perspective. I think it’s one of the best production houses to grow up in and I am really proud to be part of it.
LBB> What's your day-to-day like as a director?
A> I live in Barcelona, so I go to go to Blur’s office there. If I am working on a project, I go all day and work hand-in-hand with the producer. Otherwise, If I don’t have a project running, I try to be active and go to the office to work on different stuff. My day-to-day at Blur is always different and that’s what I really love about my job.
LBB> I loved the architectural playfulness and stunning scenes in ‘Gina’ for Glamour. Can you tell our readers a little about that project? What was the brief and how did that translate into the film?
A> The brand wanted to create a new ‘character’ that comprehends their point of view. They wanted to have a new future, and this future was Gina. This was the brief. So starting at this point I realised that I needed to create Gina, to make her grow and develop, as if the environment where she lives was being born. This is the reason the building grows up too. In the very beginning we see how Gina touches the light. This moment is alternated with graphic design that represents her heart/mind. This is where she is born. Gina represents all of us and the architectural structure represents the environment; we develop all together. The idea of replicating Gina makes me feel that everybody is Gina. We can see the crescendo of this effect in the film.
I enjoyed this project so much. One of the challenges was that we didn’t want to show the actress’s face, but at the same time we wanted to feel close to people. One of the things that makes you feel closer is the colour and the image processing. Alex Pizzi, the DOP that I worked with, was very impressive. Another important point in this piece is the music. I wanted this genre of music from the very beginning because it brings us to the future, to the creation.
LBB> Your amazing film with Marc Corominas about Strelka the space dog was an office favourite! What was that project like? Do you have any enduring memories of working on it?
A> Wow! One of my favourite projects too. Every time we were together we started to talk about little adventures to do with that project. It was amazing. We had been in the Barcelona office for months preparing the project, working on the script, looking for the dogs and their owners, and being amazed with the story. For me, one of the biggest things when I was there with the hero characters was realising that everything was real. We spent one month travelling in the US working on it, interviewing and shooting. Audi and DDB gave us a beautiful treasure to find! It was a hard and gratifying production, and I will always hold it close to me.
LBB> Who and what are your creative inspirations?
A> I try to go to the cinema whenever I can and never stop looking at what my partners do. I cannot say one person or thing is my inspiration; a lot of people inspire me and it really depends on the day or even on the life moment. I have learnt a lot from Martin Jalfen and Marc Corominas, for example, directors from Blur. They have helped me a lot. And I am in love with Wes Anderson, Nacho Gayan, Natasha Brier, Darius Khondji, Adam Berg, Radiohead, Big Little Lies, Reese Witherspoon, Vitorio Storaro, David Bowie, Virgina Woolf, Hopper, Jackson Pollock, Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, Elena Anaya, The Pet Sounds Sessions, PJ Harvey, The Beatles and Edith Piaf (I am now reading her biography and it’s amazing). One of my big inspirations is music too. I love it, it helps to stimulate me.
LBB> What do you get up to the outside of work to relax and unwind?
A> I need sport in my life so I try to combine yoga and boxing. As I said before I love music, so whenever I can, I go to any interesting concert nearby. And obviously chilling with my friends!
LBB> What tips would you give to somebody hoping to break into directing?
A> Do it, do it, do it. Don’t ever leave an idea in the drawer thinking that it’s not worth it, that it’s not strong enough or that it’s not the best idea of your life. You never know when or where things can happen, so believe in yourself and go for it. Never stop. And do everything with heart. If you do everything with heart, things will happen. You will find yourself making money, the ball will start rolling. Life is an infinite and changing search… and the opportunities are endless.