Pablo Aura is a Mexican American director and filmmaker best known for his feature film Influencia released in 2019. He sat down with Valerie to discuss his lifelong experience in the film industry.
Aura was born into a family of actors and filmmakers. “I was almost born on a theater stage because my mom was young and starting this difficult career. My dad used to say you can never miss a play as an actor, so they take it very seriously. My mom was 7 months pregnant and as she was driving to the theater, the fountain broke. She was getting to the theater and her actor maids had to convince her to go to the hospital. If she would have said no, then I would’ve been born on the stage.”
As a kid, Aura acted in theater plays and telenovelas before he began creating his own films. “It’s something that was ingrained in my education and something I did naturally as a kid. And then at some point in my life I asked myself, why fight it?”
Since it’s not as common in the U.S. for the government to provide funding for films as it is in other countries, filmmakers are forced to find creative ways to bring in money. “There’s a lot of people who made their first films from credit cards or by selling their car. There’s weird stories of people who have gone through medical tests just to save money. It’s like any business. If you want to open a restaurant, you get a loan from a bank or an investor. You have to just go and ask people with money to fund you.”
Aura explained the process of how his first feature film, Influencia, came to be before he had any funding. “When I was going to start shooting my film Influencia, I had to write four scripts beginning to end that never happened. To write a screenplay it takes you anywhere from 6 months to a year, just to have it sit in your drawer. Then at some point I had this script that I wrote specifically so I didn’t need a lot of money to make it and it doesn’t matter who tells me no.” Aura continues, “So I decided to put my own money and to make my own film with my own rules. After I overcame that obstacle, the learning lesson was that you don’t need to ask permission. Whenever you feel you have the right product, idea, script, you just have to go do it. I thought I was going to make a $50,000 film and in the end it was a $400,000 film not because I had all of that money but because I had the drive.”
Another interesting aspect of being a director is directing and recreating love scenes. Aura tells us about the acting method that goes into creating intimacy on camera. “The actors normally have professional training so they understand that their body is their tool. Between them, they understand that touch has a different meaning because touch is a part of telling a story. Everything is staged and at some point it almost becomes like an action scene and the feelings are not involved.”
Aura even recounts a funny story of having to direct an intimate scene with a family member. “So they sent me the script and it’s with an older couple coming together again. They have this night together and there’s a love scene. They asked if I liked the story and I said yes of course. They said well good because your mom is an actress, we were thinking your mom plays that part. I was like sure why not? We were laughing so much, it was a cool experience. We were all professionals but anyway it was an awkward situation.”
The narrative that actors and actresses have to sleep with directors and producers in order to find success has been around since the beginning of the Hollywood era. “I knew a lot of people who made their careers without sleeping with anyone, but it was a possibility. But I wouldn’t say at any point it was the only way to make a career because at some point it could backfire. Today, I think it’s something that’s completely out of the question. Someone would have to be very naive to think that they can get away with something like that. Everything that you do and because of social networks – there’s no privacy anymore. So I think nowadays it’s much more uncommon.”
As a professional, Aura believes that intimacy should remain strictly on-camera in the film industry, especially after the nation witnessed what happened in the Harvey Weinstein case. “I know for Harvey Weinstein, they were at some point in Hollywood history almost like the gods of Hollywood. There’s so many titles that somehow became what they are because of them. But they crossed too many lines and at some point that came back to bite them and they are paying for that.”
One of the most difficult parts of working in the film industry for Aura was having to face rejection. “This career is made of no’s. Everyone’s going to tell you no. You have to have very thick skin and be clear you don’t do this for anyone but yourself. If you’re sure of that then it doesn’t matter how many people tell you no, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. These careers are about passion and if you don’t have passion it’s very easy to give up.”
For aspiring directors, Aura offers his advice. “As a director I would say directors have to find their own voice. We live in an era now where everyone is making videos in a competent way. There’s a lot of people who can operate a camera and create a fairly reasonable looking video. Now it’s more about your voice, stories, your ideas, and what you have that’s different from the rest. So the best advice for now is just to keep creating whatever stories you want to tell and don’t stop.”
Click here to watch Pablo Aura’s full interview.