Jaime Falero is a Spanish-born filmmaker whose career is on the rise. His tastes run from personal, historical films to action films and horror movies. Working outside the established filmmaking routes of his native country, he has endeavoured to learn and progress quickly and find financing through private means, attracting actors of the calibre of Eric Roberts in his second film, the current PROJECT 12: THE BUNKER (2014).  

Where did you grow up?
I’m an Islander. I was born in 1976 in Tenerife, the larger of the Canary Islands. It's a  paradise in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, that belongs to Spain. I grew up in La Laguna, which is a monument city listed in the UNESCO heritage. It's a quiet place, full of great people. My mother was a modern housewife, despite being born in 1936. My father was a sailor. He was born in 1933 and is a well-traveled person. Both are now retired and still live on the island.

What are some of the strongest memories of watching movies as a child?
My best memories come from my father. Every evening, since I was 7 or 8 years old, he rented movies from a neighborhood video club called 'Cosmos'. He
was a big fan of movies made by Cannon Films, and liked movies with strong actors like Chuck Norris, Charles Bronson, Burt Reynolds, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Stallone, Jack Palance and Eric Roberts. I have seen most 80’s and 90’s action films, thanks to my father. These simple but entertaining movies taught me a lot.

 When did you know you wanted to become a filmmaker?
Honestly, I don’t how it happened. At the age of 12 my father purchased a small videocam and I used to meet friends in my neighborhood to shoot short movies just for fun. At the age of 14, I started high school but I dropped out a few years later and started studying acting at EAC. I graduated at the age of 23. I then moved to Madrid to look for acting jobs but in less than 10 days I realized it was useless. So I returned to my island and with my girlfriend, I put together my first short film, OTHER ARTS. We were just working as actors in it until we discovered that we were in the need of a director. I offered to direct the film as well. That  short movie pushed me to develop a 'self-learned' career as a movie director. I never had a formal education as a filmmaker. That short film won a local prize and I started to think directing as a profession.

Which films or filmmakers influenced you in becoming a filmmaker?
The first BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985) is one the most wonderful movies I have ever seen.
Funny, exciting, moving, entertaining and very commercial. It has it all! Besides BACK TO THE FUTURE,  I love Robert Zemeckis’s FORREST GUMP (1994) and Clint Eastwood's MYSTIC RIVER (2003).  I also love most of Scorsese's movies, and admire James Cameron,  Ridley Scott. Michael Mann and the mastermind Spielberg, as well as some of Coppola and George Lucas’ works.

Can you talk about your early short films and the first films you directed?
I guess I have never been a good director of short films. I always made short movies that always went long, like 30 minutes. I realized this trend after my second short film THE LAST BUSINESS in 2004. I used that film as a gateway to demonstrate my skills to investors and producers , and move up in the film industry. My strategy worked well. No short film makes history in the industry, and no director can make a living making them. I was however very fortunate with my shorts. I worked with top actors like Maribel Verdú, José Sancho or Carlos Bardem, and learned the ropes about directing films.

How easy is it to make films in Spain? Has it changed since you started making films?

The film industry in Spain is crap and full of corruption. Filmmaking in Spain is controlled by politics. Official funding in the Spanish film industry is based upon a subsidized grant and credit system. The scheme doesn’t work and is highly manipulated. Most products are mostly crap movies that get no commercial release. My projects were declined funding several times through the official funding channels, so I opted to go private when looking for funding, let’s say the American way. Private investors funded my projects, which was extremely difficult in a country like Spain were 99% of the films are financed and funded through government grants and credits. That makes a big difference. Private investors look at my projects evaluating the quality and marketability of my ideas, not like the official government grants that are approved based on personal and political favors and where the return on the investment doesn’t make any sense. Most government funded projects never got any return in Spain or elsewhere in Europe. Private investments demand returns. It's a business world, and I love the challenge of being funded by private investors. It seems to be working for me. The subsidized government scheme will come to an end soon in my opinion. Getting funded by private investors in Spain is hard work as the economy is stagnant here.

Who are some contemporay filmmakers you admire?
I admire J.J Abrams and Danny Boyle. I have seen many interesting contemporary movies lately from unknown directors from all over the world. It is sometimes difficult to remember all their names.

Can you talk about your first films POR DINERO NEGRO (2006) and EL CLAN (2012)? What inspired the stories?
POR DINERO NEGRO was a short film designed to be a tribute to 70’s movies. It was also a  rehearsal for making long films. EL CLAN was my first long movie. The script was based on a real story. It was inspired by stories of my mother during her adolescence, and in fact, the lead character's  name in that movie was my mother’s real name. The story was inspired by a family photograph, taken the same day my aunt was killed in a traffic accident in the 50’s. I wrote the script in 2007,  developed the project in 2010 and filmed it in 2011. We shot it in only 21 days with a very limited budget, averaging 35 shots a day without late hours. It was a great project to learn what not to do in the future. The production designer, Juan Carlos Sánchez Lzcano, was a great help to get that project done. Despite the difficulties we experienced making it, I'm proud of the final film. 

How were the experiences of making those films? What did you learn about filmmaking from them?
Filmmaking is magic, a dream come true. But without professional help, it can become the  worst of your nightmares. EL CLAN was a difficult experience , but I had a much better one making my second movie, PROJECT 12: THE BUNKER. I don't watch my weight but I lost  12 kilos in in 21 days making EL CLAN. I added 3 kilos  shooting “Project 12 The Bunker” I add 3 kilos to my belt during principal photography on PROJECT 12. 

Why did you decide to make PROJECT 12 in English?
Markets are more open to English language movies. My goal is to make great productions that are shot in English. Shooting in other languages cuts my options as a director.

How did you put together the story?
It came out of nowhere. It was something that just showed up in our heads. It was an unbelievable challenge. We wrote the script in only 14 days. We had the investor commitment before the script or sales work was done, so we worked hard to start filming ASAP. The film was shot, went through post-production and was released in less than eight months. I’m proud that the movie will be distributed worldwide by Spotlight and released in the U.S. soon.

How did you come to cast Eric Roberts? What was it like working with him?
We worked a lot to try and get the best actors available. I have a good team working with and it worked okay. Working with Eric Roberts was somewhat special. I watched him in so many 70’s and 80’s movies, and I was now directing him. He was a bit cold at first, but we get along well as the shoot progressed. He's a great actor. I also enjoyed working with James Cosmo from BRAVEHEART (1995) and TRAINSPOTTING (1996). He's another great actor.  I’m grateful to them for joining the cast, and I hope to work on more projects with them in the future.

Was it challenging shooting in a foreign language?
Yes it was. English is not my first language. My written English is much better than my spoken English. I expect to become fluent in the immediate future. During principal photography, I used a translator to communicate with the cast and it actually worked well. After that experience,  I now feel comfortable directing actors in any language. Language was not a barrier or a real problem while shooting.

Tell me about your partnership with Joaquin Sanchez. How did you start working with him?
Joaquín is an actor who also works in the financial sector in Barcelona. This is how we started talking. About film funding. He was in charge of putting together the investors with this project and I’m very satisfied with the team that we have created with him. He is a great actor with a great voice, and his help was paramount raising capital.

What projects do you have lined up next?
My next project is YOU'LL NEVER WALK ALONE. I think it's my best script to date. It's a loose but respectful vision of the Apocalypse and Jesus Christ's crucifixion. I wrote the script with my best friend Carlos Velázquez. We have a letter of intent from Eric Roberts, Spotlight Pictures and Filmax Pictures. Two top Hollywood actors are considering the project right now. We are working the casting and distribution deals, and are opening to investors now.


Lawrence Block is the highly prolific, respected and best-selling crime author of over one hundred books, and has been published for over fifty years. He is responsible for the enduring series of books featuring the characters Matthew Scudder, Bernie Rhodenbarr, Evan Tanner and Keller, and amongst many awards, has won four Edgar and Shamus awards apiece. As well as being superb genre writing, his books are simply terrific entertainment, something Hollywood was quick to pick up on. I spoke to Lawrence about the films based on his books - namely NIGHTMARE HONEYMOON (1974), EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE (1986), BURGLAR (1987) and the current A WALK AMONGST THE TOMBSTONES (2014), starring Liam Neeson - and his collaboration with Wong Kar Wai, MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS (2007).  

When you were starting out as a writer, was it a dream of yours to have one of your books adapted into a film?
No, not really. I've always been more interested in prose than in film. For financial reasons, I entertained a certain amount of hope that a book might sell to the movies, but I figured the book was an end unto itself.

Have you written any books in a particularly cinematic way?
The only one I can think of offhand was a book of mine called 'Not Coming Home to You' (1974), which originally appeared under the pen name Paul Kavanagh, but has since been republished under my own name. I originally saw it as an idea for a film, and I wrote it as a treatment that my then agent sent around Hollywood for a while. No one was interested, and I put it away. Then a couple of years later I realised ''Gee, that really could be a book, couldn't it?'', and I rewrote it as a novel . That was one that was conceived as a film, but other than that I don't really think much in those terms like ''This would look good on the screen.''

Over the years have any particular films or filmmakers influenced your writing in any way?
I've seen a lot of films along the way but I don't know that anything had a particular influence or had an impact. I know that I was very interested when I saw the film of THE MALTESE FALCON (1941), the one with Bogart and Mary Astor. I saw that and I realised that it was the book, almost line for line. Years later I read that Hammett had purposely written the book essentially as a prose screenplay, so that it could readily be made into a film. It was very calculated on his part.
What was the first work of yours that got attention from the film industry?
It was the first one that got made, 'Deadly Honeymoon' (1967), which was filmed as NIGHTMARE HONEYMOON. Because it was such a 'high-concept' book, it got optioned and stayed under option for a long time. It kept being renewed and different people kept trying to write scripts. Finally they made the film and it wasn't very good at all. There seems to be a widespread consensus on that! It barely got shown, and would have gone Direct-to-Video if there'd been video for it to go to.

Were you excited by the prospect of the film coming out?
I wasn't excited at all to tell you the truth because I knew it was going to be a lousy movie and that it wasn't going anywhere.

Did the experience change your attitude towards films being made from your books?
No, not really. They paid me some money, which was nice. I've always regarded the book as the last word on the subject. When films are made, that's nice. Several titles of mine have been optioned over the years obviously but prior to A WALK AMONGST THE TOMBSTONES there had only been three films made from my books - NIGHTMARE HONEYMOON, BURGLAR and EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE - and none of them was  a critical or commercial success, nor did I think they were good films. 

How involved do you like to get in the adaptations of your books?
It depends on the property. There was a time when I was a lot more eager to be part of the project than I might be now.  

What were your problems with the film of EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE? 
There were interesting things about it, and certainly Jeff Bridges and Andy Garcia did some good acting. I've talked to Jeff since then and he told me that the way the film turned out was one of the biggest regrets of his career. The film company took final cut away from Hal Ashby, and cutting was what he did best. As far as Bridges was concerned, he felt they used the wrong takes of just about every scene. Also, they didn't have a finished script, and there were a lot of improvised scenes, like the snowcone scene, which everyone notices if they notice anything about the movie. That scene had both the virtues and the liabilities of an improvised scene, which is that interesting things were able to happen but they didn't know how to get out of it.

Given the calibre of the talent involved, did you have high hopes for the film?
Early on, when the first deal came together, Oliver Stone was going to write and direct it. He did write a few drafts which they departed from substantially. I had a meeting with him where he wanted me to work on the film with him, and I was just put off by his whole affect and everything, so I realised it was not something that I really wanted to do. Now, if the same thing had happened a couple of years later, I might have had a different take on it. By the time it went out to Hollywood and got made, Stone was off it and someone else was on it. I am happy the film got made because it enabled me to pay off a mortgage, but I didn't think it was a good picture.

What do you think went wrong with BURGLAR, from your book 'The Burglar in the Closet'(1978)?
The funny thing is that the film almost worked. Everybody who had fun with the book expressed outrage at the character of Bernie Rhodenbarr, a white male, being played by Whoopi Goldberg, a black female. It struck me as strange but it didn't bother me because the movie isn't for readers of the book, the movie is for whoever goes and sees it. Had it been done well, it might have been okay, but it wasn't. Bruce Willis, originally up for the role, would've been a better fit for Bernie. It was directed with the keen sensibility of the guy who gave us POLICE ACADEMY (1984). Whenever there was an opportunity to make a decision, they made the wrong one. When I saw it in the movie theatre, it got a lot of laughs but when the audience were walking out of the theatre, I heard people say to each other ''That really wasn't very good, was it?''  And, alas, it wasn't.

How did you end up writing the screenplay for Wong Kar-Wai's MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS?
Wong Kar-Wai was a big fan of the Scudder books for years and he talked about it in an interview. His agent wrote to me one time to find out if the rights were available. There was a period where he got in touch and was thinking about adapting one of the Scudder books. We had a meeting or two but nothing came of them. Then he wanted me to write a film set in Shanghai in 1937, called 'The Lady from Shanghai'. I don't know why he thought of me for it. We were on a trip to Taiwan and he picked up the tab for us to go over to Shanghai for a few days and then return via Hong Kong. Nicole Kidman was going to be the lead, but nothing came of the project. After that he got in touch with a new idea for a picaresque tale of a girl dropping her keys off with the owner of a delicatessen, wandering around America and then returning to get her keys. It was based on an eight minute short that he had done. He thought this could be his first English-language film.

Why didn't 'The Lady from Shanghai' get made?
Who knows why it didn't happen? You have to bear in mind that most movies don't happen. Most projects come to nothing, and that's even true of projects that have finished scripts and actors attached. That's why it seems almost picky, when you leave a theatre after having seen something quite dreadful, to condemn it for its faults; instead one should applaud it for having actually been produced.

What was your final impression of MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS?
There are things that I liked about the movie. He's a brilliant film-maker, with a wonderful visual sense, and his pictures are beautiful. What he hasn't got is a great sense of story. That works better with some films than others. MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS was the first picture of his with a script; previously he'd start shooting with a couple pages of notes. While I was writing the script, he kept changing his mind about what the story was. It was a strange experience, but he is a very nice man.  

Did you spend any time on set or location?
No, I was not there when they shot the film.       

Were there any unfilmed books of yours that you believed would especially make good films?
There have been a lot that I thought might be eminently filmable. There was a book I wrote (under the pseudonym of Jill Emerson) that came out in 2011 called 'Getting Off'. It was about a female serial killer, essentially. I thought that with the right actress in the lead it could be a very interesting film. No one has expressed an interest so far so I don't know if anything will happen.

What advice would you give to any filmmaker intending to adapt one of your books?
I probably wouldn't give much advice. From the little screenwriting I have done it has become clear to me that a book is not a movie and a movie is not a book. Given all the work and the money that has to go into a film, being true to the book writer's original vision comes low on the list of priorities and rightfully so. The important thing when making a film is that it had better work. I did an adaptation of one of my own books, 'Hit Man'. It almost got filmed as 'Keller' but the financing didn't come together. When I was writing the one draft and polish that I did, I realised there were things that had to change because what works on the page doesn't necessarily work on the screen. I was able to make substantial changes because that is what the medium demanded.
What can you say about the new film of A WALK AMONGST THE TOMBSTONES from your 1992 novel?
Well, I find myself in the role of a real cheerleader for the film. I think it's brilliant. Scott Frank set out to make not an action film but a dark thriller for grown-ups, and to my mind he did just about everything right. There are story changes from the book, some of them quite necessary and others perhaps arbitrary, but the whole tone and thrust of the film is there, and the casting's wonderful. Liam Neeson, of course, is extraordinary, but everybody does good work here. And I'm so glad Scott elected to direct the film himself.

Can you talk about your latest book?
It's a one-off noir crime novel set in small-town Florida, about a cop retired from the NYPD and some women he encounters. My film agent, who loved the book, summed it up as "James M. Cain on Viagra." It's dark, it's nasty, and it's super-erotic, and Hard Case Crime will publish it a year from now. Noir, I'm told, is a ways from being the flavor of the month right now, but the right actor could make a meal of the lead role, and there are three stunning roles for women, so I wouldn't be surprised if some clever filmmaker were to jump on it. But, you know, if all it is is a book, well, that's fine.

I spoke with Lawrence by telephone on 14th February 2013, and by email during September 2014. I would like to thank him for his time.

Check out Lawrence's website where you can keep up to date with his work.