Entrevista. Miguel Berzal de Miguel: «Literature, cinema, and music are part of me»

Interview with Miguel Berzal de Miguel.

Intimate Conversation with Mike Angangan.

Polo De’Marco Magazine 2022, Monaco.

  1. You have developed your art as a writer, film director and lyric tenor. How did you develop such talent? 

Thank you so much for your words.

Literature, cinema, and music are part of me. I couldn’t live without them. I love to direct actors. Through writing for literature and film, I give my imagination free rein.

I feel a great calling, a great passion, and a great respect for my professions. My audience deserves the best. The demands I place on myself are very high. That’s why I always have to keep learning.

One Sunday afternoon, when I was 6 or 7 years old, I sat down in the dining room of my house and wrote my first story: “El mendigo y la niña” (“The Beggar and the Girl”). Ever since that moment, I have wanted to be a writer. My passion for cinema and music came a little later. First, writing, then cinema, and later, music. That’s why I always say that I am a writer, film director, and lyric tenor. In that order.

  • Born in Madrid, Spain – you took a degree in Audio-Visual Communications where you have a Master’s Degree in Film Directing. Firstly, where did you study? And what lessons do you learn from it? 

Yes, I was born in Madrid. After taking my degree in Audio-Visual Communication, I divided my time between a Master’s degree in Film Directing and another in Theatre Directing.

As a lyric tenor, I have studied at the Madrid Conservatory, and I have also got my professional singing degree from The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in London. I have also studied and continue to study with the great baritone Rodrigo Esteves. The great tenor Charles Castronovo, the composer Javier Berzal de Miguel (one of the youngest candidates ever for Best Original Music at the Premios Goya), the virtuoso pianist Pablo Arencibia, and the organist and composer María Luisa Arencibia have also played a part in my musical training — my private musical training, because the conservatory wasn’t enough for me and I have always wanted to learn more and more.

  • ‘El Refugio (The Refuge) is your first book that you every published at age 17yrs where it tells a tale of certain tones which is dark, but it shows the sensitivity and maturity of its soul. What was the inspiration behind the story? And what was it like to have WON the best-sellers list in Spain’s Casa del Libros?

El refugio (The Refuge) was my first book and it’s very important to me. All my thanks always to my readers. They made it possible for me to break into Casa del Libro’s best seller list in 2012. Last fall, Las horas muertas (The Dead Hours) was on the list of the 10 best-selling books in Spain. I am very grateful. It’s a huge honour.

  • You’re a writer and director; yet you curated three (3) different short films including; Cuidar a Ruth (Taking Care of Ruth), Un encuentro (An Encounter) and Nomeolvides (Forget-me-nots). When writing these three films; what the basis of your story telling? 

In my books and scripts, I like to address themes in society that interest me: family, friendship, love, illness, destructive relationships, evil, or the exploitation of workers, among other things. Through your imagination, you can immerse yourself and live in any world you want.

As I have never gotten any help from companies, I made the decision to be the producer and distributor of all my films. It was lot of work, but, now, I am happy because I have learned a lot and it has given me great insight into my profession: I have been the director, producer, screenwriter (with the literary script, but also the technical script) and editor too. I have learned a lot.

  • You have been part of 3 major international film festivals – what traits do you find is most important when showing you’re films not only to your peers, but the judges as well?

It has been an honour to be part of so many international film festivals.

When the judges watch my films, I’m not in front of them — I never know who they are. After the screening, the festival administrators inform the filmmakers whether the judges liked their films and whether they have been nominated or not.

I am an independent filmmaker and all these festivals have shown that they don’t mind if there isn’t a big production or distribution company behind a film or internationally known names. They treat all the films with the same respect. All these judges liked my films and that is why they have been part of these festivals and they have won awards. The only important thing in the distribution of a film is the film itself.

On the other hand, there is no difference between an audience you know and an unknown audience or judges because everyone deserves the same respect and you are always nervous if you think this way.

  • Which one out of the books that you have published the most complicated and the most interesting to write?

I can’t answer this question because all my books and films have been important to me. I can’t choose one.

When I am writing a book or a script, I live with the characters that I am creating — they live within my mind. Sometimes when I finish, I miss them: I have to say goodbye.

For example, when I kill a character (it’s something, of course, that I decided before I began to write the story: someone has to die because it’s the story that I want to tell) but, when that moment comes, I feel very sad. For me, writing is exhausting and exciting. I have been creating new lives since I was a kid.

  • To have such a wide spread audience in Europe – what is it like having such acknowledgment from he U.S. Market? And what is there response to your films? Your film ‘Sin novedad’ (No News) won 52 awards in international films where you directed, produced and distributed the film. What was that like to have won such acknowledgment? And to receive 7 offical selections for the Premios Forque?

52 awards in a year, 7 selections for the Premios Forqué and 19 official selections for the Premios Goya, for an indie film is amazing. I am so grateful.

It has been beautiful to receive messages from people from the USA or Argentina or Chile or France or Germany or Nordic countries who have watched my films. Or, for example, artists that I have admired and suddenly, spontaneously, they write me because they have watched my films in their countries, and they have loved them.

You can’t wonder all the time if someone is watching your film or if someone is reading your book. I mean you can’t live if you are thinking all the time that your work is about to be judged. You have to get used to it.

On the other hand, I am very lucky because the most important thing in my life isn’t work; it’s the people I love.

There are people I’ve worked with in the film industry, and then they have become great friends. That’s something very special.

Of course, I have to highlight having experienced all this along with my family.

For example, I remember a huge gala that we attended where Sin novedad was the film that won the most awards. It was a great honour. But my most lasting memory is of the dinner that my family and I had, in the wee hours of the morning, in the hotel room: already in our pyjamas, no press, no photos, no nerves – and together. It was the happiest time: when I enjoyed what I had just experienced and let it really sink in.

I have lived a lot during all these years. It hasn’t been easy all the time, but I am very grateful.

  • In 2021, you had received an outstanding recognition where you were acknowledged by the prestigious Princeton University as a writer. What did you think in your mind when you heard such appraise? 

It was a huge honour. I am very grateful. The USA has always been so good to me, so generous with my work as writer and as a director (the Cleveland International Film Festival, HollyShorts Film Festival, Palm Springs International Film Festival, or Dances With Films, among others, with a lot of awards, wonderful reviews and beautiful messages from the audience). Always grateful. Always in my heart. I hope I can sing in the USA someday and do my best to express my gratitude in person to this country.

  • When it comes to your music – how do you develop such range in your music?

Singing is the most demanding sport I have ever practiced. I face my career as a lyrical tenor with discipline and a lot of work and study.

Plus, what was it like to be the sole student to great baritone Rodrigo?

Oh, it was terrible (laughs). I am kidding. Rodrigo Esteves is not only a great singer, he is a wonderful teacher and a wonderful person. I am very lucky. I am still studying with him.

  1. According to Film Daily News – they have claimed your voice is in its infancy stage; however they stated that “his personal and powerful metallic voice pierces your heart like a knife and excites”.  With all the training that you have – how are you going to develop your voice and you’re range more to make it perfect? 

I am very grateful to Film Daily News. I think that singing is an art and, at the same time, it is a sport like ballet. If you sing every day and work hard, you will improve.

One thing I love about music, and which I’d like to share with you, is being increasingly aware of the greatness of composers. They are able to create for a certain vocal register, and centuries can pass, and suddenly, a guy like me approaches one of their scores and it fits into my very being, in an organic and natural way. You get to know them really quickly because they were composed for you. I’ve experienced it when studying José Serrano’s romances or Donizetti’s or Verdi’s or Puccini’s arias, for example. That doesn’t mean I don’t have to work hard at them. But when that happens with a score, you feel as if you are connected to the whole history of music, because it turns out that Handel composed a score thinking about you, in your specific range, when you didn’t even exist. For me, that’s huge.

When I write, direct, or sing, I feel that I’m in the right place: I feel at home.

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