not stop Arturo Valls (Valencia, 47 years old) dreamed of an “early retirement” after saying goodbye to ‘Now I fall’, the contest that he presented for years on Antena 3, but since then he has not stopped immersing himself in projects of all kinds. ‘Camera café, the film’ has just premiered, the adaptation of the television comic strip to the big screen, and has in the inkwell ‘Two years and a day’, a series about the limits of humor.
Since the end of ‘Now I fall’, he has gone through countless projects: ‘Derailed’, ‘Nothing new’, ‘Camera café, the movie’, ‘Two years and a day’. Can’t he be still?
You see? Nothing to do with Jesús Quesada, the protagonist of ‘Camera café’ (laughs). Well, the idea of leaving ‘Now I fall’ was that, to focus more on fiction, on production, and a little less on entertainment. But, and note that the initial idea was to relax a bit, there are so many opportunities, so much need to generate content, that there were projects that I felt like taking on. In other words, I was looking for early retirement (laughs) and I wanted to do very specific things, but how are you going to say no to a series with Carlos Areces for HBO, which is pure dialogue, like ‘Nothing new’. Now, I’m working on a format for Amazon, ‘True Story’, with Ana Morgade, where we’re going to fictionalize anecdotes. A famous person comes, tells us one, and we do a reconstruction with actors… How can I say no? But it is true that ‘Now I fall’ occupied my mind more, it was shot in Barcelona… And I decided to stop to do this kind of thing a little more.
How is life without the slavery of audiences?
Wow, wonderful. It’s true that over time they don’t stress you out so much because, after more than twenty years, you’re learning to relativize it, but since I left ‘Now I fall’ I haven’t opened an email to see the audiences. I have already removed that. It seems to me that it is a dictatorship that we are now seeing even in the written press. That thing about ‘clickbait’ and how many people have come to see the news, about headlines that are chosen because the reader prefers one or the other. You have to relax a bit with this.
I heard him a few years ago on the radio, I think when he presented ‘Those from the tunnel’, that his greatest vocation was to make fiction, but that he felt that he wasn’t taken seriously. Does he still have that perception or are things changing?
My intention is to get over people’s prejudices. I don’t know who makes that rule that if you’ve done contests, you’ve thrown people through holes or you’ve imitated Shakira, you can’t produce José Luis Cuerda or make a character like the one in ‘Those from the tunnel’. What are you doing being serious? What are you doing producing something with a little more depth? Who says this can’t be done? I like to get past people’s prejudices. I think that over time perhaps this photo with the Goya for the short film ‘Tótem loba’, by Verónica Echegui, will help people understand it. At first it bothered me more, but now I kind of don’t care. I mean, one goes betting on the things that give you pleasure and a little more for the cultural and not so much for the benefit. I think there is a lot of benefit in making television, but when it comes to making fiction I prefer to bet on something more cultural and that generates more pleasure for me and not so much for profitability. You have to forget about that and not just do what people expect of you.
In fact, years ago series actors rarely made the leap to the movies and vice versa.
It was even harder. And the actors themselves, huh? I have many colleagues who consider that doing entertainment is detrimental to their career or that it will be distorted, as if you are no longer going to be a pure actor. How am I going to go to ‘Me slips’ if I’ve just made a film with Fernando Trueba? It’s ridiculous too. Wow, I respect it. They may not see themselves capable or they may not want to show themselves, which I can also understand. But let me, if I feel like it.
How did the return of ‘Camera café’ come about? Did that meeting they did during the pandemic have anything to do with encouraging people to stay home?-That was one last push. Let’s see, not a push either, because the entire process of pre-production of the film and the search for financing had already begun. But of course, seeing how the video went viral and how it worked was a thermometer to discover that there was some interest and that people remembered these characters fondly and wanted to see them in action again.
Bring the mischievous and playful Jesús Quesada back to life. What has the character meant for you?
Well man, it was the first thing I did in fiction, the most solid character, because I had done small things in theater or in ‘sketches’, but it was the first important fiction project and meeting him again, a guy who has given you so many joys… I was very excited. With him, I began to enjoy fiction and acting. It was like meeting an old friend again.
Tell me the truth, does he look anything like his character?
(Laughs). They asked me when I did the series: “Would you go with Quesada to party?”. Well, look, for a little while. It’s like the brother-in-law on Christmas Eve, who lets out two little jokes… People who are so high up all the time, that for a while it’s cool because they kind of encourage: “Come on, have a beer!”. But that for a long time does not hold. I can also get to a place and liven it up a bit, but I don’t have that ability to be on top all the time. And then I’m not so lazy, or irresponsible, nor do I have that thug thing.
The character is no longer so macho. Was it a conscious decision?
Yes, consciously, but not because of self-censorship, but because of an almost aesthetic question. We understand that that commercial from the year 2000 and little, which in the series said that he closed agreements in a hostess club, seemed old to us, we were not amused and it was already done. We believe that society, fortunately, is changing and evolving. So, portraying these types of people again today, well, we were not amused.
Are there more limits now on humor than a few years ago?
Yes Yes. It happened to me recently in a project, that there was also a racist joke, and I said that I didn’t want that. “We are already with self-censorship, we are already with sensitivity,” they told me. I answered no, it’s just that I didn’t think it was funny. I want to say that the limits of humor for me have more to do with quality. If a joke is good, I buy almost all of it or accept almost all of it. The problem is when it is racist or sexist and it is also bad. That’s the worst that can happen. But we’ll talk about this when we premiere ‘Two years and a day’, the series I produced, about a presenter who is put in jail because he makes an unfortunate joke and the series is about how this guy manages his days in jail from this incident.
With the arrival of platforms, is it easier to start projects or is it still just as complicated? Do you take more risks?
As the offer is so wide, some more risky projects fall, but unfortunately we see that in the end almost all continue betting on what has been tested, because of what the algorithm says, by hackneyed formulas that you know will work… It is true that Suddenly they reserve more auteur films, more risky, but if you look at the panorama, in the end, it’s ‘Star Wars’, revenge or action movies and fights, romantic comedy, series of teenagers fucking and taking drugs (laughs). In the end, it’s hard to find something like that that is a bit out of the norm, which is something that as a producer I have between eyebrows: doing things that are different. Neither ‘Those from the tunnel’ is the typical comedy, nor is ‘Time After’ by José Luis Cuerda and now ‘Camera café’ I don’t think it responds to a formula either, it’s like something much freer and crazier. But it is true that platforms find it difficult to take risks and we thought that they had come for that, so that there were places where the value was just that. I already told you that there is, but you have to search. There is Filmin, which is paradise.