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The Interview

Agustina Figueras

Local writer and storyteller, George Murphy interviews local characters and personalities. More HebWeb interviews


Ahead of the 2024 Hebden Bridge Film Festival (15-17 March), George Murphy interviewed Hebden Bridge's much travelled board member and Volunteers Co-ordinator, Agustina Figueras.

Agustina tells of how she fell in love with cinema from an early age, her life as a student, the challenges of screenwriting in a second language, the uniqueness of our Film Festival, the multi-disciplinary nature of film making, what she loves about Hebden Bridge and news about her next big project.

Agustina Figueras Q&A

Agustina, what distinguishes the Hebden Bridge Film Festival from other UK film festivals?

I’ve only been to Leeds and BFI festivals in the UK and they do it great, but there’s something unique to a festival like ours at Hebden Bridge that’s perhaps much more intimate due to being a small town where it feels like everything else stops and the town becomes taken over by cinema.

Cinema-goers, film chat, passionate conversations about the themes addressed in the movies,  friendships emerging over a shared pint, an overall general “in the air” excitement. This is for me one of the most beautiful things about Hebden Bridge Film Festival, along with a truly joyful approach to the films and film-making overall. It’s a celebration of film, its themes and opportunities and there’s no competitive vibe nor the politics that surround the big festivals. It’s all about the films and the people behind them.

You grew up in a large city. What first attracted you to cinema? What were your favourite films ?

I was lucky to grow up in a family of film lovers. Cinema was our way of communicating and enjoying our time together. Even before I could read subtitles or speak any English my Dad would take us to the movies and translate them in whisper for me and my sister. This love grew with time and a film was what could change my day from bad or average into a fantastic one. It’s always been a place to dream, to live and to cry so I always knew I wanted to be involved somehow. I was also lucky that I got to go to a few film sets when I was little and these days are burnt into my memory. I wanted to know how they did it all and it truly seemed the coolest job on earth.

You moved across the world to gain qualifications.  Can you describe the challenges and satisfactions of your life as a student?

I loved being a student. So, I left my apartment and my fun job in Buenos Aires to become a student again, this time in London. It was a bit of a shock at first, going from having a small place for myself to renting a tiny room with no space for anything other than a single bed, in a flat shared with a bunch of strangers and the weather wasn’t particularly helping so I had to be out and about but inside places.

Thankfully, museums are free in the UK, but cinema was prohibitively expensive for me, so managed to make my life revolve around £1 screenings at the Prince Charles or the £2 screenings at the Coronet in Notting Hill and the rest of the time I spent at uni. It was challenging making new friends. I felt really different from everyone else. I was one of 3 non-English native speakers at a Screenwriting Masters, and the other two had already been living and studying in England for their undergraduate courses. It just dawned on me that I was trying to write in a different language to mine and the first few months were so tiring. My brain was fried after 9 hours sessions and trying to interact with everyone getting merry in the pub afterwards was hard. Fortunately, it did get easier with time.

Did you meet your partner during those years?

I did. We ignored each other for almost two years and during the last summer, a few of us rented an office share to go and write our final project in. There, we started spending more time together, chatting and I suddenly was quite impressed that I’ve managed to miss this person right in front of my eyes for all this time. It evolved fast as it was pretty obvious that he was a life partner right there and then.

Agustina, after you gained an MA In Screenwriting, you moved to Ireland with Alex. Did you continue to focus on writing? I imagine screenwriting involves close collaboration with directors and others?

One of the main reasons to move out of London was to find room to breathe and write. It was quite a prolific time as Alex and I started collaborating together and I was still working for others, reading scripts and doing work on set as part of the production team. I think all roles in the making of a film are deeply collaborative. Perhaps the writer gets to have more solo time, but being open to people reading your work, understanding and accepting feedback and turning it into a constructive force for work are also an exercise in collaboration.

You’ve described the multi-disciplinary nature of film work. Which crafts and disciplines have you learnt over the years?

I guess there’s always the need to know a bit about what everyone does in a film set to be able to engage with the people actually doing those jobs and understand how/what to ask or what to expect. Also, sets are places guided by “etiquette” and no one really teaches you that beforehand, so you have to become a sponge in those first few jobs, looking, listening absorbing. 

I started working on the AD team (Assistant Director) first as a Runner, the person who brings / fetches and stands with parasols to protect actors from rain or sunshine. Then 3rd AD - the person who tends to be in charge of all the stand-ins (commonly known as extras),  then 2nd AD - the person in charge of the talent or actors, getting them ready with costume, hair and make-up, taking them to set etc. And then 1st AD which is the person who runs the set, makes the plan of what will be shot and where.

I really enjoy making shooting schedules as they are like a hard-brain puzzle, but then I moved into the production team, where there’s more of an overall oversight of the film but less time on set. Unfortunately, I haven’t learnt any extraordinary skills like tap-dancing but I did do one whole film as the body double of the main actress to the point where we were sent to get the same hairstyle done to match perfectly.

Venice Film Festival 2014 presenting Words with Gods,
with Guillermo Arriaga and Bahman Ghobadi

What attracted you to move to Hebden Bridge?

Hebden Bridge was a bit like one of those extremely rare unicorn places where you can get the best of a city sort of experience - like the cinema, theatre, good restaurants and a nice coffee place at your doorstep, with the benefits of nature, the stunning valley around us, a river, a canal and on top of that a general amazing open vibe.

No one is judging you for what you’re wearing or are not wearing, or where you come from. Pride, Handmade Parade and the Film Festival are great examples of this vibe.  I really like that Hebden Bridgeis a place where people choose to live, most of us have made that active decision, which means there’s no feeling of entitlement to the place and also that eagerness to know each other and share with others because we’re all pretty much in a similar situation.  It also feels like a great place to bring up a human!

How was Lockdown for you?

Well, I gave birth to our son on the cusp of the first lockdown in Ireland in April 2020.  So all that time is a bit of a haze in my memory, probably due to the lack of sleep, but the whole thing felt so new and unreal, just like motherhood that I’m not sure I was processing it all. 

I think in a way we were lucky because we weren’t missing out on the outside world. We couldn’t have gone out much with a brand new baby anyway and we were surrounded by nature and could go out for walks around our house and enjoy each second together.

But we did miss family, the opportunity for our family to travel from Argentina in my case and England in my partner’s case, which meant they missed our baby for a long time which did feel unnatural and sad in a way, but it did cement the our trio against the world feel.

Agustina, Alexander and Arthur

What’s the good and bad of Hebden Bridge?

The good is pretty much everything. Its unique people and houses, feeling part of something more than just a town. Being open to different, being exposed to new, people with expansive lives, neighbours, solidarity.  The bad, I’m not sure there’s much. I can say except that people get to know you, your face, where you live and sometimes on a bad day it’s not so easy to be as anonymous as one would like.

How do you relax?

Going to the movies, or reading a book at the Fox & Goose or going to yoga, though I’m not the most diligent pupil.

Do you follow a favourite sport?

Unfortunately, I don’t. I am from Argentina though, so every time the national football team is playing I do feel exceptionally home sick and go into full fan cheering mode.

What is your all time favourite film?

Cabaret. An all-time classic. I love musicals, but this one is just different. It has it all, the music but done in a clever way, no one bursts out singing in the middle of an action - it happens on stage only, the drama, the fun, a stellar female lead, groundbreaking themes for the time but subtly threaded, and all boils down into a perfect crescendo where things don’t go our protagonist’s way.

What would be your choice to win Best Film at this year’s Oscars?

I haven’t seen all of the films nominated yet, but of the ones I’ve seen Anatomy of a Fall has been remarkable. I loved not only the performances but also the idea of playing with the construction of a narrative both within a marriage and within a murder - perceptions and how can more than one reality be true. I guess truth doesn’t matter but what’s the most compelling narrative after all does.

As you live in Calderdale, have you had chance to watch any TV series or feature films set around here?

I enjoyed Happy Valley many years before coming to live here, and discovering Catherine’s house one day on my way to yoga was a really pleasant surprise. I’m also a big fan of Cleo Barnard's films, set close to us in Bradford.

When the festival ends, what are your plans for the rest of the year?

Shooting a short film set here in Calderdale is something happening in the spring. I’m also submitting another bigger project for funding with the producers Paula Vaccaro and Aaron Brookner behind it.

Venice Film Festival 2020. Premiere of Film Listen with director Ana Rocha de Sousa and actors Lucia Moniz, Maisie Sly, Sophia Myles, Ruben Garcia.

Venice red carpet with Producer Paula Vaccaro
and Director Ana Rocha de Sousa

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