Fading force

Fading force

March 19, 2024


Déjate Ver (Show Yourself) writer and director Álvaro Carmona takes DQ inside the making of this idiosyncratic dramedy, in which the protagonist begins to disappear, forcing her to reconnect with a world she doesn’t quite understand.

It’s a medical diagnosis no one would ever expect to get. But when artist assistant Ana is told she is suffering from early-stage invisibility, she’s not shocked. It’s just a condition she thought only affected older people.

Still, the disappearance of a single toe prompts Ana to change her ways and start life all over again, in a hugely original, dystopian and sometimes absurd comedy-drama from award-winning filmmaker Álvaro Carmona (Gente Hablando/People Talking).

Screening at Berlinale and Series Mania after its debut on Spain’s Atresplayer last year, the eight-part series is written and directed by Carmona, with Macarena Sanz as Ana, Joan Amargós as her brother Tomás and Irene Minovas as her best friend Álex. The show is produced by Buendía Estudios and Atresmedia TV, with Atresmedia TV International Sales distributing.

Here, Carmona tells DQ about the background to the story, his close partnership with Sanz and how his experience as a stand-up comedian and writing for late-night television influenced the series.

Álvaro Carmona

What are the origins of Déjate Ver?
As abstract as it may seem, the idea was to create a series whose leitmotif was ‘how strange life is nowadays,’ even before considering framing it in the world of art, imagining the character of Ana or finding the tone.

I often see things that nowadays we have accepted as normal because we have gradually arrived at them. However, if you step back a bit and look at them from a different perspective, you realise they are crazy. Hence the idea for a series that looks at our reality from a different angle, one that is just a little bit distant, just enough for us to see ours with some distance.

How do we meet Ana, and what can you tell us about her journey through the series?
Well, it’s difficult to talk about her journey without giving away too many spoilers. I’m afraid I can only say that Ana is the right hand of Bassil, one of the most important conceptual artists in the world. Ana is organising a new exhibition when we discover that something ‘supernatural,’ for lack of a better word, is happening to her in our world, though not so much in the world where the series unfolds.

What were the main themes or ideas you wanted to discuss?
The series explores various ideas: the concept of identity, technology, artistic integrity and family. However, the overarching theme I aimed to permeate throughout the series was the need to feel seen; the pursuit of recognition, and the frustration and absurdity that surround it.

How did you want to balance the blend of sometimes absurdist comedy and dystopian drama?
Well, I guess it was a matter of having the tone very clear from the beginning. When it came to writing, I encountered many challenges, but that was never one of them. With a clear understanding of the feeling the world surrounding Ana’s character should evoke, I always had the dramatic compass, so to speak, well in place. As for comedy, coming from the stand-up world and writing for late-night TV have given me a good intuition for anticipating which lines will work and which won’t.

The series has been compared to Black Mirror. Were you inspired by anyone or anything in making Déjate Ver?
The influences have been more negative than positive because I didn’t want Déjate Ver to resemble or have a similar tone to existing works. So when writing, I always tried to steer clear of anything that sounded like a cliché or reminded me of another series. I understand the comparison with Black Mirror since technology is present in both projects. However, in Déjate Ver, the intention was for technology not to be the protagonist of the plot. Instead, like how we experience it today, it is a constant presence accompanying the characters.

Macarena Sanz as Ana in Spanish series Déjate Ver (Show Yourself)

How would you compare this project to the other series and films you have worked on? Are there common themes among them?
One of the rules I set for myself before starting to write was that the series wouldn’t resemble anything that already existed, especially not Gente Hablando, my previous project. Obviously, I assume there’s a certain style of dialogue or filming that anything I do will inherently have. However, both formally and in terms of themes, I wanted to continue growing as a director and screenwriter and explore new territories compared with Gente Hablando.

What was the writing process on the show?
Tough. Writing is always very challenging. I had the immense fortune that both Atresmedia and Buendía Estudios believed in me wholeheartedly. Despite having only a pilot, they gave me the trust and space to discover the story as I wrote it. At first it was a bit daunting, but looking at the eight episodes now, I believe the series would never have reached the places it has if I had to define everything from the beginning. I know it’s an unconventional way of working, but it suits me best. I hope I can always write like this because, although I acknowledge it’s somewhat stressful, it’s much more rewarding in the long run.

And what kind of visual style did you imagine for the show? How was this achieved through the camerawork and production design?
I’m fortunate to have a very close relationship with Robert Carrera, the director of photography, so while I was writing, we were gradually developing the visual world of the series. By framing the series in a dystopian world, we ran the risk of getting carried away and creating a futuristic setting, something we wanted to avoid entirely. The idea was that the dystopia would always be in what the characters say. If someone watches the series with the sound muted, they should never imagine that it takes place in another universe.

On the other hand, from the very beginning, we were clear the series was about Ana, her sensitivity and her point of view, and everything else had to revolve around her. I feared this might be restrictive in terms of planning the camerawork, but on the contrary, it was very liberating and simplified things a lot. Every time we encountered a doubt or a problem, we would always go back to Ana’s character: what is she feeling at this moment? What does she want to achieve? What is her point of view? And we always found our answer there.

The show is produced by Buendía Estudios for Atresplayer

Is there a way you like to work with your cast, particularly Macarena Sanz in this case?
Working with Macarena has been one of the best experiences I’ve had as a director. Ana is the absolute protagonist of the series; her perspective is the viewer’s perspective, so Macarena had to carry the entire weight of the project on her shoulders. It was a significant responsibility, and even today, I am still amazed at the professionalism, energy and talent she brought to each day of filming.

On a technical level, both Macarena and I are very meticulous, and that allowed us, during rehearsals and later during filming, to fine-tune the character and her journey to a very specific level of detail. It was a joy for me to convey all the intentions and subtleties of the script without leaving any behind, thanks to Macarena understanding the tone of the series and who Ana was from the very beginning.

Where was the series filmed and did you use a lot of locations during shooting?
The series was filmed in Madrid and its surroundings, and yes, there were many locations. Furthermore, they were hardly repeated, which was a challenge given our budget constraints. Fortunately, we had the best production team in the world, and somehow they managed to facilitate the shooting of everything, even allowing for a day of reshoots.

What have you made of the reaction to the series since it launched last year?
We are thrilled with the reception the series is receiving and how people connect with it. I am particularly pleased that so many people highlight the fact it is unlike anything else. In a world where hundreds of series are released every week, creating something that feels unique is an achievement that we are very proud of.

Why do you think the series might appeal to international audiences?
I suppose it’s because the themes it addresses are universal. From the beginning, we wanted Ana’s existential angst and search not to be tied to any specific place or type of character. Feeling understood, connecting with your family, striving to be authentic in a world designed to be superficial – these are experiences that happen to everyone, whether you were born in Spain, Australia or China.

tagged in: , , , , , ,