The thought of a long-distance relationship is frightening as it thoroughly tests the bond between a loving couple to where it looks like they are destined for disaster. One relationship is put to this test in “10,000 Km,” a romantic drama co-written and directed by Carlos Marques-Marcet.
Alexandra (Natalia Tena) and Sergi (David Verdaguer) are a loving couple living in Barcelona, Spain, but they also struggle to balance out their careers while trying to start a family. Then Alexandra accepts a one-year residency in Los Angeles which could really jump start her photography career, and Sergi has no choice but to stay in Barcelona where he works as a teacher. Luckily, they have modern technology which allows them to keep in touch on a daily basis, but what is helping to keep them together may also tear them apart.
“10,000 Km” proved to be a powerful meditation on the struggle of a long-distance relationship, and it starts off with a scene which lasts several minutes and captures the characters in their most intimate state. I got to talk with Marcet while he was in Los Angeles, and he talked about how that scene came about and how long it took to shoot. In addition, he also clarified how much of the movie was shot in Spain and Los Angeles, how he came to cast Tena and Verdaguer, and of how he kept the actors separated during shooting.
Ben Kenber: It’s interesting to see how this relationship evolves once the two lovers are separated by continents and use technology to keep in touch with one another. Was it hard to balance out the benefits of technology with the human element in this movie?
Carlos Marques-Marcet: No. We knew from the beginning that the driving point was to portray the relationship which derives from the human element. The technology was the tool and the human part was the means somehow, so it wasn’t so much about finding a balance but trying to see how to use these tools to convey the means.
BK: The opening sequence of “10,000 Km” is amazing as it lasts several minutes and features the two lovers being intimate with one another, and then one of them receives an unexpected job opportunity. How did you go about setting the scene up?
CMM: It was a long process to arrive there. It was originally not such a long scene, but then we looked at the script and it suddenly made sense to have this very long scene where you see them together. It’s a two shot of them and you are with them, then afterwards the rest of the movie we shot over shot because they have no other possibilities. There’s a symbolic element to it, this raw thing of being with two people together that weren’t there together. The making of it involved a lot of preparation. The location was the producer’s house, so I knew where I was going to shoot. It was a combination of working with all the departments, the actors and rehearsing. It was like a dance.
BK: This scene must have taken a very long time to shoot.
CMM: 17 takes and three days of shooting. We planned it and we wanted to do it with the dollies. There was no handheld camera. We wanted it to be grounded to the ground. I think it was an interesting way of how to go about it.
BK: Natalia Tena and David Verdaguer are both terrific in this movie. What was the casting process like?
CMM: So basically, we found David about a year before shooting. I had just graduated from UCLA and I didn’t want to shoot another short. I just took a couple of scenes from the movie and shot them just as an experiment with another actress. I watched a lot of You Tube videos and interviews. I like to see how actors move and how they talk, and I was looking for another actor, not David, and then I saw him in this video he made with a cell phone of two friends. Then I saw that he was an actor and I proposed to my producers that we bring him in for casting, but then it turned out that he’s actually known as a comedian. I had no idea. He’s like a “Saturday Night Live” comedian. Actually, he’s done a lot of theater, very serious theater, but people love him for his comedic aspect. But then he came into the casting process, and it was a very long casting process with two people for hours. I like to work with the actors instead of just having them come in to read. I like to meet people. It was David for sure, no doubt. And then with Natalia, it was a last-minute thing. We were actually going to shoot with another actress and she had to cancel, and when we finally found Natalia it was like a miracle. It was very clear that they had chemistry, and they became very close friends instantaneously.
BK: When it came to shooting the scenes when she’s in Los Angeles and he’s back in Spain and they are using Skype to keep in touch with one another, did you purposely separate the actors?
CMM: Yeah. Originally I wanted to shoot it in Los Angeles and in Barcelona at the same time, but Natalia had some scheduling conflicts. It wasn’t that cheap to do it. I wanted to shoot it in my own house in Los Angeles, but schedule wise it was not possible. So we put them in two different apartments in Barcelona and I actually after shooting the first scene said that it would be nice if they didn’t see each other, but that lasted like two or three days (laughs). After three days I was like it’s fine if they hang out with each other. I wanted to create the feeling of missing somebody, and three days was totally enough. In the end, they were hanging out together every night playing cards, going over the lines and drinking wine, and in the morning they had to be separated. So, for them being in touch every day and then during the day not being able to be together was very frustrating, and I think that shows up somehow in the movie.
BK: When “10,000 Km” begins we see this couple at their most intimate, and they still have that intimacy throughout the movie to a certain extent. I don’t want to give away the ending, but I loved how you ended the movie on an ambiguous note. It’s not the kind of movie that begs for a solid or more definitive conclusion.
CMM: Yeah, that came about during the editing. Actually, the script was much more clear, but while we were editing there was a bunch of dialogue that we decided to take out because I felt that already through the images we could tell what was going on. Then we took it out and then for some people it became more ambiguous than it was in the script. I like it. It was not in the plan of how I shot it. I have my own vision of it, but I also like to let people imagine whatever they want.
BK: “10,000 Km” is not designed to give anyone a definitive answer to whether long-distance relationships can work or not, but I came out of it hoping these two would find a way to make things work out.
CMM: That’s a very optimistic view (laughs). We leave it so that the very optimistic people can think that (laughs).
BK: Despite the scheduling conflicts, were you able to shoot any of the movie in Los Angeles, or was it mostly shot in Barcelona?
CMM: Mostly in Barcelona, and then I shot some of the stuff in LA. There are some shots where you see my home in Echo Park with the webcam and everything, but mostly we shot it in Barcelona. We faked the LA interior in Barcelona. It was not possible to do it the other way around. In Los Angeles, you won’t find interior like you would in Barcelona. I didn’t want to shoot in a studio. I wanted to shoot in a real location so they have the feeling that they are in a house or a real apartment.
I want to thank Carlos Marques for taking the time to talk with me. “10,000 Km” is now available to own and rent on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital.