It’s the late 70s in Spain. The Franco dictatorship has only just come to an end and a four year old boy goes to the cinema for the first time. It’s writer/director Sergio G Sanchez’s (seen above on The Secret Of Marrowbone set with Charlie Heaton and Mia Goth) first memory. “We went to see Star Wars – and it blew my mind!” he recalls. “I remember resisting coming out of the cinema afterwards. I wanted to stay in this fantasy. And, after that, I told everybody that I wanted to make movies and people would just laugh at me. There were no film schools. Nobody was making movies in Spain. It was unthinkable.”
Just over 20 years later, he’d achieved the unthinkable, writing and directing his first short, 7337, the film which resulting in him meeting one of his closest friends and fellow Spanish film-making export, J A Bayona. They met at a film festival, an experience that Sanchez describes as “like meeting your lost twin soul.” He’d made 7337, a ghost story, in the hope of finding a production company that would let him direct a feature length screenplay that had become something of a passion project. It was The Orphanage. “Guillermo del Toro already wanted to direct Bayona’s first film, so he asked me if I had any scripts. I said yes, but it was something I wanted to make myself. But I let him see it, he loved it and showed it to Guillermo and his producers and they wanted to make it. At the time, I was doing odd jobs to support myself and I said, OK, I’ll sell this one and write something else!”
Thanks to The Orphanage and The Impossible, odd jobs are now a thing of the past and Sanchez has, at last, directed his first film. Based on his own script, The Secret Of Marrowbone arrives in UK cinemas this week, the story of a family living in an isolated mansion who have to confront the terrible secrets of their past. A dark family drama with more than a few chills, it’s heavily influenced by what has become an unofficial Hispanic horror tradition. For Sanchez, it’s a genre that has an especially contemporary feel. “Fantasy and horror come out of very troubled times and we’re having a big resurgence of horror just now. There’s something very strange happening in the world: unexpected things happen all the time and, as the world becomes filled with barriers and walls, horror is finding a way to break them down.
“There’s this sense of insecurity and not knowing what’s real and what isn’t. This was one of the ideas behind The Secret Of Marrowbone. Each of us has to decide every day what is real and what isn’t and you have to live your life knowing that perhaps you’re embracing something that’s not actually true. This is what opens the movie and it’s also in the warning towards the end. You can see the film as a gothic horror movie that’s full of tropes you’ve seen before, but the story is also very much of right now.”
With such an all-consuming project behind him, Sanchez already has several new projects in the pipeline, including two new scripts, although he can’t confirm the directors involved. “One of them I’ve worked with before, and the other I’ve always wanted to work with. One of them is part of this new generation of Latin American directors working in Hollywood – and it’s not Guillermo!” He plans to have both scripts done by the end of the summer, so he can start pre-production on his next feature, “a family fantasy in the style of The Never Ending Story. We don’t really know yet if it’ll be in Spanish. It’s a universal story, so we’ll see what happens with the cast when we make it!”
Sergio G Sanchez was talking to Freda Cooper.
The Secret Of Marrowbone is released on Friday, 13 July 2018.