Behind the scenes and away from the limelight, Spanish producer Frida Torresblanco has been at the forefront of Ibero-American cinema since she began her career at the age of 15 working as an assistant on movie sets. In her role as a creative producer, the list of directors she’s worked with includes Oscar winners and revered figures such as Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro, Sebastián Lelio, Sebastián Silva, and Sebastián Cordero.
It’s no surprise that Torresblanco was invited as the subject of this year’s Producers Masterclass at the Media Summit organized by NALIP (National Association of Latino Independent Producers). During the conversation moderated by Brazilian producer Deborah Calla, Torresblanco recalled the moment her career was kickstarted by Spanish director Fernando Trueba, who asked her to work on a project after meeting her on a school trip where she showcased her knowledge and passion for film.
“[After that] every holiday break since I was 15 I was working on a movie, and when I finished studying my career it was clear that I wanted to be a producer,” she said. Before this realization, Torresblanco had studied classical ballet dreaming of becoming a prima ballerina, but, as she puts it, she realized that wasn’t her main talent. “One of my biggest pieces of advice to people is to find out what you are good and what you are not good at. You have to identify your talents and your flaws really early.”
Ballet gave her discipline, which became a pivotal element in the way she approaches her work. Armed with years of experience working an array of different jobs on set, Torresblanco would eventually partner with Alfonso Cuarón and head Esperanto Films, where she worked for eight years.
“We started [Esperanto] by riding the wave of Y Tu Mamá También. I think it was an absolutely amazing experience. I learned so much from him. He is an amazing teacher, mentor, and friend. He is very generous with his vision,” she added. “During all those years I was seeing through his eyes, Guillermo’s eyes, and Alejandro’s [González Iñarritu] eyes. The material was going through their vision.”
One of the most successful projects she has ever worked on was Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth. Knowing she was working with an incredibly talented individual who is essentially a “one-man show,” as she describes him, Torresblanco discovered her strongest currency was her honesty. “Guillermo knew exactly what he was creating since minute zero, but he really respected me and he respected my opinion. This is something that you have to really work hard to get. The creative relationship was really good and he allowed me to be heard.”
Later, when Cuarón moved to London she felt it was a great opportunity to listen to her own voice and decided to start her own production company, Braven Films, by raising $6 million. Now, she explained, everything she works on matches her taste and highlights her feminine sensibilities, something she wasn’t able to fully explore before.
It hasn’t been easy because what many people see as the archetype of a producer is a hyper-masculine man, she explained, but with critically acclaimed titles and festival darlings such as Sebastián Lelio’s recent Disobedience and Sebastián Silva’s Magic Magic, she is actively changing that perception through her work: making things happen on schedule and on budget.
From her time working with Cuarón, Frida Torresblanco learned what he valued about their collaboration the most: “Alfonso told me once, ‘Please never change. Never tell people what they want to hear. Be the way you are. The day you tell me that you are in agreement with something that you are not, then that would be like breaking the relationship between us.’” She clearly took his words to heart, adding “I think I’ve pursued that.”