Marrowbone is Sergio G. Sánchez’s anticipated directorial debut.
Sánchez, who is responsible for writing some of the best screenplays in recent Spanish cinema, is praised for his ability to manage emotions and connect almost immediately with the audience. He is especially well known for The Orphanage and The Impossible, which were both helmed with great success by his friend J.A Bayona. Although Sánchez describes himself as a filmmaker first and a screenwriter second, he had been searching for a story that was powerful enough to take on as a director.
“On a train trip, talking about stories that he had liked, talking about classic cinema and old films, the seed of Marrowbone emerged,” says producer Belén Atienza. The working relationship between Atienza and Sánchez began when the former produced both The Orphanage and The Impossible. She was perfectly aware of Sánchez’s untold talent as a filmmaker and knew she wanted to be part of his new project.
The script for Marrowbone was built brick by brick. Sánchez recalls the peculiar writing process: “I started developing it. There were different phases. During the first draft, I was sending Belén Atienza a few pages per day, not really knowing where the story was headed.”
Atienza adds: “It was like a novel delivered by installments. Each day you were discovering a little more about the characters and the story. We rounded everything up because it was a complex story with different time lines and several twists that had to fit together.” The idea of a novel in installments was intentional. Marrowbone has the presence of an independent world, filled with secrets that entice the audience and invite them to stay and live inside it.
Once Telecinco Cinema read Sánchez’s script, they surrendered to its great possibilities. “We knew since the beginning that we had incredible material, marvelous,” says Ghislain Barrois, a producer at Telecinco Cinema. Like Belén Atienza, Telecinco Cinema supported Sánchez when he began his journey into filmmaking. Having known him as a screenwriter, they now had the chance to participate is his rite of passage as a director with a story they really liked. “It’s a combination of fantasy and terror and drama. One of those pieces you don’t see every day,” says Álvaro Augustin, a producer at Telecinco Cinema. After seeing Marrowbone on paper, they knew it wouldn’t be an ordinary film.
Sandra Hermida, Line Producer for The Orphanage and The Impossible, will be rejoining the team as Line producer and executive producer for Marrowbone. “It’s his first film but we don’t feel like he is a first time director,” says Hermida, as she explains how Sanchez managed to gather so much trust and affection while preparing his first feature.
This could be explained by looking into Sánchez’s career as a screenwriter. He has shown a high level of commitment on previous films and continues to stay involved beyond the writing process. The relationship that Sanchez and Bayona established while preparing their two films exceeded the usual bond between director and writer. They have developed a creative symbiosis. The two were fully responsible for the worlds they created. We can see a lot of their shared curiosities both in The Orphanage as well as in The Impossible. Sánchez also advised on several decisions, including casting and directing.
Hermida affirms that it was unavoidable that Bayona would participate in Marrowbone. “They are two filmmakers that create a cinema, which is analogous and supplementary, with obsessions and themes alike,” she says.
Sánchez and Bayona fondly recall the moment they started working together in The Orphanage. They didn’t know each other well and were surprised to learn that they shared the same tastes in cinema. “In some way, the seed of our common cinephilia is a part of Marrowbone,” says Bayona. He was always 100% ready to commit to any project Sánchez decided to start, but truth be told, he was really blown away by the strength of Marrowbone’s script. He gave Sánchez advice, but always with respect, fully aware that the project and its needs were in the best possible hands. Bayona shared this creative wisdom throughout the different phases of the film. Once he read the script, he gave his notes and during the editing process, he shared his point of view.
What are the passions Sánchez and Bayona both share? A great deal of it comes from their special interest in childhood, youth, and what happens when their characters dive into the deep and dark waters of adulthood. It’s no coincidence that Marrowbone’s main characters are four children who have not yet reached adulthood, similar to the themes of The Orphanage and The Impossible.
They both defend the importance of fiction as a medicine to cure deep wounds or even as a shelter from a hostile reality that people are not able to manage. Marrowbone tells the story of four orphan siblings who only have each other as they face the looming threat of a horrible past. While the siblings try to overcome their plight, they take shelter in an isolated house, which acts as a safe haven for their broken family.
“It’s a subtle approach to the genre, without tightening the screws.” said Bayona. It’s the kind of feature that is no longer done and does not require special effects or make up. Terror is at the story’s core and gradually consumes everything,” says the Catalonian director.