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Berlinale talents: Canon short film competition

Juan Sebastian Lopez Maas

‘Ludwig & Uxia’

The unique documentary film ‘Ludwig & Uxia’ is a fascinating exploration of an extraordinary relationship between the young classical musician Uxia Martinez Botana and the key ‘male figure’ in her life. Just click on the window above to view a trailer for the film and then read on below to find out more about the inside story of the project and how it was shot.

Treatment of the brief

Director Juan Sebastian Lopez Maas has always had a passion for music and his treatment for the film explains: “This is a film about humanity and emotion in which we will endeavour to constantly draw parallels between Uxia’s relationship with her instrument and the human experience at large. Attention to detail in visual composition will be paramount in creating images which can complement the beauty of the music.”

Why the film was chosen

The judging panel selected this film as one of the six winners due to its proposed unique take on the relationship between a female musician, Uxia Martinez Botana, and her classical instrument (aka ‘Ludwig’). Most notable to the judges was the proposed use of music within the piece and the clear outlining of the film’s locations, timeline and proposed structure to slowly ‘reveal’ to viewers the incredible relationship between musician and instrument – a fascinating combination of a documentary and, at the same time, a love story.


Juan Sebastian Lopez Maas

Juan Sebastian Lopez Maas was born and raised in Mexico but moved to the Netherlands with his family when he was aged 15. He finished high school and university in the Netherlands, and studied at the St. Joost Academie in Breda; from where he graduated in 2009. With his final exam Juan won one of the 2009 ‘Wildcards’ of the Netherlands Film Fund – a system that each year awards three emerging Dutch documentary filmmakers with a cheque for €40,000 to enable them to make a film project. This backing helped him to continue to produce the film ‘I’m not dead, only asleep’, which was shot entirely on an EOS 7D DSLR. Since then Juan has returned to his homeland, Mexico, and currently works at Abrand – a design studio based in the city of Guadalajara, Mexico – where he mainly concentrating on publicity projects, but this still allows him the freedom to work on his own film projects.


Why did you decide to enter the Canon Short Film competition?

“[Simply], because I thought I had a good idea for a short film.”

How did you get the idea for your film?

“It came from an experience that I had with I friend. I found out she is in love with her double bass. She is almost obsessed by it.”

Please explain what the film is about?

“It is basically about the relationship between musician and instrument. The connection she has with her [double] bass is much deeper than any relationship she could have with any person. She loves her bass more than she could love any boyfriend. After having this relationship the only thing she wants is to bring music to the world. She thinks that music it the purest manifestation of humankind. The message could be... to follow your passion no matter what.”

Can you tell us more about the characters and narrative in the film?

“It’s a portrait of Uxia, and the relationship she has with her instrument. She talks about him as if it was a man… an old man called Ludwig. With her testimony we create a personality around the double bass. We explain his character and all the difficulties that this relationship brings; ups and downs. It’s a collage of images that express the love between the two. Both can’t live without the other.”

What were the challenges or surprises you faced when making the film and how did you overcome them?

“My biggest problem was that the producer quit the job just a couple of weeks before the shooting. We almost had to go to casinos to gamble the last bit of the future of this film… desperation was getting through [to us]. Thanks to help from my friends and family we managed to start. During the process we found out that we could manage to make it longer… at least a 30-minute documentary.”

Had you shot any previous projects with Canon cameras?

“I had only used the C100 [of the Cinema EOS cameras] and different types of DSLRs... [the EOS] 7D and 5D most of the time.”

How long did the film take to shoot and what crew did you work with?

“We [the crew] were one cameraman, one friend who helped with production and sound and me. It took us around a week and a half [to shoot].”

How did working with the Canon camera and lenses help you to shoot the film?

“The cinema set of lenses we had was really great. The [C500] camera is also easy to work with. We only had little teething problems with the Codex [recorder]… but the guys from Codex were really helpful.”

How did you set up the Canon camera for the shoot?

“We shot on 4K with the Codex [recorder] and, at the same time, Full HD on the camera. So we immediately had a back-up on HD and we could watch the material at the end of each day.”

What was the performance of the Canon camera like in terms of the quality of footage produced?

“I really liked working with the Canon camera and especially with the [EF] Cinema lenses. The combination of the two offered really good [imaging] performance – [it was] crystal clear and [with] great sharpness… the result of using Canon [equipment] in a proper way.”

Which Canon lenses did you choose to use and how did these perform optically?

“I had the [Canon] Cinema prime lenses – the 14mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm and 135mm. I think they worked great. I love to work with them [as they are] very light sensitive and super smooth.”

How was the footage ingested and was this straightforward? How did the Canon camera fit into the overall workflow – input and output - of the film?

“We found out that we could record on HD on the camera and [4K] on the Codex [unit] at the same time. That helped us to watch the material and to have a back-up. You just have to be very careful, as sometimes the Codex stops but the camera does not. For the rest, it’s a very friendly workflow.”

How did you record sound for the film?

“We had one microphone going straight into the camera and a second mic going to a external hard disk recorder.”

What is your overall impression of working with the Canon equipment and would you use Canon cameras for future film projects? If so, why?

“I really liked working with Canon [equipment] and I hope I can work more often with the cinema lenses and the C-series [of Cinema EOS cameras].”

What are your plans for future film projects?

“I am now writing a scenario for a project about rehab clinics, but it’s at the first stage of research.”