“All moments previous to an event taking place are critical for me, without exception. It’s the point of no return.”
Born in Madrid in 1962, his professional beginnings are found in the world of independent theatre. He was technical director of El Palenque in Expo’92 and responsible for technical direction of cultural areas and events such as auditoriums and convention centres, including a thematic park.
Since 2000 he has directed the Production for the department of Events for APD.
He has directed the technical production of multimedia shows recognized on an international scale such as the Fires of the Apostle of Santiago de Compostela, awarded ‘Best European Cultural Event 2012’ and the Christmas Mapping show of Seville, ‘Best European Cultural Event 2013’. Of special interest among the works carried out this year are productions beyond our borders such as the audiovisual show created to present the commercial, culture and leisure complex, Katara Plaza, in Qatar and, most recently, the Mapping show for Marca España, projected during the first week of September in the emblematic Potsdamer Platz of Berlin.
We spoke to Juan Antonio about his professional experience and the perspective more than 25 years in the events industry has afforded him, as well as the challenges that each new project confronts. Productions that are always unique, created in Spain but often executed thousands of kilometres away, with the consequent technical and logistics challenges.
Directing the Production of Events for a company like APD must be anything but boring. What do you find most attractive about your work? And what least?
There are a lot of good moments: the complicit looks from your companions during the process, to make sure that what was initially proposed has been faithfully carried out… I find my work really interesting, I couldn’t dedicate myself to this if it weren’t so.
I wouldn’t call them the worst moments, rather the most difficult ones which are those that make you grow personally and professionally, and are linked to the uncertainties, to those moments when you don’t see a clear solution to the production process.
Regarding the event for the presentation of the complex Katara Plaza, celebrated last March in Doha, what difficulties did you encounter -if any- while working in a country like Qatar?
Fortunately, we didn’t have any big problems, everything went along with relative normality, keeping in mind the short production period that we had: in one month from the signing of the contract we had to do the audiovisual production, transport the equipment from Spain, etc. The most difficult of all was getting the equipment through Customs, it’s not easy to work outside the EU.
How do you prepare for a production of this magnitude? How many people intervene and with what work deadlines?
The work team was immense, especially taking into account that we had so little time for production. We’re talking about more than 100 people from all areas (AV production, soundtrack, artistic, technical and production direction, designers for sound and lighting, AV technicians and special effects, technicians for assembly, logistics, etc.). From Spain we took 25 professionals.
What has called your attention most working in a country that’s culturally different, or at least at first sight, like Qatar?
Surprisingly, in the end, in our kind of work, it doesn’t matter what country you’re working in, everything is very similar. It’s a universal language.
The most complex production was “The Giant of the Seven Seas” in the Forum of Barcelona in 2004. Doing 4 daily performances of a show that combined a prototype of large dimensions made with recycled materials by a French team, La Machine, with flying trapeze acts by acrobats brought from Guanzhou (China) and other specialists (vertical dance, trial, etc.), in an open-air space next to the sea during 5 months was complicated.
Recount for us a critical moment that you’ve lived during or previous to the celebration of an event.
All moments previous to an event taking place are critical for me, without exception. It’s the point of no return, there’s no going back, not even “almost” possibilities to rectify or improve. We’re talking about complex machinery in which machines and human beings intervene, and any error or malfunctioning can ruin everything. The whole team has to be on alert.
For the Fires of the Apostle show in 2011 you projected for the first time in the world mapping over a Baroque façade, which set a landmark. Has it been the biggest challenge so far from a technical point of view?
I consider it more difficult to maintain something than achieve it. The challenge is to improve each project.
The event was acclaimed by the critics -it received the award for Best European Cultural Event and the Grand Jury Prize for Spain and Portugal- and by the public -the videos on Internet had more than 600,000 visits-. What is more rewarding for you, recognition from the sector or the public?
They’re the same, but success, like happiness, is ephemeral… The project I’m working on right now is the most important.
So many years working in technical production of events has given you a wide knowledge of the sector. What are the main tendencies in today’s market and where are we going?
The incorporation of new technologies is a constant. In these times of interactivity, virtual space immersion and 360º proposals are the tendency but they will lack meaning if they don’t transmit a bigger and better message. The commitment to work, coherence and creativity are above whatever tendency.
Tell us about the last project, the mapping show for Marca España projected in Berlin. How do you take on the organization of an event that you know the chancellor of Germany is going to attend, as well as the president of the Government and the minister for Exterior Affairs and Cooperation?
It’s added pressure, undoubtedly, but, as a bullfighter once said, “there is no such thing as a small bullring” and to participate in an event for children, without communications media, for example, demands the same from us as working for a media event. Our involvement in all projects is the same, we wouldn’t be doing our job if it weren’t so.
You’ve worked over half the globe with projects of great magnitude that always excel by their technical and logistic complexity. Is there any professional challenge you’ve yet to fulfil?
The capacity for learning is an indispensable condition that anyone should comply with who is dedicated to the kind of work I do. Luckily, I haven’t stopped learning.