First and foremost, I’m a filmmaker. It’s been a passion of mine since I was a child. Initially, I wanted to be an actress and in my teens and early twenties,I had a successful career in the theatre, but at 21, after realising I had zero control over my acting career, I decided I was going to be a film director. If I was ever to act, I would write and direct my own movies. I would no longer wait for someone to give me a role. I wasn’t going to be “discovered” , I would “discover” myself. And so my journey began.

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I even went to The Bahamas and shot a film alone in an island as part of a UK filmmaking Competition
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On set in Harbour Island, The Bahamas.The local children were adorable actors.
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Harbour Island, the Bahamas filming “The Girl on Holiday”

I won a short narrative competition at University with a short story I wrote and that gave me the confidence that I could write and be a writer. They even published a book with the story I wrote, so that was all I needed.

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I was 20 when I won this writing competition while a student at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.

Soon after, I started writing and performing my own monologues. A few years later, when I moved to London to study a Masters Degree in Film Directing, I started acting and directing in my own films. Successful or not, that is what I wanted to do so I did it. No more, “oh I hope someone gives me a role”, it was all about;  “I’m going to act in this film I’m going to direct”. Here is an example of a little short I wrote, direct, edited and yes acted on it as well.

This same attitude took me to direct,write and act in my first feature film, “Campo de Batalla”. I had no money, no contacts, no nothing but I knew I just had to make my first feature film. To do this, I needed to leave London and go to La Paz, Bolivia to shoot the story. Crazy right?, well that is exactly what happened.

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I loved living in La Paz, I went to support Bolivia in a match against Uruguay. Football at 3800 metres over sea level, why not?

 

It was the end of 2008 when I left for La Paz, Bolivia, to shoot my first feature film, Campo De Batalla (Battlefield). I had a naïve self-belief and I was on a mission: I was going to make this film, no matter what.I knew no one in the film industry there and had zero contacts. Making your first feature film not only takes a lot of work, but endless energy and determination. The results may not be what you expected, but what you learn from the experience is priceless and part of a journey in a career that will invariably be full of ups and downs.I couldn’t find an actress to play a tourist stranded in La Paz so I decided to do it myself. The actresses of the film weren’t happy that I was acting also and dealing with that was stressful and a valuable lesson. If that were to happen again, well the actors can have their opinion of course, but I just wouldn’t let that affect the movie as it did in this one. Even though it was just a small movie, I had to put up with some Diva like tantrums but oh boy, give me the most difficult Diva now that I can definitely handle it nicely and politely and with maturity.

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Directing Campo de Batalla on set in La Paz, Bolivia
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During filming in La Paz, Bolivia.
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Filming in the streets of La Paz, Bolivia
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On set in La Paz, Bolivia during the filming of Campo de Batalla. No budget for digital clapperboard.

Campo De Batalla tells the story of five women trapped in a beauty salon during a social revolt on the streets of La Paz. As the hours go by, it is the beauty salon itself that turns into a battlefield of petty fights and family issues between the hairdresser and her family.Bolivia is a country where people take to the streets when things go wrong, so I knew it wouldn’t be difficult to capture some footage of street protests for Campo De Batalla. In October 2008, I was one of thousands on the streets of La Paz, welcoming people from all over Bolivia who had walked to the capital to support a referendum for the new constitution. They were mainly Aymaras, Quechuas and Guaranís. I filmed some of these historic scenes, and they made a brief appearance in the film.

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Filming in La Paz, Bolivia. Indigenous people marching in La Paz supporting a Referendum for a new Constitution.
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Cholitas in La Paz, Bolivia. All copyrights @amancaytapia

The film is now available to watch for free on YouTube, and a link to Campo De Batalla is below. It was a very long journey, with zero financial profit, but extraordinary personal and professional gain. I have definitely developed and grown as a filmmaker because of Campo De Batalla. Despite its many flaws and naivety, I wouldn’t be the filmmaker I am today had I not made this film. Moreover, it gave me the confidence to call myself a film director. When there is a story lurking inside me, something takes over and sets me on a mission to turn it into a film. I don’t need the film industry to give me validation. On my return from Bolivia, there were many times when I thought I should quit my filmmaking dreams. I was lost and penniless, but, little by little, I found people here and there who helped me to complete this labour of love. Campo De Batalla premiered in January 2010 to a packed audience at the Cinemateca Boliviana in La Paz. It also opened in Santiago de Compostela, Spain and at La Cinemateca de Bogotá in Colombia. I couldn’t afford the submission fee for many festivals, so the film only appeared at the few that were free and that would select it for their competition section.

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Amancay Tapia on set. Making a first film is exhausting particularly if low to no budget

One of my highlights on the festival circuit was at the Triestre Latin-American film festival in 2010 where I met León Gieco — an Argentinian musician and composer who created a song that has become an anthem in the Spanish-speaking world, “Sólo Le Pido a Dios”. We sing this song in a scene from the film and León, who was on the festival jury, was delighted. He is a legend, a wonderful musician, an even better person, and I feel fortunate to have met him thanks to Campo De Batalla.

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Leon Gieco, creator of a Latin-American anthem “Solo le pido a Dios” at the Triestre Latin-American Film Festival in Italy.
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Taking a rest in Coroico, Bolivia. Behind me, coca leafs
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In Coroico, Bolivia

I come across many filmmakers who constantly talk about wanting to make their first feature film. All I can say to them is just do it. There is never a right time.  You may not succeed on your first attempt, but deep down you will know that you are part of a club of people who can do and will do and nothing will stop them and something good will come out of it all.

Watch Campo de Batalla here: 

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