Film: Interview with Director Miguel Sapochnik

Written by: Sophie Taylor

I don’t think we learn anywhere near as much from our successes as we do from our failures.

Director and Filmmaker, Miguel Sapochnik was born in Hammersmith to Argentinian parents before moving to the N8 area at 18 months.

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He continued to live in and around the N4 and N8 areas of London for most of his life, growing up on Ridge Road before buying a place in Stroud Green with our neighbours, Davies and Davies Estate Agents.

“Davies and Davies helped me buy my first flat in Stroud Green and I’ve always worked with them since I moved there.”

Now living in LA and working on high profile projects like Game of Thrones and large scale Sci Fi movies, we wonder about Miguel’s beginnings and where it all began.

The North London native started storyboarding for a living at just eighteen as a way to continue drawing, his first love, and to get work. Helping to design their sequences helped forge a direct line between him and the directors.

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It was an important part of understanding what directors actually do for a living.

Miguel’s influences include American surrealist David Lynch as well as having always admired the Cohen Brothers as both filmmakers and writers. From storyboarding beginnings, he has had his fair share of industry success and disappointment. Miramax won the rights to his Sci Fi film, The Dreamer in 2001, but instead of immediate career success, what followed were years of projects stalled and collapsing in pre-production.

“I don’t think we learn anywhere near as much from our successes as we do from our failures. Anyone who works in the Film and TV industry knows it’s feast or famine. You learn to weather it because you have to.”

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[Finsbury Park] shaped my view of the world, opened my mind to how different and yet the same we all are. I do miss it.

But now to present day where there are in-depth studies written on why his direction of the Game of Thrones episodes were so unanimously approved by such a shrewd audience (and of course, Emmy Award winning).

“It’s one of the few shows I’ve actually watched, irrespective of whether I was gong to work on it or not, so it was as exciting as it must be for any fan of a show to get to be a part of it.”

I wonder if he’s going to have a well deserved rest now.

“No breather. I’ve just finished shooting the pilot for a Netflix Sci Fi show called Altered Carbon. It’s based on a cult novel by Richard Morgan. I will be editing this month, then maybe a breather…”

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I certainly hope so. I try to imagine a typical day for the director in his new Los Angeles base and how it compares to his not so distant past life in Finsbury Park. “I don’t really have a typical day. It all depends which hat I am wearing: director, producer, writer or dad. The weather is better where I am at the moment and I have a four year old daughter who keeps me on my toes.”

The Stroud Green area was a very different place when Miguel was growing up. “I learnt all sorts of life lessons out on the street that I still rely on today. One thing I feel about Finsbury park is that it has always been a place that keeps changing and growing. As global changes like wars and borders create yet another new influx of people and culture, Finsbury park would always reflect that in its inhabitants.

It was a melting pot and I’m so glad I grew up in that. It shaped my view of the world, opened my mind to how different and yet the same we all are. I do miss it.”

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Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

So, if Miguel were to find himself back in his old neck of the woods, would he host a film night?

“I’d screen 2001 A Space Odyssey, Spartacus and Miller’s Crossing. I’d invite everyone, do it in the park and hope for good weather.” I’ll pretend I’m part of the gang on that note. Pull up a pew next to Miguel and steal his popcorn. Hopefully it’s sweet.

Bucking the Hollywood trend. this director has no scandals to speak of. As a parting question, I ask if he has any surprising facts we may not already know.

“I like Manchego cheese.”

Indeed! That nutty fromage is quite the tangy rumour monger Miguel. From your old haunt we wish you all the best with Altered Carbon, a Sci Fi to look forward to this year for sure. Here’s to more awards in 2017. 

Further reading: Take a look at our previous interview with Game of Thrones actor and Finsbury Park based filmmaker, Tim Plester.

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