First-time director Brian Jackson was not only the director of the movie Garabandal, Only God Knows but also actively collaborated in all phases of production of the first movie on the reported apparitions of Garabandal, Cantabria, Spain. When the filming began, Brian had been working on the drafting and adaptation of the script. He personally planned all phases of recording and during the post production phase he was head of editing and in charge of special effects. We spoke with this North American who is in love with the Virgin Mary and who attests that Garabandal is “a message of hope.”
1.- Brian, you are the artistic director of Garabandal, Only God Knows, yet this movie is your first experience as director at this level. If we add to that, the difficulty of having to work with a team of volunteers even with less experience than yours, could we not say that it was sheer madness to launch a project of this type?
The truth is that I feel very privileged for having participated in this project that belongs to Our Mother. I experienced that she has been at my side all along. That is what gave me strength, given my inexperience and my “madness.” I must recognize, however, that I was able to depend on the great help of Bryan Shields and Carlos Coroas, who contributed considerably, with their professional experience. Without them, the movie would not have been possible. I have trouble being called “an artist.” I feel that I am more like the brush in the hands of an artist who simply used me and the whole team to carry out the movie. The true artist has been the Virgin Mary. I on the other hand was her “assistant director.”
The project was certainly quite risky. But we have to do crazy things for the Lord, who himself was deemed to be crazy for having loved us. When Bryan Shields, who is an American like me began to work with us, he exclaimed: “You are crazy! We are all crazy for the Virgin and for the salvation of souls.
2.- How did the idea of making this movie come up?
We have been discussing several projects since 2014. We considered the idea of starting with a short feature film, but suddenly someone asked us “Why don’t you make a movie about Garabandal?” I was very impressed by the idea and I suddenly felt that this was what the Lord desired. Thanks be to God, there was a recent serious academic study, a doctoral thesis in theology written by Father José Luis Saavedra, which gave us a good basis to develop the script. The plot of the movie is impressive. One could think that a movie about apparitions would be boring, but the story of Garabandal is astonishing. There are so many things that one could focus on: the persecutions that the young seers suffered, the extraordinary phenomena, the miracles, the transcendence of the messages, and a long list of additional things. I truly believe that it was Divine Providence that put everything on course. From the first moment we felt that we were impelled by the will of God to do this. That is why, in the moments when I faced difficulties, even failures, I was at peace knowing that was not me who is in charge of this, but Our Mother. Knowing that this is God’s will, gave me strength to continue.
3- How is it possible that the first full feature artistic film based on the real events of Garabandal was made possible through the work of a North American? Do you believe that no prophet is welcome in his own land?
I think that Divine Providence brought me to this place. You can say that it is my vocation. Some have told me that only an American would have selected a Civil Guard as a protagonist in a Spanish film. On the other hand, the very events of Garabandal conclude that one is not a prophet in one’s own land. I believe that the apparitions of Garabandal are better known in the United States than they are in Spain, where they occurred. The position of the Church remains, “non constat,” the one adhered to by Bishop Sánchez Monge who is the current bishop of Santander. The Catholic Church has yet to make a definitive statement on the apparitions. In a sense, it is understandable given the volume of extraordinary phenomena that occurred there which science cannot explain. It would be great if they could be approved or at least a “pastoral solution” reached as has been the case recently in Medjugorge. In fact, it is already a fantastic pilgrimage destination where many pilgrims receive abundant graces.
4.- What does Garabandal mean to you?
The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe that the Church celebrates on December 12 made me reflect on Garabandal. The Spanish missionaries were giving their lives to evangelize my forefathers in the Americas, yet despite all their work, the fruits that they had produced were meager. Nevertheless, after the Virgin appeared, people began converting by the hundreds of thousands each year. In the newly discovered America, things were not going well. However, today they are much worse. I believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary, who at one time under the advocation of the Virgin of Guadalupe was instrumental in converting the Americas, has come again, this time not only to covert a few people in a forgotten village in Cantabria, but to convert the whole world. I love the title of Father José Luis Saavedra’s thesis, Garabandal, Message of Hope. And that is what it is for me. Garabandal is a message of hope and if the Virgin truly appeared there, then that cannot be hidden for much longer. I hope that through this movie people can listen to Mary's voice and that what occurred there can be made known.
5.- Since the budget for the movie was zero, Divine Providence must have wrought true miracles. What anecdotes can you share in that regard?
From the beginning of the filming, I felt that Our Lord’s providential hand was guiding us. We celebrated Mass daily, but during those first few days I felt that the Lord was speaking to me in a very special way. On the first day, we listened to the Gospel of the multiplication of the fish and loaves. I have always felt like that child offering very little, five loaves to feed a multitude of five thousand. That gave me an incredible inner peace, because it made me understand that if we gave all we had, Our Lord would perform the miracle. On the second day of filming, the Gospel was about Peter walking on water. Once again, that is how I have felt all along, walking on the waters. Many times I sank and had to beg the Lord to help me. At other times it was sufficient for us to keep our eyes fixed on Him so that everything could go well, and so it did.
I would like to share some anecdotes. We were told before we began to film that in the place we had chosen to film during the summer, there were two climatic extremes, either scorching hot or constant rain. Both weather conditions are very bad for filming. I do not know if we can exactly call it a “miracle,” but during the first week we filmed, we enjoyed beautiful sunny days interspersed with clouds, which is a perfect combination for filming. After that it began to rain, exactly when we had to film a rain scene. Incredible! Everything was wet as it should be when it rains. Then the rain stopped when we needed to bring out the cameras. Another day, we had covered the streets of a village with dirt but it did not occur to us that we should spay water over the dirt. That is an old Hollywood trick to reduce the glare. The Virgin said: “You don’t have any rain.” And just then it began to rain for about five minutes, just long enough for the ground to get wet.
We knew that the “Milagruco” (small miracle) was going to be one of the hardest scenes to film. It was a scene at night with hundreds of people. We had planned to have a single shoot, during which those present would follow some Civil Guards who were trying to reach Conchita who was running at full speed through the town in the middle of a multitude. On the historic day of the Milagruco, there were some 5,000 people in Garabandal. When Conchita went into ecstasy, it was very difficult to be at her side. We wanted to represent that moment as best we could. We repeated the scene seven times because it did not come out well. We thought that the first take had been a “total failure” because the camera had seemed unable to capture the movements that we had planned. It was almost one in the morning. We felt quite comfortable with the last take and we began to record other scenes. When we saw what we had filmed, during the post-production phase, I was surprised to see how perfect the first take had been. It was fantastic in slow motion. I don’t think we could have done better. In that I see the hand of Our Mother, the icon for the entire film. Her hand guided everything.
There were thousands of similar moments. I sense that it was the Virgin giving us advice with a few words, just like she did to Jesus: “They don’t have wine.” We heard her say to us: “You don’t have a clue how to write a script.” Subsequently she said: “They don’t have any lights,” and just then providentially we met Carlos Coroas who became our communications director. We also heard: “They don’t know how to direct a film,” and Bryan Shields dropped everything and came to Spain for two weeks to help us. We heard: “They don’t have any money for costumes,” and providentially we were flooded with clothing donated for the film. We heard: “They don’t have any idea how to organize everything.” The plan that we had was to film everything on the assigned day, without the possibility of re-recording scenes. If we were unable to film a particular scene, it would need to be left out of the movie. No actor fell through, became ill, or was injured. The rain did not prevent filming. “They don’t have the proper backdrops.” The town we had chosen to film had paved streets, while those of Garabandal during the time of the apparitions did not. That problem was solved when the mayor of the town donated a truckload of dirt to covered the paved streets. That was how it happened all through the movie, from the first idea to the last click of post-production. I believe that miracles continue to occur, now that the film is being distributed. We place our water before Jesus and He transforms it into the best wine.
6.- Tell us, which were the best and worst moments during the filming?
The main filming of the movie was done in twenty-seven days; to which we should add one additional day for recording of the audio. We re-recorded some twenty-seven pages of script, that is to say approximately 30% of the script for the movie was recorded in a single day. That day was very difficult, humanly speaking. It took us approximately eighteen hours almost without stopping. That is how Divine Providence works. We only had that day to record some scenes and God made that possible. However, in a sense I find it hard to say that this was our worst moments during the filming. There was such a family atmosphere that even in such moments, we were able to laugh and cheerfully share our work load with each other. We did not exactly sleep in hotels. The actors themselves and the technical crew: cooked, cleaned up, and did everything. I loved the family atmosphere that was created. Many of those involved told me that for them the filming was like being on retreat, and that is how I tried to live those days as well. The best moments for me were Mass and Adoration that were celebrated each day. We were under so much pressure and going at such rapid speed on all sides that these moments for me were essential. We could not even rest during our meals, because we needed to be thinking about the next scene. At Mass we placed all of what we were doing on the altar and turned it over to Our Lord. Prayer sustained all of us, and without a doubt these were the best moments of the filming.
7.- What do you think about the result? Are you satisfied?
I am very satisfied with the results of the movie. I wish to emphasize once more that it is a blessing having worked on this. The actors played their parts, all of the work that went into the costumes, how well everything related to lighting was done… I thank God for the excellent end result. Obviously there are some technical flaws, and I am sure that any professional director could have done things better than I did, but I feel that it turned out like the Virgin Mary wanted. One day the film’s music director, Karen McMahon, told me that the Virgin of Czestochowa in Poland is not the most attractive icon in the world, yet, nevertheless, it transmits the Virgin Mary and moves one who beholds the icon to prayer. I hope that our movie is also able to transmit Our Mother. If the movie produces fruit in terms of conversions, then it is precisely those faults that will make us recall that it was Him and Her who are responsible and not us. “Not to us, O Lord, but to your name give the glory.” The day after Karen McMahon told me that, in front of the computer where I worked, there was a small card of the Virgin of Czestochowa. I do not know how it got there.