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The director of Netflix's Ibiza has never even been to Ibiza

We interviewed the director of Ibiza and it didn't go well...

  • Funster
  • 26 June 2018

Ibiza: the white isle, the birthplace of Balearic brilliance, the only place to drench yourself in an Es Vedra sunset and most recently the subject of a heinous new Netflix movie. As if Kevin & Perry Go Large wasn't enough, the big dogs over at Netflix have decided that there should be a new film to sum up the hedonistic haven that is Ibiza and it's now available for all to see.

Aptly named Ibiza, the film follows three American girls (who struggle to pronounce Ibiza correctly the entire film) as they travel to everyone's favourite clubbing paradise and if luke-warm rom-coms are your thing, then you're in luck. The lead character falls in love with an EDM DJ and absolute hilarity ensues (it doesn't).

We spoke to the director Alex Richanbach about how he made the film, his influences and his take on glamourising drugs. This is perhaps the most awkward interview we've ever done.

We'll let you read for yourself how it went. See you on the island.

What made you want to make a film about Ibiza

Well my friend Lauren Kahn had written the script about her and her friends taking this trip to Ibiza (pronounced eebeeza) and I’d always really loved it. She wrote it a few years ago and I had read it when we were working together at Funny Or Die and I had wanted to make a movie about friends travelling and bonding through a crazy trip. When she called me and said they were going to make the movie and they were looking for a director I kind of jumped at it because it just felt like it was an opportunity to do a really big comedy that would also have a lot of real heart to it.

In terms of films about Ibiza, have you seen Kevin & Perry Go Large?

You know it’s funny I’ve actually been asked that a few times. I didn’t watch any other films that took place in Ibiza before we made it because I just wanted to stay focused on being true to our story, so the short answer is no I haven’t but I am aware of it.

As I'm sure you know, it’s an old school, classic UK comedy. For us in terms of representing Ibiza as an island, although its very silly and an undeniable gross-out comedy, it’s pretty close to Ibiza.

I’ll definitely check it out this summer now that we’ve finished this movie. I’m excited to see if we did it proud.

Have you been to Ibiza?

You know I hadn’t been able to go. So I did all my research through our writer who spent a lot of time there and also Richard Madden who spent a lot of time there and I sort of watched as much as I could from a documentary stand-point and I read books and did as much as I could. But the speed of which we prepped the film I wasn’t able to get there.

It would seem quite shocking to a music fan or someone who’s been to Ibiza a lot that the film would be made without the director having not actually gone to the island. It’s a very spiritual place and it’s a place where people have founded a lot of great memories. Through watching the film it felt like a lot of that essence had been lost. I think you have to have seen the island and experienced it to really get it. With that being said, that means you haven’t been to any of the clubs in Ibiza as well right?

*long silence* I haven’t been to Ibiza.

One of the main talking points post-release is that the Spanish government isn't happy about it. They might sue and the Ibiza tourist board said that it represented a side of the island that they weren’t happy about. Do you know what’s happening with that?

I don’t really have any comment on that specifically. That’s their business. I’ve heard directly from a lot of people on social media and also spoken with an Ibizan newspaper who’ve all said they’re very happy about the film. I'm not too worried about that. People get upset about things, I can’t worry about that too much.

But none of the film was actually shot in Ibiza was it? Like none at all?

*long silence* Yeah that’s correct.

So the sunset, the travelling to the clubs, the actual club scenes. None of it was there. It was all in Croatia?

That’s correct.

I guess like I said before, Ibiza is the sort of place where you need to have gone and been on the island. It’s very different from anywhere in the world so I think that’s lost if it’s not actually filmed there.

I’m sorry you feel that way but the film was written by someone who’s spent a lot of time in Ibiza and we did spend a lot of time, to the best of our abilities, convey that side of the island and to show there was something special. Of course it’s an adventure comedy about a nightclub, so while we try to show the sunset and some of the different aspects of the island, it’s a very fast film. I’m sorry that you feel this way but I’ve heard from a number of people that they don’t feel that way.

Like I say, I work at Mixmag, we’re the world's biggest dance music magazine so when a film about Ibiza comes out, naturally we’re intrigued. A lot of our work over the year takes place there. You mentioned it was a fast paced comedy, so it’s clear you went for a rom-com rather than a true representation of what it’s like on the island.

I think we accomplished both.

Right. Talking more specifically about some of the scenes, there’s a lot of excess. There’s quite a lot of drug-use. There’s a scene where Nikki takes three pills at an after-party, believed to be ecstasy and there’s also a club scene where they’re also all taking ecstasy. At the moment, there’s an epidemic where pills are the strongest they’ve ever been, people are dying and there are fatalities all over the world. Do you not feel there’s a duty to educate rather than glamourise in this case. If someone took three pills it would probably kill them.

I’m sorry I thought we were talking about music today. I do take drug use seriously, this is something that was based on our writer’s own experiences while she was on vacation and is meant to be a big, crazy comedy. We do take that [drug-use] seriously but there’s also a certain amount of narrative license being taken to push the boundaries of the comedy.

I hear that but we report on drug-related illnesses and death all the time and this is a film that’s on Netflix, that anyone can access and there’s a scene where someone is taking three ecstasy pills and she’s having a whale of a time. While that may be the case for some people…

She doesn’t take three ecstasy pills.

What were the three pills then?

Are you talking about the ones in the mansion?

Yeah there’s the ones in the mansion and then later in the club.

It’s loosely assumed those pills are Adderall but it’s never specified.

It’s not actually said, is it? I just don’t think anyone would assume it’s Adderall, you’d guess that 99% of the time that’s ecstasy.

She says [Nikki] it’s a pill that makes kids hyper.

That what she thinks but as you say, it’s not specified when it’s being given to her. I’m coming at this from an angle that our readers, and indeed children around the world, will be watching this film and it’s something we need to talk about.

I’m not sure I agree with that but OK.

OK. Did you consult any DJs or speak to any big name Ibiza acts when making the film? Anyone who might be able to offer insight. People like Steve Aoki, it feels like the film is loosely based on them.

I did and I spent some time shadowing some of them.

Which DJs?

I’d like to keep that private for their sake but they’re big DJs.

Cool. What sort of process did you go through to select the soundtrack because it’s primarily EDM?

The majority of the EDM takes place in the club and the reason for that is because it’s set in Ibiza. We worked with a great music supervisor called Dave Jordan and also Trygge Toven and they put together playlists of EDM songs. I worked with them over the period of a few months to narrow down what felt like the right songs for our film and largely we played a lot of it live while we filmed the scenes. It was really about trying to tell the experience of the characters featured in it.

EDM, as you say, is the main focus of the soundtrack but I reckon 70% of the island’s main musical output swings towards underground house and techno now. It’s moving away from that culture slightly. Did you think about including underground music or even different styles of music. Ibiza isn’t as big on EDM as it was say five years ago.

We did look at all of that. We felt like for the tone of this film and the experience we were trying to create in the club, that the songs we chose were the right fit for our film.

What kind of music are you into? Do you like dance music?

I do.

Who are some of your favourite DJs?

*long silence* Well I got to spend a lot of time listening to these massive playlists so I didn’t go deep into albums or anything. Instead I was listening to these multi-hundred song playlists of mixes of artists. I’ve been listening to that for months now I think that you’re seeing a representation of stuff I like in the soundtrack.

Cool. Is there anything else you’d like to add about the movie? In hindsight would you maybe have gone to Ibiza to check it out before making a film about it?

*long silence* There’s nothing else I’d like add.

Funster is Mixmag's Digital Editor and he's actually been to Ibiza, follow him on Twitter

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