Profile: Filmmaker & Professor David Miranda Hardy

By Will DiGravio

The work and life of film professor David Miranda Hardy epitomizes the complex relationship between art and politics. He grew up as a refugee in Spain, part of a Chilean family that had a love for the arts.

The fall of the Chilean dictatorship coincided with his return to the country and enrollment at the University of Chile, where he studied mathematics, physics and music, and trained as a sound engineer.

“Education was in trouble in Chile; the public university had been decimated and in particular the arts. It was really hard to [decide what to study] and there was no formal film school, yet,” he said. “But [the University] was a great place to meet people, and many of the people that I have collaborated with over the years were connections that I made while I was an undergraduate.”

The Chilean film industry began to take shape after Miranda Hardy graduated from school. At that time, he took an internship at a studio that had begun to make the transition from music to film. He helped finish and design the sound for two Chilean films, the first time a studio had done so in the country’s history. During the dictatorship, movies were primarily finished in Europe or the United States. This marked the beginning of his 23-year partnership with Marcos de Aguirre, the man running the studio, who Miranda Hardy has partnered with on a number of projects.

“I came to be a professional at the time digital technologies were taking over. For the first time, places like Chile, far away from the big media markets, could afford to invest in digital facilities,” he said. “I started testing the first softwares. We did the first Dolby encoded films in Latin America. I mixed the third digital Dolby film in Spanish and I was a kid, I was really, really young.”

After working as a freelancer on dozens of feature films across South America, Miranda Hardy decided to go back to school. He received a Fulbright Scholarship to attend Temple University in Philadelphia, where he earned his MFA and pursued his interest in teaching.

“I always had this thirst for more intense intellectual engagement,” he said. “My experience as a student was not great. There was always this want to be part of larger institutions.”

While at Temple, Miranda Hardy developed a desire to begin writing, directing and producing projects of his own. After graduating, he returned to Chile for two years and began to develop two television series and a feature film. Miranda Hardy, along with Aguirre, secured funding and received the green light from a network to write and produce one of the projects, a television series called “Bala Loca.”

The protagonist of “Bala Loca” is Mauro Murillo, an investigative reporter who rose to prominence after challenging the Chilean dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The series takes place post-dictatorship in 2016, where Murillo, who finds himself in a wheelchair after an accident, attempts to rebuild his life and form his own digital news outlet. After one of his reporters is suspiciously killed in a robbery, Murillo and his news organization decide to investigate.

The show explores a number of Chilean political and social issues, including the relationship between money and politics, health care, the legacy of authoritarianism, the role of the military, human rights, corruption and more. Miranda Hardy co-wrote the show in 2015 and spent much of 2016 in production. It premiered in July of last year.

“Chile’s equivalent to the ‘mainstream media’ is incredibly homogeneous ideologically, it’s all right-wing. Even though we have had 25 years of center-left governments, they never coalesced into a journalistic project that could hold. But with new technologies and the Internet, some really interesting press came back,” he said. “And our premise [for the show] is, what if, in discovering and unearthing the marriage between money and politics and levels of corruption in a democracy, a [new wave] journalist is killed.”

Miranda Hardy began producing “Bala Loca” the same year he arrived at Middlebury.

All faculty members are required to produce scholarly work, whether it is a book, a chapter of a book or a scholarly essay. For Miranda Hardy, who teaches screenwriting and production courses, his “research” is called “creative work,” and is comprised of the film projects creates or produces. 

According to Miranda Hardy, academia provides him with the structure and flexibility to be more selective in choosing the films he wants to work on. He believes that teaching and creating compliment one another.

“I love teaching. I think it is very nutritious intellectually,” he said. “I love seeing projects come to life and seeing young people figuring it out. I also hope I can ease some of that anxiety and lack of guidance that I had.”

He recently worked as the sound designer for the 2016 film “Jackie” directed by Pablo Larraín and starring Natalie Portman. Miranda Hardy had worked with Larraín, a fellow Chilean, on films and television shows in the past, including the HBO series “Profugos.” The film was shot mostly in Paris and in Washington D.C., and the sound was finalized with Miranda Hardy’s company in Chile.

“They wanted to work in our facility. There’s [only] a few facilities in Chile that are ready to work on a big project like this in coordination with other studios where you need to do ADR with some of the actors,” he said.

The film was released to critical acclaim in the fall of last year, and has been nominated for three Academy Awards.

Miranda Hardy is currently working on a few projects. “Bala Loca” will be released on Netflix with English subtitles in March of this year. And his production company, Filmosonido Chile, of which he is the head of the Contents Department, is currently in negotiations to produce a second season of the show.

He is also working on a six-episode mini-series that is near the end of development.

“It takes places in a small rural community outside Santiago in the time of the Agrarian Reform in Chile. It was an incredible period both politically and because of the human stories that are there,” he said.

Miranda Hardy is the series’ showrunner and creator, and is currently in the process of securing funding to launch the project.