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Photo by Tracy Gilbert
DDT - Film article
Oscar winners for 'Pan's Labyrinth', Montse Ribe and David Martí of DDT
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Photo by Tracy Gilbert
Rodar y Rodar home
Joaquín Padró, president-producer of Rodar y Rodar, and Mar Targarona, producer-director
Catalunya can rightfully boast to being southern Europe’s largest regional film force. In 2009, the Catalan government invested an impressive $21 million in film production and not just on local small-budget projects. In the last week of February this year, Antonio Banderas was in Barcelona to film scenes from the new film Knockout, a thriller directed by Steven Soderbergh, and also featuring Ewan McGregor and Michael Douglas. Other recent high-profile films shot here include Woody Allen’s romantic drama Vicky Cristina Barcelona, for which Spanish actress Penélope Cruz picked up an Oscar, as well as two other big 2009 features: Jim Jarmusch’s crime drama The Limits Of Control, starring Bill Murray and Gael García Bernal, and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s thriller Biutiful, starring Javier Bardem as a criminal confronted by an old friend who has become a cop. “We had a terrific experience shooting in Catalunya,” Jon Kilik, the US producer of Biutiful and The Limits Of Control, told Metropolitan. “The Catalan crew were very professional for both films and the local film commission was extremely helpful with providing permits to film in the busy streets.”
Woody Allen was also taken by Barcelona, and enjoyed the experience of working with Vicky Cristina Barcelona’s Catalan producers MediaPro so much that he decided to sign a three-picture deal with them. “Vicky Cristina Barcelona was a dream come true,” MediaPro’s Jaume Roures told Metropolitan. “We are very proud to be working with one of the world’s best film-makers.”
“We have a very strong film industry here in Catalunya,” said a spokesperson for the Barcelona Film Commission, who asked not to be named. “There are hundreds of productions that shoot here every year, which we help by providing facilities and shooting permits through our network of 120 members, including city councils, spread throughout the region.”
Film producers who shoot in Catalunya can potentially access up to €400,000 per project from the Catalan government, depending on the film’s Catalan cultural content (local director, crew, cast, story, setting, etc.) and its commercial success through box office and internet film downloads.
Furthermore, in an interesting twist, the Catalan government has also set up a €2 million per project funding incentive, with backing from local television broadcaster TV3, to support Catalan-language projects with international market appeal and bigger budgets. Recent films taking advantage of this fund include Daniel Benmayor’s 2009 historical drama Bruc, starring Juan José Ballesta as a Catalan drummer who takes on Napoleon’s army single-handedly, and Kike Maíllo’s sci-fi film Eva, starring Daniel Brühl as a shy genius who designs robot software, which will screen this year. Both films are budgeted at €5 million, which is a lot of money for a Catalan project.
“We want to create a brand of Catalan cinema that maintains a sense of our culture, but which can succeed all over the world,” said Xavier Parache, director of the government-backed Catalan Institute of Culture Industries (ICIC), which is charged with funding and supporting local projects.
This ‘thinking bigger approach’ coincides with a new breed of young, talented Catalan directors, producers and writers who are bursting onto the scene, making marketable films. Most of them are alumnae from the famous local film school, Escola Superior de Cinema i Audiovisuals de Catalunya (ESCAC), including Juan Antonio Bayona, director of The Orphanage, and Guillem Morales, who is currently hard at work editing his new horror/thriller Julia’s Eyes, starring Belén Rueda. The film is backed by Guillermo del Toro (director of the upcoming film of The Hobbit), US studio Universal, as well as local production outfit Rodar y Rodar and broadcaster TV3 among others.
“Barcelona is where the horror genre kicked off in Spain, and now there are many gifted young film-makers here in Catalunya who aren’t afraid to take risks with the genre, such as Morales with Julia’s Eyes, which we are proud to be producing,” said Joaquín Padró, president of Rodar y Rodar.
Also involved in horror is the Barcelona-based special effects outfit DDT, which has provided make-up and animatronics for some of the biggest Spanish films of the last 20 years, including Alejandro Amenábar’s The Sea Inside and Àgora, Pedro Almodóvar’s Talk To Her and Guillermo del Toro’s Spanish-Mexican co-production Pan’s Labyrinth.
“We are busier than ever on film productions, especially here in Barcelona,” said David Martí, co-founder of DDT and an Oscar winner for his work on Pan’s Labyrinth, including creating the character of Pan using internal motors and a lot of prosthetic make-up. “We used to work more on commercials, but they demand things to be done quickly and cheaply, so we prefer to focus on film.”
Martí is hard at work on the new Juan Antonio Bayona project to be called The Impossible, having recently finished doing effects for Joann Sfar’s biopic Gainsbourg (Vie héroïque), a mixture of fantasy and reality, and starring Eric Elmosnino as French icon Serge Gainsbourg.
However, all is not perfectly rosy in the Catalan film world. The Catalan parliament is due to pass a law, already approved by the Catalan government, requiring that at least 50 percent of films be dubbed or subtitled in Catalan. “In Catalunya we have only two percent of cinemas showing films in Catalan, which is crazy when you consider that 50 to 60 percent of Catalans have Catalan as their first language,” said Xavier Parache of ICIC.
The proposed law has outraged distributors. “This is crazy. We cannot afford to do this, both in terms of time and money,” responded Miguel Morales, head of acquisitions at local distributor Wanda Films.
“It can cost up to €50,000 per film to dub and subtitle. For the majors and big US studios like Fox or Sony, to dub into Catalan is maybe one percent of their income, but for us it is 30 percent. Furthermore, when local audiences are given the option of watching a film in Catalan or Spanish, they prefer to see it in Spanish anyway.”
The Catalan government actually tried to pass a similar law just over 10 years ago, but had to back down due to pressure from the US studios. This time they seem determined that the new law will be enforced.
Theatre owners have released figures showing that the number of people attending cinemas between 2003 and 2008 fell by seven million, due to piracy, the internet, digital television, etc., and claim that the new law would be the final nail in their coffins. The Generalitat maintains there is a wide audience who will choose to see films dubbed into Catalan, if the choice exists. It appears we’ll know soon.
THE NEW FILMOTECA
Catalunya’s film archive organisation Filmoteca is finally close to moving into two new premises, one in the Raval, and the other at the Park Audiovisual film studios in Terrassa, just outside Barcelona.
The building in the Raval is expected to open its doors by the end of the year. There will be two screening rooms, one with about 350 seats and the other with 200 seats, both situated underground. In addition, there will be a bookshop and cafeteria on the ground floor, and on the next three levels will be archive services, such as private screenings on monitors, exhibition rooms, a huge library of film books and finally the Filmoteca offices.
The Terrassa site will contain all the films from the Catalan archive, which totals more than 150,000 reels from two-minute shorts to major feature-length films.