martes, mayo 01, 2012

INSIDE THE CATALAN FILMFACTORY, the ESCAC


Barcelona (CNA).- Motion pictures like Eva, by Kike Maíllo, El Orfanato (‘The Orphanage’), by Catalan director Juan Antonio Bayona, Tres dies amb la familia (‘Three days with the family’) directed by Mar Coll, Blog (‘Blog’) by Elena Trapé or Lo mejor de mi (‘The best of me’) by Roser Aguilar, are only some of the movies responsible for the widespread consolidation of ESCAC as a highly respected institution both on the Spanish and international scene. Similarly to FC Barcelona’s seemingly endless pool of young promises, the ESCAC is something like the “factory” of Catalan productions, a private university school dedicated to the manufacture of blossoming cinematographic talent in Catalonia, and which has established a new way of “creating” and understanding cinema.

By ANNA PACHECO
Next to the Cinema Academy of Madrid (ECAM), ESCAC is one of the few official cinema schools in Spain. Josep Maria Caparrós, a film professor at the University of Barcelona (UB), recalls the beginnings of the school, 15 years ago: “the ECAM is the heiress of the traditional, official cinema school dating back to the Franco regime. Barcelona never had a film school although it has always been a much more open, avant-garde city. Barcelona has traditionally been more experimental, with a different mentality from Castilian tendencies”.

The “ESCAC formula” consists in a rigorous mix of theory and, especially, a solid, practical knowledge. Every year, more than a hundred students apply to enter the school, but only 80 of them are admitted after passing an initial exam. “The first stage of the selection process is very hard -admitted Caparrós- but it is necessary to guarantee the high level of the school”. One of the strengths of the ESCAC is that “you are filming from the very first year”, says Pau Balagué, a graduate and one of the 13 directors of Puzzled Love, the latest ESCAC film nominated at the San Sebastian Film Festival last summer.

ESCAC’s strength, which also lies in its own production company, ESCANDALO FILMS, is responsible for releasing all the audiovisual projects made at the school (such as short films or feature films). Caparrós positively valued ESCANDALO FILMS’ task: “it is a way of focusing talent and of creating the future generation of cinema professionals in Catalonia”. ESCANDALO FILMS has produced about 200 hundred short films with approximately 400 international awards like the Sundance Film Festival, the OSCAR Academy Awards or the Mèlies d’Argent.

Despite the fact that the cinema industry seems to be in the middle of a crisis, the truth is that ESCAC’s demand is increasing. Javier Ruiz Ortiz is from Cantabria but has lived in Madrid for five years, and is now following a Master at the ESCAC in Marketing, Sales and Cinema Distribution. “Apart from ESCAC’s great image outside Catalonia, I chose this school because of the theme of my Master, because it is the only one available in Spain, and the reputation of its guest speakers. I also felt like living in a seaside city.”

According to Caparrós, “coming here to study cinema is a good choice”. Catalonia is consolidating a broad cultural offer in all aspects and ‘Barcelona’ as a brand has a promising potential. It could be considered as another “cinema capital”, at the same level as other cities like London, Paris or New York. In addition, professor Caparrós remembers that “we have the most important Horror and Fantasy Film Festival in the world, the International Film Festival of Sitges” which has demonstrated that the Spanish film industry is more alive than ever.

(Publicado en Catalan News Agency, http://www.catalannewsagency.com, 20-IV-2012)