Ivet Castelo Torres, Catalan indie film co-director and co-producer of the upcoming film, “Ojos Negros,” sat down with me last month for an interview. Over some classic paella and a glass of wine, she discussed the movie’s plot and intricacies of shooting in Spain, as well as some of the unique properties of pursuing an education in filmography.
“Ojos Negros,” which means “black eyes,” doesn’t entirely translate in English. Ivet informed me that the title is the name of a town in the middle of Spain with around 500 people.
The film got its inception two years ago when Ivet and her peers Iván Alarcón, Sandra García and Marta Lallana were still pursuing their bachelor’s and decided to make the film as a thesis project at Universitat Pompeu Fabra. They chose a feature film over a documentary or other media format “because it has the biggest market.”
Since their graduation, Ivet and her team of three other directors have continued committing themselves to the project. In total, her crew is composed of 23 technicians, four main actors and the four co-directors, which currently totals at €20,000 (or roughly $25,000), not including the cost of post-production, distribution and additional grants from public funds.
The film is currently being produced by Nanouk Films, and 90 percent of it is shot. Considering post-production and the need to come up with the remaining money needed to finish it, Ivet expects the film to be completed in roughly one year.
“In Spain, when you are a small production team, you have public funds available towards the funding of your film.” Ivet said. “If you are from Catalan, you have access to the ISEC, which is the Catalan-specific public source of funds. However, we have a big problem since our production company is from Catalan. We are shooting outside of its borders, and in the Spanish language we cannot receive Catalan funding.”
Instead, Ivet and her team have had to seek public funding from the local banks within the town of Ojos Negros.
She later touched on how any production company — for example an American one — can partner with a resident Spanish business to serve as a co-production outlet that enables them access to Spain’s public funding.
The best-case scenario is that the film can get into a couple of festivals. “I hope we can get into festival Málaga, more Spanish film festivals, European film festivals and possibly even an international film festival like Rotterdam, but these cost money as well,” Ivet said.
When asked how her team plans to market the film and ultimately reach their target audience, she mentioned that “it is very difficult, especially for a film so tiny, but the best thing to get is a distributor. That can really help you, because without one it is practically impossible for people to see your movie.”
She also went on to note that obtaining a distributor is another hurdle in the filmmaking process. “The thing that is really hard is obtaining a distributor before the release of the movie. Most likely, we will launch the film and hopefully catch the eye of a distributor, and then they will help us,” Ivet said.
Halfway through the interview, I decided we talked enough about the logistics of the filming process, so after a cup of espresso, we shifted gears into discussing the details of the film.
“It is a coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old girl who just moved in with her family that she doesn’t really know. It is about how you start to understand changes, people around you change, relationships change and it is not something you can fight — it is something you need to get used to. What happens is she travels to Ojos Negros and lives with this family that she does not really know along with her grandmother, who gets sick and becomes uncomfortable to be around,” Ivet said.
I asked her about the theme of sexuality in the film, as the teaser trailer hints at a possible romantic relationship between the main character and another young girl who becomes her friend.
“Yes, a little bit, but this is a topic we wanted to leave open to interpretation. We talked about it a lot in the beginning. We decided on making it subtler. Ultimately, we did not want to say one thing or another. At that age, we believe it is normal to make a pure and strong connection with someone regardless of their gender, and it is adults who see something deeper in that type of relationship,” Ivet said.
Lastly, I asked her if there was anything she wanted to talk about further and let people know.
“I think it is really important we talk about how this is a film that is not really the best example of an indie Spanish movie, because we started the film outside of the industry as students. It is much more of an underground movie: We did it with nothing. If it had been truly indie, it would have a €200,000 price tag and not a €20,000 one. We started completely alone — only four people — eventually we found a production company, and then everything else came,” Ivet said.
I also asked her what advice she has for those who are trying to make a film and are in the similar predicament of being a young college student with a great idea and drive to pursue the next step.
After a moment to consider her answer, she stated “I would say don’t start to shoot until you have it really, really, really clear and (laughing) try to get the money before you shoot and not after, or else you will be in debt.”
My final question referred to moviegoers in the United States: Where can people watch the film when it premieres?
“Hopefully we will try to put it on a Spanish Netflix, but that’s a production company question. However, you will definitely be able to buy it digitally when it is released,” Ivet said.
To view the unofficial teaser trailer for “Ojos Negros,” go to this link and enter the password “ojosnegros” for access. To stay up to date on all things related to the film, you can follow their Facebook and Instagram pages.