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EUGENI OSÁCAR: “There is an absolute coincidence between the places which appear in films and those which are visited for tourism”.


We interview Eugeni Osácar, Research Director of the Tourism, Hospitality and Gastronomy Campus CETT-UB. He is also a lecturer at the University School of Hospitality and Tourism CETT-UB, an expert in marketing, heritage, cultural tourism and film tourism. In October he is publishing a new edition of Barcelona: Movie Walks, a book which reviews our city’s film history.

This book is an expansion of another that you published in 2013. What new developments does this edition contain?

Its co-publishers are again the publishing company Diëresi and Barcelona City Council. To complete this book, the council told us that it had to be a second edition, not a new approach. The publisher did, however, want to make substantial changes, so we came to a compromise. It sort of maintains the format of the book with chapters by genres or by directors, film types, Hollywood, etc. It has 50 pages more and five new chapters. The previous one had 15 and this one has 17. You could say: where are these new chapters? But we have changed or modified some of them, and some, such as the one about the film L’auberge espagnole (Pot luck), we have subdivided into two with one on French film.


What are the new chapters?

The one on French film, where I tried to recover things which are not known, such as the fact that Jean Seberg and Jean Paul Bellmondo shot here in the 50s and 60s or the whole story with Jean Moreau. Another is about Asian cinema, above all intended for the English edition. The majority are films from India, China and Japan, which are not released here, but which are quite successful in their countries of origin. The one about female directors is completely new. We were about to include it in the previous edition, but we dispersed them in several chapters. There is one about Catalan film, which has been produced in Barcelona. And another entitled “Barcelona beyond Barcelona", which is a subject on which I have been working quite a bit recently on a university level: films which are shot in Barcelona but which do not represent Barcelona. Although there are some, such as Perfume, which have their own specific chapter. Here I tried to include the most well-known such as, for example, Savage Grace and Circus World, and others which are probably less well-known. 


How did the idea of the book arise?

In around 2005. As a lecturer and researcher in a university school, one of the lines of research on which I work is the tourism and film nexus. At the beginning of the 21st century, some countries were already doing this. Part of my training is in tourism marketing and I saw that this was a good opportunity. Tourism and film have been used as a marketing tool for some time now in places such as New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. This was not done here. Starting from this, I began to work on projects such as the one that we created with the council, the Barcelona Movie website. But I had always been obsessed by publishing on paper. And, in 2012, this opportunity arrived. It was very interesting, because the council was behind it, which guaranteed us an important print-run in several languages and a lot of photos, which is what this type of book needs. We then did the one on Catalonia and now this second edition of the one on Barcelona.


What has Barcelona got to make it a film setting? Why does it attract so many shoots?

Two things, which you in the Barcelona Film Commission know as well as me. It is a very heterogeneous city; it has all kinds of locations, from locations which hide Barcelona to fantastic views of the city. It has a lot of light. The climate helps a great deal. And the fact that many productions rely on the technical teams which exist in the city. Barcelona has a great tradition in the audiovisual world. And if we add to all this the fact that it is a top tourist destination, this means that the combination of a virtuous circle, as some of us call it, converts it into a destination to host important shootings. 


What do you think is the film which has had the most influence on making the city well-known after being filmed here?

The one which had the most media repercussion and which gave rise to the most news items in the media, or the most influence in the social networks, is Vicky Cristina Barcelona. If the question is “Does Vicky Cristina Barcelona reflect Barcelona?”, I would say: it reflects one part of Barcelona which has many other parts. For some years now I have taken advantage of this film and Biutiful, because they coincide in the same period, to say that they are two sides of the city and that they are not the only one. They both show the view of two very different directors, González Iñarritu and Woody Allen, but these two Barcelonas do exist. The great success is that, in many cases, they both use the same locations, simply approached in a different manner, to explain diametrically opposed stories.


What is the most cinematographic part of the city? What are the places which have been filmed the most in Barcelona?

Before I used to say it by intuition. Now I have studied it quite a lot, above all if we’re talking about more or less international productions. There is an absolute coincidence between the places which appear in films and those which are visited for tourism. This is normal because, with the teams which come from outside, some already know the city as tourists, and therefore they cannot resist using those places that they have visited. In a study that I carried out three years ago, the location which appeared the most in international productions was the Sagrada Familia. It appeared in almost 60% of films with international coproduction. This is no surprise. La Rambla obviously, as well.


What parts of the city do you believe have become film settings which a few years ago were not?

There are two. First, the whole of the seafront, which I believe the whole city has won. Perhaps in excess now. It is obvious that, after the Olympic Games and the 2004 Forum, we obtained 5 km of beach; the beach was recovered for the city and film has exploited this in an absolute manner. Second, in 2012 Barcelona City Council and the districts drafted an initial tourist and cultural decentralization plan. One of the objectives with which we were entrusted in CETT was to seek new spaces, and one of them was Turó de la Rovira, the famous viewpoint. Look what has happened. In five years, we have the opposite situation. The same council has now entrusted us with a study on how to better manage a small space in which permanent residents live. Audiovisual, not just film but also series and video clips, have converted it into a must see, one of those essential places that you have to visit. It is a space which has radically changed.


And which parts of the city do you believe are underused?

Some parks. Without going any further, next to Turó de la Rovira is Guinardó Park, which is marvellous. It has some fantastic spaces and views of the city and it has hardly appeared in any films. There are some districts which are less used and less well-known by tourism, such as Les Corts and Nou Barris. But this forms part of the city’s idiosyncrasy, that which is more well-known is also used more audiovisually.


The Hollywood of the 20s found the city very attractive, something which is not well-known. Why did they shoot these films in Barcelona? What did the city offer which Hollywood did not give them?

It is true that Barcelona has been filmed a lot, above all in European films, but also those from elsewhere. Starting from the 50s, Barcelona and the Costa Brava began to be an area of interest for people like Orson Welles and other major directors or actors such as John Wayne. However, starting from the 20s actors like Douglas Fairbanks came, not so much to shoot, but rather for promotional tours which are now so common and which mean that the majority of well-known actors and directors pass through Barcelona. At the time, however, it was very exceptional to find a major Hollywood star in Barcelona promoting a film.


What stage do you believe was the most important in relation to film shootings in the city?

From a tourism point of view we can say that 1992 placed Barcelona on the map. I tend to say that, with all the nuances involved, the release of Pedro Almodóvar’s Todo sobre mi madre (All about My Mother) in 1999 placed Barcelona on the film map. It also coincides, in this first decade of the 21st century, with a commitment by the City Council and the Generalitat to audiovisual. If we look closely, the immense majority of big films which were shot in Barcelona and Catalonia are from 2001 to 2008, before the great crisis.


Recently, a great deal of Asian production is being shot in the city. You devote a chapter of the book to this. Do you believe that Barcelona is becoming a regular shooting location for these productions, and if so why?

Yes, but I couldn’t tell you the reason. Starting in 2011, above all as a result of the Indian film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. It was a campaign by Turespaña with a clear commitment to get them to come to shoot, not just here, but in the whole of Spain. It is, however, true that a whole series of productions suddenly came from Tollywood more than Bollywood, shot in Telegu not Hindi. This increase also coincides with the tourist interest in Barcelona by India and China, as already occurred historically with Japan. Interest is growing, especially in China. In the case of India, this was helped a great deal by the wedding of the Mittal family, a steel industry magnate, which had an immediate repercussion on certain people from a certain position in the country. The musical performances tend to be shot here. These films have a certain success there. Urban tourism from India has experienced considerable growth in Barcelona, despite the fact that it continues to be minority. If we add this to that of Japan and China, these are very promising markets. This is one of the reasons for doing this chapter. Apart from the fact that no one knows it, since the majority of the films are not released here.


What is the return of the shoots for the city in relation to tourism?

This has not been studied in either the film sphere or the tourism sphere; it is a pending subject. The president of the Spain Film Commission, Carlos Rosado, has said that 30% of the investment in a shoot stays in the territory. I am convinced that this was compiled with data and the example of significant productions in some part of Spain, Andalusia, above all. However, in Spain there has been no study in the tourism sphere on this and I believe that it will be a major challenge. First, you need to combine audiovisual and tourism, undertaking joint promotion campaigns. Second, you need to convince everyone about the suitability of this nexus. We would, however, need figures in order to make it tangible. In other countries, such as New Zealand, Malta, the United Kingdom or Iceland, this has been done as a country strategy. Not here.


How does film help to promote tourism?

In several ways. First, because the fact that a space appears in a film, a series or even a video clip, helps that image to be positioned from a tourism viewpoint. We have seen this thousands of times since what happened to New York with Woody Allen’s Manhattan. Second, seeing a place in a film makes people interested in visiting it. Third, it manages to attract a very specific type of public, the setjetters whose main motivation is to discover the places where it was filmed. This brings you a very interesting segmented type of public. And fourth, which is very important, is that it allows a different tourism offering to be created. It allows you to create guided or non-accompanied tours, having moviemaps, apps so that certain locations can be discovered. There is a whole film tourism offering which can differentiate some locations from others.


You helped to create Moviewalks, a website with walks around the city related to the shooting of films such as, for example, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Salvador or Todo sobre mi madre. How did this website arise?

It was innovative when it was created in 2007, since it was the first website of this kind. It was one of my proposals which arose from CETT. The Barcelona Film Commission provided its knowledge and background. The Turisme de Barcelona consortium offered financial help to bring it to a successful completion. And I contributed my knowledge. The idea of very meticulous routes, free and in PDF format, was innovative. Now it is out of date. There were moreover changes in the Film Commission and Barcelona Turisme stopped being a priority issue. The right of exploitation belongs to CETT and it can be consulted despite the fact that it has not been updated since 2009. I trust that it will be taken up again in the future. Let’s see if we can do something much more suitable for the 21st century: with a large database starting from actors, directors, locations and allowing everyone to create their own route.


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