ALEIX FARRÉS: "My office is always open."


Manresa is becoming an important film set. Series such as Hache and The Innocent and films like Marlowe, 7 Reasons to Run Away and Outlaws were filmed in the city. This month we interview Aleix Farrés, Manresa Film Office’s Film Commissioner. We talk about all this with him.

When and why was Manresa City Council’s Film Office created?

It was created many years ago in the Culture Department but remained inactive, I’m not sure exactly why. An attempt was made to reactivate it seriously at the end of 2016. We went to see Carlota Guerrero from the Catalunya Film Commission and said that we were offering Manresa as a city for shooting films. Starting from 2017, we began to have a few small things and we’ve now had more than 130 audiovisual projects.

What does your work consist of as Film Commissioner?

Support, advice and coordination for shooting films. Support when the production company presents the film shooting project and the licences. Seeing whether or not it’s feasible, looking at the possibilities of carrying it out. Also looking for locations. Negotiating with private individuals, because sometimes the production company has to call on very cold doors. As a city council we try to see whether it’s a project which is appropriate for the city, something very good for it. We open up paths. We also monitor the filming itself, when this begins.

My office is always open. They can call me at any time. If I’m not present on the shoot at that time. We’re permanently ready to address the needs of the producers. Being a civil servant, I have to clock in, but I’ve been called at 11 o’clock at night or even midnight. I’ve worked in the early hours of the morning. It’s true that you need a vocation for this. And you also have to have that artistic or visual point; otherwise, I don’t think you could do this job. Because there are times when you have to perform mundane tasks and manage a lot of things.



In your opinion, why is it so important to be a bridge between the production companies and the different municipal bodies and also the citizens as you mentioned earlier?

The production company always wants two things. First, speedy processing without having to run around calling on different departments. I act as a one-stop shop. And second, for everything to be as easy as possible when they start shooting. They want a smooth path. If they obtain this, they are happy and word spreads. This is what happened with Manresa, which has become quite fashionable.

What do you think attracts productions to shoot in Manresa? What special features does the city have as a film set?

In Manresa we’ve managed to film on all points of the compass: north, south, centre, east and west. The city has many locations, heritage, places to explore and we still haven’t reached the limit as far as this is concerned. I would highlight the action of some very important location managers such as Jaume Jordana, who opened doors for us on bringing different film shooting projects to fruition, both series and feature films.



What are the most commonly requested locations or, as you said, is the city more decentralized?

It’s true that when we began with the film office we reinforced certain points that the production companies needed, like hospital beds from the 80s, churches, open spaces. And I managed to find three places with these characteristics. Pirelli has 199,000 square metres of covered floor space. It has maybe the highest industrial building in Catalonia and another which is certainly the biggest in Catalonia. There we have everything, and you can even talk about the streets of Pirelli. A lot has been filmed there as if it were the Port of Barcelona, for example. A ship’s hold was filmed within the tallest building.

We also have the hospital which is still in operation, which has the advantage that part of it isn’t and we have operating theatres, beds, ... There we can combine customer service with the shoots. It’s headed by the patronage unit of Althaia. The rental received for the shoot is invested in improving the premises or if the oncology ward is in bad condition they refurbish it with the money generated. We also have the basilica of the Seu. The architect is the same as that of Santa Maria del Mar. It’s a very versatile basilica and doesn’t lose its attraction as a location, and we also have the baptistery and the crypt which are also very interesting. You can film there as if it were Barcelona Cathedral.



Do you also suggest possible locations to the production companies?

Yes, many of the locations from one of the firms that has won many awards, Outlaws, were suggestions. Before the shoot we trawled the streets with the director Daniel Monzón and his art director. One day in the middle of the street they said to me: “Listen Aleix, is there a ravine here where we can throw a corpse?” (laughs). I told them there were the ravines that look onto the Manresa-Terrassa motorway, but I suggested that they’d prefer the Manresa Canal, an engineering work from the 13th-14th century. There was a shortage of water in Manresa so they went to Balsareny to find it, just over 40 kilometres away. There, there are mediaeval bridges and it was much more what they were looking for. While we were talking about this we were in the middle of the street. Maybe if someone had heard us they would have reported us (laughs). In the end, the body was removed from a mediaeval bridge of the canal with Noriega as the inspector. The photo and the sequence are very good.



Another location that they asked for in Outlaws was a neighbourhood which wasn’t bourgeois or working class, something in between, because the main character lived with his family there. I showed them the Avecrem neighbourhood where it was very difficult to rent a flat in the 70s because it was very expensive. That’s why it was called like that, because the people who rented there only had enough money left to buy Avecrem. We always suggest locations from our specialities. We keep looking until we’re exhausted.


In relation to your experience, what has been the most complicated shoot that you’ve had to confront?

In general, the shoots for streaming or platforms and feature films are quite well planned. There are always needs which they may have. But you go faster and you’re always on the run with advertising shoots. They cause a lot of concern. The production company depends a great deal on the client, who may be very anxious, and you tend to be snowed under. They are problems which at the time make you feel a little nervous or stressed, but in the end it’s always the results that count and these have always been very good.


Shakira and Ozuna's video Monotonia

As for the more complicated shoots, the important ones like Outlaws, Marlowe, the video clip of Shakira with Ozuna and some advertisements like Audi all have a common denominator. The locations were either in the main roads of Manresa or a square or street such as the Plaza del Hospital (called Plaza de la Font in Outlaws) where you have to be especially sensitive with the passing of ambulances on being next to a hospital, visits, residence, outpatient care (at the beginning of the vaccination campaign). There was also a street with roadworks which was the main exit. In Plaza del Hospital we had to put props with ornamental elements from the time and fill it with sand for two weeks despite the complications mentioned. In these cases, such as that of the main roads (where there may be problems of street closures, bus routes to divert and crowds of fans to see the celebrities), we act in a coordinated manner with meetings to seek solutions with the production company, those affected and with the city council departments such as the local police and mobility. In this respect, it was an engineering feat to allow the ambulances to circulate around the square and the visits and the difficulties we encountered with COVID as well. It’s a good example of the correct involvement of everyone and of ensuring good communication with those affected.


In short, we make a great effort to find the solutions possible to apply to the technical and logistical problems. The production company and those affected are grateful. Personally, these problems are a good challenge in order to find a solution and have a good communication plan prepared. Lately, we’ve had a video clip with a famous singer and we were going flat out because the celebrity who came was very important.


What is the shoot that you believe put Manresa in the spotlight for more productions? Do you think that there was a before and after?

Marlowe, which premiered in the closing ceremony of the San Sebastián festival. Liam Neeson and Neil Jordan came one year ago. They shot in the centre of Manresa, near where Paseo Pere III meets Calle Jaume I and Plaza San Domènec, which is an epicentre which attracts a great deal of attention because it has a sort of American air and people like it a lot. When Liam Neeson came it caused quite a stir, in the positive sense, in the European media. Shakira came to the same place not long ago. The worldwide repercussion of the Manresa brand has been huge, both on the Internet and in the written media.



We also have a place, which is maybe the emblem of the city of Manresa as a centre for film shoots, although exteriors are shot there, but which is also a film set for interiors. It’s the La Anónima industrial facility which was built at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Electricity was generated there for the city of Manresa and it came into municipal ownership. Joking with a relative who’s in the music group Gossos I told them they could record a video clip there and they did. The production company for the video clip returned there, because they loved it. And the comment that the producer made to me was that the location was like a raw diamond, and that they had to take advantage of it because we would do lots of things there. And I said okay, let’s set it up. And it’s true that the films that have won the most awards this year were partly filmed there. Outlaws had four or five film sets inside it. Love Gets a Room by Rodrigo Cortés as well. A lot of production and filming has taken place there. It’s one of the most important places to be able to promote Manresa as a city of audiovisual projects.



What does Manresa City Council’s Film Office do to attract shoots?

We do it through our contacts, the fact that we can offer constant support, that we’re a one-stop shop, that we can help them, that the fees aren’t abusive, we make it easy to shoot and there are great locations. Word-of-mouth works and people who’ve come here leave fairly happy. Many production companies have come back again. The best directors, actors and production companies have been here, even coming from abroad.

What do you have to do to ask for a filming licence in Manresa? What steps do you have to take?

Normally, as they already have my details they call me first or send me a mail explaining the project and I tell them what they have to do online and from the outset we talk about whether it’s an easy project to fit in or whether there may be some difficulty. One characteristic that we also have is that we don’t systematically say no. We explore the possibility that it’s possible to shoot right to the end. If it’s ever necessary to say no, and now that I think about it I don’t think we’ve ever said no, it would be with a highly justified argument. We ensure that you can shoot, that the production company can come, shoot calmly and be happy with the result.



Do you have any project currently under way?

Six or seven projects are being proposed, sounded out, have already asked for a licence and are on the way to being fulfilled. For the moment, we haven’t stopped. I hope this lasts for many years. Everything is working very well and I think that here we also make it possible for there to be shoots toward the north of Catalonia. So far the problem that we’ve encountered is that Barcelona is Barcelona. The production company was very reluctant to change locations, for obvious reasons: mileage, workers, etc. Now they’ve taken their blindfold off they’ve seen that there are other things outside Barcelona and that they can have a much easier, more affordable shoot which offers more facilities.



We’ve already brought more than €3 million to the city since 2017 as regards hiring personnel, companies, equipment, accommodation, catering, castings, fees, etc. Also what I do when a shoot comes and I see that they have needs is to help them find the graphics, electricians, removals, cleaners, signposting... I provide addresses and telephone numbers of companies which offer a positive financial contribution to Manresa. This is also therefore a motivation for us. Beyond the fact that we want to promote the city, it also generates work, wealth and obviously also cultural wealth.

We started out with the 1961 Berlanga film Plácido which was nominated for the Oscars as Best Foreign Language Film and was filmed entirely in Manresa. The city has a very strong film tradition. There was the film noir festival Fecinema, which was very high quality. But then the crisis arrived and the sponsors started to disappear. It was organized by Joan Soler, who won a Goya with The Children from Nepal, together with other people. And they did it out of passion. Very important people formed part of the jury, both directors and actors; it was a very important film festival which even received great recognition in other festivals such as San Sebastián. And, of course, it was very important in the city of Manresa to take up the torch and to have continuity with the audiovisual projects. There’s also a cocktail of directors and actors in Manresa. Not long ago we had a Disney production directed by David Victori who is from Manresa. He won a festival organized by Ridley Scott and Michael Fassbender. 7 Reasons to Run Away by Esteve Soler, Gerard Quinto and David Torras was also filmed here. We need to maintain this legacy. Not long ago we celebrated the anniversary of Plácido with programmes and activities. And last year was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Berlanga. We’re trying to preserve this film setting.