Madrid’s ECAM Forum Off to Flying Start as ‘Gods of Stone’ Pic, ‘Estrella del Green,’ ‘She and Me But Mostly Her’ Series Nab Awards

Under the auspices of Comunidad de Madrid and the prestigious ECAM film school, the four day ECAM Forum co-production market got off to a flying start with its inaugural session, closing June 13 with an awards ceremony at Madrid’s historical Matadero cultural space.

One of eight features in work in progress, the creative documentary “Gods of Stone” (“Deuses de Pedra”) by the Spanish Iván Castiñeiras Gallego scooped the new Comunidad de Madrid award and its €15,000 ($16,000) cash prize earmarked towards its post-production.

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A trained cinematographer/filmmaker, graduate from ESTC in Lisbon, the Louis Lumiere School in Paris and ESCAC in Barcelona, Castiñeiras Gallego earned festival attention for his short docs “A raia” (2013) and “Where the Jungle Is” (2016).

Shot on 16mm, the Spain-Portugal-France co-production “Gods of Stone” is a non-linear compendium of stories portraying the way of life of a rural community located between Galicia and Portugal, on the oldest border in Europe. There, children’s stories merge with legends. Among the young people, Mariana grows up and aged 17, faces the decision to abandon her village and family to study abroad.

“The film we want to award tries to capture the essence of a timeless place and its people through a poetic and sincere gaze,” said the jury about the documentary produced by Spain’s Amateurfilms, with France’s  Promenon-nous dans les Bois and Portugal’s Rua Escura and Primeira Idade.

In the ‘Films to Come’ competition, the three winners reflect the rich array of titles from Spain and Latin America, helmed by newcomers and seasoned filmmakers, showcased in Madrid.

One of five projects from the celebrated ECAM Incubator lab, “Memorial” from Sergi Lopez (a best film Gaudí Award winner for “The Long Way Home”), won the Filmin Award consisting of €30,000 ($32,000) in a minimum guaantee from the Spanish streamer. In it, we follow Manel, a curator of Flemish paintings at the Prado Museum, who is forced to move to Belgium a Rubens painting to which he is deeply attached, while dealing with personal grief and family secrets in Madrid.

The jury praised the “unique project which masterly combines family, memories and art in a physical and spiritual journey deep in the soul.”The Spanish pic is being produced by Edna Cinema, Sumendi, Bteam, and Noodles.

“Phantom”, the musical drama by Cristóbal Fernandez (co-helmer of the festival docu hit “Mudar la piel”) about a group of musicians from the band Phantom, shaken by personal tensions, scooped the Madrid Film Office Award. Spain’s El Gesto Cinematográfico is producing.

Meanwhile the comedy “For Gods Sake” (“El Milagro de Surudí”) by Montevideo-born Lorenzo Tocco, who scooped best short at Guadalajara for “The Anniversary,” won the IFFR Pro Award which gives it access to the next Rotterdam and Cinemart market.

In the Series competition, the Benidorm-set black comedy “Estrella del Green” by London-based Spanish writer-creator Denise Moreno, among HBO Access’ 25 emerging directors, was handed out the Series Mania Award and an invitation to the next Lille-based leading series festival and forum. The six-part series, in early development, turns on an unlikely duo – a pregnant zillennial and a bankrupt diva in her seventies, who set up a weed empire in Benidorm.

Pierre Ziemniak, head of the Series Mania Institute – a close partner to ECAM school – said the Series Mania Award rewards “the screenwriter of a profoundly Spanish series project with strong international potential” and a “story about two women that will attract audiences in several countries.” The U.K. co-production, spearheaded by Jonathan Duncan of Common People Films, was looking for a majority Spanish producer in Madrid.

Another standout Spanish comedy series project, “She and Me, But Mostly Her” (“Ella y yo sobre todo Ella”), penned byMarta Ambel Meyer, scooped the Serielizados Award. The humorous and heartfelt story tells of Claudia, 30, who would rather lie to her friends and to the world rather than accept her brother’s bipolar disorder. The creator told Variety that her aim with what she dubbed a ‘traumedy’ is to raise awareness and foster understanding on mental health issues through a well-balanced dose of humour and sensitivity.

Six other awards went to emerging Spanish talents and their short films:

Alba Menor won the best debut and Abycine Lanza awards for “Manu Drives at Night,” Claudia Gracia the Skyline Benidorm Award for “Turbocapitalend,”, Sara Domínguez the Short Film Lab Award for “You Will Grow Scales,” Matías García the Madrid Film Office Award for” No One Wants to Bury You” and Guillermo Chapa the Telemadrid Award for “Love to See You Again”.

Flawless First ECAM Forum

Expectations were high for the first ECAM Forum and its organisers-ECAM Industria head Rafa Alberola, ECAM Forum coordinator Alberto Valverde and their team. Even so, after four days of pitches, meetings and conferences in a warm and festive working atmosphere, the overall consensus from both attendees and organisers, was that the event ‘s ace kick-off beat all expectations.

Among the 50-plus international delegates that included a who’s-who of some of top world festival programmers, from Cannes’ Director’s Fortnight to Toronto, Sundance, Rotterdam and Locarno, the Berlinale’s Jacqueline Nisiah praised both the organisation and the program. “I thought ECAM Forum was very well organised, the information flow and hospitality were amazing. I felt very well taken care off, all the invited guests were super nice and we enjoyed enriching conversations.”

Regarding the works in progress she added: “the films presented at the Last Push were very well curated, it’s the first thing that sprung into mind, after the first day. I think the films were a good mix of fiction, documentary and hybrid, some with a stronger commercial appeal, others more experimental. Generally, I would say the standard of the films was high.”

Echoing Nisiah’s positive feedback, Stockholm-based Olivier Guerpillon (“Fox in the Snow”), producer of the acclaimed “Costa Brava, Lebanon” and Magnolia Pictures acquired-“Sound of Noise,” said “the Forum really delivered! We were obviously expecting good projects, good food and good weather, but the quality level of the projects really impressed us, as well as the great range of professionals invited. It was very friendly and well organised, and we think it can only grow in importance, when we see how Spanish and Latin American cinema are booming and bursting with creativity.”

On a business level, he said “as a Swedish company currently co-producing our first project with Spain [“Forastera” by Lucía Aleñar Iglesias], we want to develop bridges between Sweden and the Spanish-speaking countries so this was great. We had good co-production meetings with very exciting projects. The format allowed also for generous time for all the guests to get to know each other beyond the classic one-to-one meetings, which is really important to strengthen co-production bonds between companies and long-term connections with filmmakers.”

Also from Sweden, Jenny Gilbertsson from the leading Scandinavian regional film fund Film i Väst who was also exploring new co-pro ventures, said she was impressed “by the range of emerging new talent, with energy and creativity. Spain is a highly productive film country and the co-productions with Latin America were also interesting,” she said.

Ziemniak handles Series Mania’s key Spanish connections, on an academic, festival and business level. “I was struck by the buzzy atmosphere and fluidity of the event anchored in the reality of the current market,” he said.

Booming Spanish Market

The reality of the Spanish – and Madrid region – audiovisual market, still on an upswing despite the challenging overall micro-economic climate and the need to consolidate and create new international bridges, was underscored by Gonzalo Cabrera Martín, head of the cultural department of the Comunidad de Madrid, ECAM Forum’s main backer.

“For a few years we’ve been working on how to improve the audiovisual industry in Madrid. We thought the best way was to work with ECAM, as they are one of 15 best film schools in the world and an excellent partner.”

“Through ECAM Forum, we want to stimulate co-productions, international cooperation, but also entice post-production works and filming here, as we have several top-end studios here,” he said, referring notably to Netflix’s Tres Cantos European Production Hub just north of Madrid hub and advantageous tax rebates of up to 30% in Madrid.

And indeed, according to the Madrid Film Office, 2023 was a year of intense filming activity in the Spanish capital which saw filming increase by 8% from 2022 with 930 medium and large projects including 15-plus international feature co-productions such as “Daniela Forever” by Nacho Vigalondo and ‘Volveréi’ by Jonás Trueba.

“Then education is key,” Cabrera Martin goes on. “We collaborate with the Torino Film Lab among prestigious international film initiatives, to bring different talents here. We are just trying to create a huge wide network of international collaborations on all levels,” he told Variety.

ECAM Forum 2025

Looking at 2025, Gonzalo Salazar-Simpson, ECAM general manager said the plan is to consolidate the new co-production showcase “as a short, efficient and memorable” event for students and professionals alike.
Reiterating the school’s DNA as a private non-profit organisation focused on education and post-education and industry-led initiatives, he said: “Our ultimate goal is about making the field fertile for talent to grow and flourish.”

For the next edition, Alberola promises to apply the same recipe of success of a focused and friendly working environment with a high-standard of projects and guests. “We wanted to created a spot where people could find projects, but also find each other.

“Projects change, you can’t control that, but if people come here and feel they are well treated and they can extend their network,” they will come back,” he asserts. “The biggest challenge is to keep up the level of this first edition!” he said. 
Meanwhile Valverde said he will look into attracting perhaps ‘bigger’ names and making the best use of the cultural Matadero (a former abattoir) multi-disciplinary artistic space.

He said he also hopes to expand the conferences and seminars which welcomed this week, among other luminaries, U.S. indie production veteran Ted Hope and French cinematographer Hélène Louvart. “I’d love to expand the space for inspirational talks, bring in engineers, philosophers, other professionals who can explain how images, stories move us,” he said.

In total, more than 400 audiovisual students and professionals signed up for the ECAM Forum where 53 films and series in development and post-production were showcased over June 10-14 in Madrid.

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