Barcelona based creative studio Norte produce work which is vibrant, full of original ideas and coloured with diverse stylistic approaches. Norte’s latest project Ferro, draws you into a stunning but dangerous world which exudes loneliness while captivating you with curiosity. This short but powerful film is an insightful look into the mastery of the subtle, whereby an ardent tension coupled with a darkly enticing tone is produced and skilfully executed in just 50 seconds. Marc Teixido of Norte explains how the team experimented with iron filings and 3D animation to craft a short which encapsulates the spirit of the studio.
How did Norte come about? Do you have any advice for filmmakers who are thinking of setting up a production company?
It was an absolutely natural process. It’s me and four friends who have been working in the industry (here in Barcelona and London) as freelancers for many years. We have recently started to work more in-house and are focusing on our joint studio projects. Time is always a problem when filmmaking so to allow us more time to build up the company we have been trying to limit our external freelance collaborations with other studios. We all have different strengths, and they complement each other. For us this is the key to finding the balance in the studio. We are first friends, and then partners. We’re still rookies when it comes to setting up a production company, but we think that the process needs to be as natural as possible. Trying to force collaborations with people you don’t really know, but you think can be your partners, may work in short term but you may end up with difficulties in the future. Making a personal project is a good way to start a studio. It’s an opportunity for everyone to have fun, collaborate and show our dedication to the future of the studio.
Making a personal project is a good way to start a studio.
That desire to bond through collaboration led to Ferro “the first personal project from Norte Estudio” – what inspired the use of iron filings as your medium?
We wanted to take some pictures playing with magnets and “iron dust” (not sure if its called ‘ferrite’ in English) for our new website. When preparing the stuff for the photo shoot, we realised that using macro lenses those strange forms became landscapes. Excited about that, we took our video camera, a Sony FS7 and Canon 100mm 2.8 makro lenses, and started to play with it. What we wanted from the beginning was to make a visual scenario where the studio’s character could be reflected. Yes we live in Barcelona which isn’t the north at all but some people in the studio have family in Sweden, and we love the the minimalism and sobriety of Nordic visual culture. We were building kind of Nordic landscapes that could be linked to our name (which translates as North Studio in English). We especially like those landscapes for the feeling you get once you are there. You feel the loneliness and the beauty at same time and that´s something we wanted to transmit. A mix of feelings. Studying those strange and mysterious landscapes we developed a really short film where each shot has a story of its own. A house collapsing, an empty boat, a lonely deer disturbed by a gun shot. All of the shots hint at emptiness. The emptiness a person leaves once they are killed. We took that concept and experimented with it.
Like the mountain clouds which open the film a curious atmosphere hangs over the scenes, hinting at a much larger plot. How were the various scenarios conceived?
Revising the footage, we started to imagine different situations and brainstormed – here looks like a forest from above, and look, this is like a small bay, this with some clouds would look like a mountain. So we took all these ideas and tried to match them with a short story. Of course it’s not the proper way to work but it’s fun and you’re free to experiment, making stories up as you go, instead of having to worry about pitching to clients and working to deadlines. Our goal was to attach some visually attractive images and leave the story wide open to different interpretations. We wanted to enhance the real Nordic landscapes and intertwine them as they are so visually intriguing.
The movements of the deer and the slowly rocking boat feel completely natural, can you tell us what processes you went through to achieve the film’s realistic yet dreamy tone?
Some of us have an animation background, and others more modelling / lighting skills. Being versatile and having a variety of skills is the key to achieving what you have in mind. We took some pictures of single ferrite shavings and modelled / textured them, these were our pieces to construct all the models in the movie. But first, we modelled the low poly characters on which all the shavings were placed.
The main technical problem was the end shot. We wanted to have a rotating movement to create the sensation that everything was happening inside the Norte Studio world. We shot this several days after the first day’s shoot when we had a clearer idea of where the project was leading. With a big giratutto (on which we put our clay landscape model), camera guides and some tracking points, we managed to get a nice, smooth backward movement. The time taken would have been around a month, but since we were not working full time on the project, it took about two months. For anyone getting into production…things should never be done like this! Time means money, so a strict schedule is vital for production!
Nil Ciuró’s perfectly crafted score is a major contributor to the tone, but at the same time the film has the feel of a silent movie which makes the gunshot even more pronounced and lingering. How did you approach the combination of music and sound design?
It is very difficult to find the words to describe what you want sound and music wise when making a film as you are trying to express the visual concepts you have inside your head. But, we found Nil, a fantastic collaborator. We presented him with our visual ideas and let him play with them. Finding the balance between the power and punch was a real challenge, but once achieved, the project really came together and it was a joy to see, especially experiencing the feeling of silence those quiet images inspire. Nil is a great pianist, so the first ideas were much more subtle and harmonic than what the images reflect. We wanted to turn it upside down, so Nil started to enhance the personality of the smallest details to make them appear over the evident movements. Then a whole new movie appeared for us. The audio is at least 50% of this piece. Again… thank you Nil, it’s been a pleasure. You should take some time to listen Nil’s latest LP Futuralgia.
The audio is at least 50% of this piece.
What new work does Norte Estudio have on the horizon? Are there any plans to expand the world of Ferro?
Norte is a young company. By now what we expect is to have the chance to show our talent in every single project we make. We have some new ideas completely different from what we’ve done with Ferro. It’s good to try different things, styles, and techniques. Norte is not planning to expand Ferro’s world right now, but the great online response we unexpectedly got may encourage us to continue on with it, never say never!
We would love to say thanks to all the people who helped us: Marçal Vaquer for your master class in still life illumination, Lavisual for letting us borrow the technical stuff for the shoot, Nil Ciuró for enhancing every single frame of the movie with the sound design. And all our friends who came and supported us in the presentation of the project in Club de Creativos (Barcelona).