Thirteen movies shot quickly and secretly on a shoestring budget will feature in the coming months on Calle 13, a pay TV channel specializing in suspense owned by NBC Universal.
The filmmakers who contributed to #littlesecretfilm — “a film experiment that is based on free online distribution,” explains Pablo Maqueda, one of the initiative’s promoters — are hoping the partnership with Calle 13 will gain them a wider audience.
Daniel Pérez, Calle 13’s programming director, said they agreed to air the films on two conditions: first, they had to premiere on Calle 13 before they became available online and, second, they had to be in the thriller, action or suspense genres in which the channel specializes.
“#littlesecretfilm began as a game, a way to open up new narrative roads and encourage closer communication between creators and viewers,” says Maqueda, who calls the project “an act of love” that earns no material benefits. Any profits are “emotional,” he says.
Haizea G. Viana and Maqueda are the masterminds behind this online platform, which began by setting out 10 rules for participating filmmakers. One of them was that there should be no formal script, forcing actors to improvise; another was that filming should take no more than 24 hours; yet another was that the movie needed to be shot in secret.
“That’s what surprised audiences the most,” says Maqueda. “Suddenly there were 15 movies that nobody had heard about available on the internet. We’ve already had over 100,000 downloads.”
Calle 13 also noticed. “Our channel wants to embrace cultural initiatives dealing with intrigue and suspense. We liked this one because it was so reckless. We like risk,” jokes the programming director. “We are not looking for economic profit, just to support a group of young creators with a very avant-garde spirit.”
Ultimately, Pérez says the partnership, known as #littlesecretfilm for Calle 13, will hopefully “bring added value to the station.”
Channel managers did make a few changes, such as introducing their favorite number everywhere. And so there will be 13 (not 15) movies aired over the next 13 months, beginning on July 22 with #Realmovie, directed by Maqueda himself. The next day, the film will be available on Yomvi, owned by Canal +, and a week after that it will be offered for free on Calle 13’s website.
Most of the filmmakers selected for the project are already familiar with alternative distribution channels. “We believe we can attract all kinds of audiences because the map of Spain is well reflected, from Catalans to Andalusians, Madrileños and Canary Islanders,” says Maqueda.
Pérez, of Calle 13, says they are not trying to reach a massive audience or lose their trademark identity — thus the condition that films should be suspenseful, although dark humor was also welcome. Once these requirements were met, Pérez says “it was possible to take a few risks, to be something of a sniper.”
Maqueda defines #Realmovie (his fourth feature-length production), as “a generic thriller with an intimate feel.” The story has “all kinds of influences, from Pedro Almodóvar to Michael Haneke,” as well as references to the German choreographer Pina Bausch. Shooting took 13 hours. “This intense way of making movies really gets you hooked.”