When we all first saw the music for Rosalia’s hit Malamente, there was no doubt we asked: Holy shit, who made this? And if we go back further in time, the same thing happened when we saw Bombay, by El Guincho,which was back in 2010. The answer lies in the now consolidated production company Canada, responsible not only for some of the iconic videos of the Rosalía phenomenon, but also this year’s wondergirl Dua Lipa and many fun commercials. So as someone in love with photography and multimedia, I asked to meet with Alba Barneda, production director of Canada which is established in Barcelona, with new offices in London and Los Angeles to discuss their creative evolution. (Ana Folguera): How did your involvement in Canada arise?
(Alba Barneda): Canada emerged, unlike the more classic production companies led by a single name, with three filmmakers who decided to join: Lope Serrano, Nicolás Méndez and Luis Cerveró (who has since disbanded). Each had their own trajectory, they came from the world of video clips and advertising. They decided to join forces, create their own brand and thus lead their own projects. I knew since I was in college the work they had done with Spanish indie groups like Christina Rosenvinge, Nacho Vegas, or Los Planetas. By chance in life, we knew people in common and they contacted me. For me it was the perfect place. Starting something from scratch is always nice, but it was a time of great uncertainty. It was 2008, at the beginning of the economic crisis, and the worst time to start a business. They were complicated beginnings. The business model was not easy: we continued to advertise with “old school” production companies. We made video clips and pieces for museums, and our approach was a “home made” way of working and very self-taught. ANA: What was that work process like? ALBA: I started with the first video clips shooting my friends and acquaintances from university (together with friends of the directors who had more experience). 2010 was key: we had been here for two years and it was difficult to support this type of structure. We had some direct clients, but few. We were thinking about the potential that the internet had (saying this now seems to me that it was in prehistory!). Until then, advertising was almost entirely on television. We began to realize that we could make a video that could be posted on a website, regardless of agencies, etc. The turning point came from the video of El Guincho. He was a colleague of ours: with his previous album he had already had a lot of international attention so we thought: “if we make a good video, they will hear it beyond our borders.” In the summer of 2010, with the little money we had left in the bank, we made Bombay, directed by Nicolás Méndez. The result was like a movie: from having the office quiet and empty, to the phone ringing off the hook! Everybody wanted to know who we were. We got contacted by different international production companies for representation and one of the offers was from Partizan, Michel Gondry’s producer, a dream! That’s when Oscar Romagosa joined the team, with the profile of executive producer. From there we were able to produce more serious things. For example, Scissor Sisters.
We went from having an average budget of € 3,000 to suddenly having € 30,000. We began to receive more and more offers, and our expansion outside of Spain began. We finally decided to sign for The Directors Bureau, Roman Coppola’s production company, with whom we have worked until recently.
ANA: How is your relationship from Spain with those other venues?
Always in contact and collaborating. For example, in London we have an English team; our partner Marta Bobic is in charge of the English operation, but Óscar and I closely follow all the projects. We usually shoot here because it tends to be cheaper, because of the marvel of landscapes that we have in Spain, a highly qualified technical team, and thus everything remains within the same company. That for customers is interesting. Something similar happens in Los Angeles. We have our partner Lisa Margulis, with whom we are starting the American operation, and we support from here. In Barcelona there is the main office, with about forty on the team, where the core of the company is located. In France Canada does not exist as such, we have had a relationship with Iconoclast for many years and recently we have started with Diplomats. ANA: In visual terms I think you have done a very powerful job of innovation. But nevertheless you have always had a strong connection with the world of music. ALBA: The video clip has been for us a format that has made all this possible, unlike other more classic production companies. When Nicolás Méndez or Lope Serrano worked in other companies and insisted on that format, it did not fit their line. Since this project began, that care and love for this format has always been maintained. By not working with a certain agency, we have more freedom. And by working with indie bands, who normally don’t have a big budget, they give you freedom in return. They usually let the director do what he wants. It is a very grateful language: short, with a very easy diffusion, and with many possibilities. Now even people listen to music on YouTube. For us it made all the sense in the world to put all the love in this format. And it has given us many fruits, although it is not our source of income. We continue with the same philosophy: we usually invest the money that the record companies give us and even more (our money) to achieve a good result. The fact that the directors have had all that creative freedom is what has perhaps formed the so-called “Canada seal”. ANA: How would you define that label? ALBA: We have been adding the vision of many directors and directors. It is difficult for me to define it. In some cases it is a type of photography direction, the actors, the link with the music. Almost all of them come from the world of video clips. ANA: Do you supervise the production of all these projects or do you take care of specific ones? ALBA: Before I did everything. For years I have been a production director. I generally supervise all projects. I am in contact with all the producers, to be clear about everything that is happening. When a pitch arrives, we see who can do it, what is on the table, who is free, etc. Right now many things happen at the same time, and it is necessary to make these links so that everything works smoothly. ANA: With which two or three projects do you feel most identified as your work? ALBA: Everything that happens in Canada feels mine, like having little children. I could say a couple of years ago, when we did two projects with Rosalía, well back when she was not known. We had worked with her previously, but we cannot compare it with the huge success those incipient projects would have. She walked into our office with El Guincho (someone very important in our history). They showed us the demo of El mal querer, just as we celebrated ten years as a company and we said, “ Let’s go for it”.
ANA: So Alba, The music video for Malamente is absolutely epic! Alba: It was a way of reaching everyone. Even my aunt knew who Rosalía was! The most global phenomenon that we’ve had, together with Dua Lipa. ANA: I think the secret to “Malamente” also lies in the interest in flamenco. What interested me a lot is that it offers very clear connections with contemporary flamenco iconography. ALBA: The person who breeds the idea is always the director. It is usually shared with the artist as well. The director captures what he imagines, but it may also be that the artist gives a short briefing. In Rosalía’s case, it was like going back to the beginning. She came straight to the office and told us about the project. No big intermediaries involved: no record companies, no agents…She put the song on the iPhone – it wasn’t even finished – and we said: “This is going to blow it.” She already had the visual part very worked. She had a dossier that she had made with Pili, his sister, and they showed it to us.
There were references to Almodóvar, autobiographical, etc. She spoke with Nicolás Méndez, one of Canada’s founding partners and director of the clips. He took things from that conversation like the world of the truck (Rosalía grew up near an industrial estate), and he discarded others. Others were contributed by Nicolás from scratch, such as the world of the bull …
There was a toxic love relationship. Hence the bullfighting references: telling how a bullfighter, who when he talks about the bull does so with deep love, comes to the plaza and kills him. That relationship served Nico to tell what the song says. The idea of showing a bullfighting school had to do with how to learn to love this beast, which they will later kill in a plaza.
The same thing happens with the plane of the Nazarene uploaded on the skateboard: this person believes in a God but at the same time injures himself out of love for him. It was about taking visual images to support the story. ANA: How do you see the next years for Canada? ALBA: We are very motivated by our L.A operation. After being born in the middle of an economic crisis, now that another is beginning, it is time to start new adventures. It’s in our blood. Maybe even fiction. So far we have made small approaches but we want to go in depth. In fact, we have some projects on the table to produce and we really want them to see the light.
In addition, we have recently started representing different photographers and directors. The idea is to expand into different branches: production of advertising, video clips, fiction, photography. All this from the core of Barcelona, which is where we were born, but evidently relying heavily on our international expansion.
Interview by Ana Folguera
15 December 2020