Conversation with Director and Founder of the OFFF festival

Héctor Ayuso

“The festival belongs to Barcelona, it’s linked to the city and it has grown with it ”
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It’s important that it was born in Barcelona. Although we had to leave Barcelona for two or three years for financial reasons, the festival belongs to Barcelona and it’s linked to the city. And it has grown with it, and it was absolutely clear to us that it would always be in Barcelona. That’s why we came back in 2011 as soon as we could. And fortunately we have the support of the city and of the sponsors that have supported us for years.

But especially we have the support of our loyal festival-goers that come to the festival every year, and without them, the festival wouldn’t work. Of course the first years were full of risks and sacrifices, and there were many debts as well, but here we are now. It’s a festival that is supported by the city, by the public and by our sponsors.

“Barcelona has always been a city where things are perfectly designed and presented”
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Barcelona has been able to understand the importance of image, in the sense of communication. For me Barcelona has always been a city where things are perfectly designed and presented, wherever you go. Everything has a way of presenting itself, a way of selling itself. And it’s not only the identity of the city, it’s also the identity of the people who live in it. In other words, Barcelona has taken what there was and developed it very successfully.

That’s why wherever you go, if you say “Barcelona” everybody has been there or wants to go there at least once in their lives. It’s the image we project to the world; those who have cared about making the city grow have also projected its reputation abroad.

Now we’ve been taking the festival abroad for several years, but one of the requisites is that 40% of the creators or companies that take part must be from Barcelona. The festival was born here and it must have this brand, come what may. The organization, and especially the curating is done here, and then we get in touch with local partners so that they help us with production. We are also in charge of creativity and maintenance of the brand name of Barcelona. That’s not negotiable!

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“We want people who come to the OFFF festival to bring something new”
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We do receive a lot of proposals. I have a list now with which I could organize the next three festivals. And on this list there are projects that we as curators have found and also things that other people have suggested. We always try to make the festival offer something new, in both the program and the content.

And we work a lot with guest artists. It’s not only that we invite them here: we work with them during the year to make them aware that it’s not just any festival, that people who come to the festival are really prepared and have great expectations, so they must have something new and different to offer.

It’s not a festival of congresses and conferences: it’s a real festival. We’ve been compared with a music festival, not because of the content but because of the spirit. It’s 3000 people sitting and listening to talks, but it has a festival spirit with workshops, exhibitions, a market for exchanging and getting to know new things, and then bars, food caravans and more.

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“Creativity and innovation are becoming more important than the tool you use ”
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I think the great revolution is the tool. In the beginning, everything was based on which tool or software you used for a project: Adobe, Flash, Photoshop etc. And this has progressed with time, and it has helped the open source movement, the opportunity to have accessible tools within reach. It’s going beyond the line of tools: because in the end, what matters, whatever your discipline, is the idea behind it. First is the idea, and then comes the tool.

This order was inverted before, but at last creativity and innovation are becoming more important than the tool you are using. I think we have lost this obsession over which camera a film should be shot with. It doesn’t matter! When you have a clear idea, when you know what you want to communicate, then you will know which tool to use.

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“Joshua Davis wrote to me: I’m writing the most beautiful and amazing code I’ve ever written ”
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One of my references and someone who we call the “patron” of the festival is Joshua Davis. This year we are using fantastic facilities for the festival that he designed. His name is always related to Flash, but fifteen years later he is still trying to reinvent himself. He realized on his own that he couldn’t be linked to tools, that he was the creator, not the tool.

He recently wrote to me: “I’m writing the most beautiful and amazing code I’ve ever written”. And I found it marvelous, so revealing: he’s talking about the code, not about Flash or Adobe or whatever. And the result was a piece of video, created with the lines of the code. It’s an open code that anyone can use.

He’s one of the few creators that still shares what he does, which is something I think we have lost and should retrieve someday: the impetus of sharing with everyone when you discover something, not just keeping it for yourself. ‘’Look what I just did; let’s see what you can do with it.’’

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“Something I’m proud of is that we haven’t lost the spirit of when we started 15 years ago”
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The festival has grown a lot. Fortunately in 2002 we decided to change from being a festival for Flash-made films to one about creativity in general, open to any kind of productions. But something I’m proud of is that in all these years we haven’t lost that spirit of when we started, a spirit that I would describe as running a festival that we would like to attend ourselves.

And on the other hand it’s a festival suitable for all participants and it’s very affordable, compared to other festivals. Anyone can afford to come, even students who are just starting out. And also it has a way of working and showing people that is not necessarily directed to professionals.

I know of people who have come to the festival with no idea of design or any other discipline related to creativity, and some years later they’ve come back and given a talk in the festival. For example, Mau Morgó stared coming some years ago as a student.

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