What is The Class?
–This term, from November 10, three times a week, we can see on the Canal Punt Avui TV how first year pupils from the Splai public school in Nou Barris in Barcelona cope with learning English under teacher Óscar de l'Estal. The stars of the show are the kids, who will turn six during 2015. In the first term, they learn to count, name foods, the months, plants and animals, the parts of the house and the body, classroom objects, and so on. Little by little, they begin to make sense of the words of another language so that we see them grow as they interact with each other and go through the learning process. Along the way, without realising it, as we get deeper into their routine, we also assimilate some English, whether a word or a form here or there, which is the reason for us to follow their everyday reality.
Who is it aimed at?
–The series shows children learning English, but it is not only addressed at children like them. We like to think that other people – teenagers, adults, old people – will also be attracted to the format of documenting a universe that is defined by the challenge, effort, satisfaction, and even sometimes boredom or frustration, implied in learning English. However, the main objective or focus is to see how these children grow as they learn. Focusing on the English class allows us to build a universe in the language, in the 15 minutes that each programme lasts, so that the viewers can become submerged in another language as they follow the drama provided by the children. The learning takes place without hardly noticing it – words appear for the first time but become familiar through repetition. The idea is to go beyond idiomatic learning and to go deeper into the process of growth through learning, to enter the universe of the children on film. At the same time, the series will do something we also consider interesting, which is gradually provide an insight into the state of public education.
What would you highlight about The Class?
–The main idea is that each chapter submerges us more in a universe made up of figures we have come to recognise. Witnessing the learning process is the key to understanding what it means to grow – realising your mistakes, surprising yourself, getting bored or emotional, in short building a personality. Beyond that, the idea is to cover a number of other fronts, such as providing the viewer with a period seeing and listening to English. Secondly, it allows us, in our own small way, to take the pulse of public education. Finally, we are taking a snapshot of a Barcelona neighbourhood, which will reveal more about itself as the series goes on.
What has been the most challenging aspect?
–The first challenge was to find the best format for the series. If we had get an episode out each class, that meant reducing a 50-minute class to a 15 minutes. The creative margin, and the margin for error, is very small. So, we had to work with precision. Other challenges we discovered in the filming are connected with building the characters. This was perhaps the greatest challenge: to make a drama out of the least gesture, detail or subtle change, but without harming the rhythm, the tension, the conflict, the documentary feel. We had to find a balance between the cinematic and reality in order to gradually depict a transformation – both of the children and the series itself. As for the organisational aspects, it has been a pleasure. From the first day, the children got used to the camera and the team, which was made up of a cameraman, a soundman and one or two assistants, who are students in their final year of media studies at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra. The teacher, Óscar de l'Estal, was indispensable in the filming, redirecting certain activities and addressing the class with the understanding that the team had the job of recording everything.
What is Storytime?
–Storytime aims to recover the idea of listening. The camera focuses on a face and that face tells a story. In English. The programme uses three teachers from the British Council. Each one has their own style, rhythm, sensibilities that contributes to the personality they put forward on the screen. Each day is a different story. The storyteller finds an empty bench, he or she sits, they introduce themselves and prepare the viewers for the story they are about to tell. What we want to do is develop a direct relationship between the storyteller and the viewer at home, which is why it is austere, without much in the way of adornment, so that everything depends on the power of the words. Each story lasts about seven minutes and once finished, the storyteller returns to 'normality' and says goodbye. Once again the bench is empty, waiting for another storyteller, another face with another tale.