The UB, an enormous filming set
The Historical Building is appropriate for the imaginary of the series. The adaption of the rooms to turn this place into a set was easy.
This last summer, for its second year in a row, the Historical Building was a huge set to film the second season of Merlí. Sapere aude, the spin-off of the well-known Merlí, with a motto that means “dare to know” and which goes along with the idiosyncrasy of the university. The main character is coursing the bachelor’s degree on Philosophy and all the chosen places for the scenes related to the university field belong to the University of Barcelona.
In August, classrooms, courtyards, corridors and the garden of the Historical Building were full of cameras, lights, cranes, sound equipment and long cables across the building. Due to the pandemic, the working team was reduced, but the active staff in the filming set could reach a hundred people, apart from the artist and technical members and the starring members in the series (the number of these varied depending on the filming needs). The production manager of the series thanked in particular the fact that they could film in the UB: “Apart from being a beautiful place, it is huge, and the large spaces it has was an advantage when applying health measures, and we could produce the series in the best conditions”.
The building fulfils the imaginary of the series and therefore, room adaption to turn the location into a filming set was easy to carry out. In this sense, both the location manager, Bernat Llonch, and the head of Institutional Relations and Protocol of the UB, Elisenda Rius, think that the agreement between the institution and the technical team was productive for both sides. “We always worked on a plan, which was almost always fulfilled. If there was any change regarding what was scheduled, it was previously debated on”, says Rius. “This is a place where, regardless of where you place your camera, you will find an interesting angle, due to the shape of the building and its structure (the columns, long corridors, its hall with high ceilings, the red carpet and its light…). We could tell the stories the way we wanted”, notes Menna Fité, director of the series. “Merlí. Sapere aude would not be the same if it were filmed in another place, this I’m sure about”, adds Itatí Moyano, assistant director.
During the filming of this second season, among the required atrezzo the serie needed, is an important scaffolding to cover the main wall of the Paranimph. Thanks to the great understanding between the managers of the series and the University of Barcelona, the scaffolding was used to carry out the restoration of the full heading of the Paranimph.
A team led by Mariana Kahlo, distinguished professional in the field of heritage restoration, carried out the interventions, which covered the comprehensive decorative plasterwork, as well as the three medallions of the monarchs painted by Francesc Sans Cabot (1874) and the two side panels, made by Joan Vicens Cots (1883). This completes the renewal and cleaning tasks of the Paranimph head, which started in previous records during 2017.
The UB footprint in the series, which has already launched its second season, goes beyond placing the action, since many members of the technical and artistic teams are linked to the University of Barcelona. For instance, the creator and screenwriter, Hèctor Lozano, was coursing the bachelor’s degree in Philosophy when he came up with the idea of the plot of Merlí, which placed the action in a high school. Therefore, when he was working on the spin-off, Lozano thought about placing this story in the University of Barcelona. Moreover, the team has a philosophy advisor, Nemrod Carrasco, lecturer at the Faculty of Philosophy and who inspired the character Merlí, casted by Francesc Orella, and who is still working with the screenwriters of Merlí. Sapere aude. In addition, the main carácter, Carlos Cuevas, is a student of the bachelor’s degree on Literary Theory and Comparative Literature (he sections it so as to combine the studies with his professional acting career), and therefore, he felt at home when filming.
In the following podcast, actress María Pujalte, who plays the charismatic lecturer Bolaño, confesses that the task was a gift for her and she reveals secrets of this character’s personality, who is going through a life crisis.