Although he is not familiar to most New Yorkers, Columbia film student Galo Recalde is well-known in his native Ecuador, where he starred in, wrote and co-directed the television show named "best program of the year" in Ecuador in 1997 and 1998 -- "Vivos y Directos," (Alive and Kicking). He was also named Character of the Year for his portrayal of Pescao, a character that is representative of the folklore of an Ecuadorian working class person.
This spring Recalde returned to Ecuador to work on his most recent project in which he is the host of a fictionalized game show. The show will begin as a two-hour movie special entitled "Que Es Esto" (What Is It?) and continue as an eight-episode mini-series. "Que Es Esto" focuses on people who have been affected by the country's economic crisis and found ways to survive. Recalde describes it as magical show, where he invades the lives of the contestants in cabs, on the street, even in their homes.
Recalde says his work at Columbia's School of the Arts has enabled him to expand from television into film. Last fall his 15-minute short film, "Primer Dia," which stemmed from one of his first class exercises, won the 2001 Showtime Networks Latino Filmmaker Showcase and aired on Showtime throughout September, as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. The award also provided Recalde with $30,000 which he is putting toward a film that he is working on here in the United States.
"The film takes place over the course of one day, in which a former prep-school student is forced by his recently unemployed father to attend a harsh public school," says Recalde. "It is a disaster for the kid, but he learns a life lesson."
The film ends with the child telling his father that "optimism is the mania for insisting that all is well when one is suffering."
Due to the 1999 economic crisis in Ecuador, many people lost their jobs and had to change their lives, explains Recalde. "Many in Ecuador could relate to this story."
Recalde says that Columbia's film program has been beneficial in many ways. In addition to the student-teacher relationships, Columbians have helped him foster business contacts. He feels that the school's location in New York City is "very important to the experience... you learn in class and on the street."
Recalde also appreciates those "real-world" lessons that are incorporated in the classes. "In other schools you learn theory only, but in practice things are not 'by the book' each time," he says. "Producing is so complex, and professors like Ira Deutchman, who have spent many years in the field, will say this is how it is supposed to be, but in reality it is otherwise. Columbia professors give you both sides."
Through other classes Recalde has viewed films from the 1920s, 30s and 40s, which are not available in Ecuador. There is a lot of gravity in the films of the '30s and '40s, he says.
In the spring of 2001 Recalde worked as a production and research intern for the "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" show. Prior to that he was a production intern for MTV in New York and an associate producer of "Top Ten MTV" in Miami for MTV Latin America, which was broadcast worldwide through Telemundo.
In the mid-1990s Recalde created, wrote and co-directed an educational comedy program for children, "Expertus and Hanna," which was named "best children's television program" by the Latin American Children's Television Forum, Mexico D.F. in 1995. That year he was also named "best artistic talent of the year" by the Ecuadorian Association of Advertising Agencies.