A shorts director (“Les variations Dielman,” “Room”) and editing teacher at Madrid’s ECAM film school. Edited Paco Cabezas’ “The Appeared,” Montxo Armendariz’s “No tengas miedo” and David Pinillos’ “Bon appetit.” Godfathered by film and director Goya winner Jaime Rosales (“Solitary Fragments”), Franco is now writing his helming debut “La espera,” about an ambulance driver who ignores her own sickness, co-penned with regular Rosales’ scribe Enric Rufas.

Having slogged away writing soap operas, Paulo gained recognition last year with the script for Guillem Morales’ psycho mystery thriller “Julia’s Eyes,” a B.O. and international sales hit. Barcelona’s Rodar y Rodar (“Eyes,” “The Orphanage”) has now signed him up to helm his new script “The Body.” First-timer Paulo has a couple of projects with Morales, one to be directed by Paulo, the other by Morales. “Body” will be “a psycho thriller mixing rationality and the supernatural,” he says.

Fores makes his helming debut with “Animals,” co-starring Martin Freeman and Augustus Prew. A fantasy coming-of-ager with thriller overtones, it could be described as ” ‘Donnie Darko’ meets Gus Van Sant,” says producer Sergi Casamitjana. Fores’ references range from Spain’s Ivan Zulueta to the U.S.’ Spike Jonze to Japan’s Hideaki Anno and Nobuhiro Yamashita. “All of them deal with the passage from adolescence to maturity,” Fores says.

Garcia Ibarra’s second short, “Protoparticulas,” received a special mention at this year’s Sundance. It wasn’t his first plaudit: his short debut, “Attack From the Robots From Nebula 5,” was selected for Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, won the 2010 Melies d’Or Short Film Award and another mention at Sundance. Garcia’s now working on his first feature.
“I love to combine genres and atmospheres, like fantasy and domestic environments, drama and comedy,” he says.

Sweating for the past few years to sell his scripts, the Madrid-based Navarro has now pulled off a coup: Placing one with the Weinstein brothers. Described as an Egypt-set “Paranormal Activity,” “The Pyramid” (aka “The Mummy Archives”) turns on a group of young friends trapped in a pyramid, says Navarro. Commissioned by Red Wagon Entertainment’s Douglas Wick, and co-written by Gonzalo Lopez Gallego (“Apollo 18”), “Pyramid” is now set up at Dimension.

Gato developed animation for vidgames and directed “Tadeo Jones and the Basement of Doom,” which took best toon short at Spain’s 2008 Goyas. He’s now helming “Tad, the Lost Explorer,” one of Spain’s big animation projects budgeted at $15 million, set for release in 2012, produced by Ikiru, El Toro and Lightbox Entertainment. StudioCanal is selling the pic. He also has animation projects with Lightbox.

I realized that the editing console was a perfect place to learn film direction,” Lopez says. He worked as an assistant editor on Kike Maillo’s sci-fi drama “Eva” and Carles Torras’ “Trash,” and then edited Christian Molina’s “Station of the Forgotten.” Lopez is about to cut his editing teeth on the Zentropa Intl. Spain and Cine de Garage-produced “Vlogger,” a live action/animation thriller. He’s busy planning his helming debut, black comedy “Un buen hijo,” a father-son face-off.

Whether a dumpy maid in Spain’s “Animales de compania,” a fresh-faced bordello worker in Peru’s “Captain Pantaleon and the Special Service” or a pregnant wife in Colombia’s “Undertow,” Astengo has a geographical, physical and acting range that not that many other actresses can match. Sundance 2010 World Cinema Audience Award winner “Undertow,” where her character juggles myriad emotions, proved a career highpoint. Carrying Spanish and Peruvian passports, she reps Latin America’s huge and still largely untapped potential.

Working on “Buried” with d.p. Eduard Grau, Birba alternated as a second unit cinematographer and first unit camera operator. He lensed Marc Silver’s “Who Is Dayani Cristal?,” a Gael Garcia Bernal toplining drama documentary, and teamed again with Grau on Nick Murphy’s thriller “The Awakening.” An admirer of Robby Muller (“Dancer in the Dark”) and Harris Savides (“Milk”), he says, “I love elegant, but never flashy, cinematography.”

Turning in memorable supporting perfs in two of last decade’s key debuts — Daniel Sanchez Arevalo’ “Darkbluealmostblack” and Felix Viscarret’s “Under the Stars” — Villagran now is poised to break through playing the lead in one of Spanish fanboys’ highly anticipated films of 2011: “Extraterrestrial” by Nacho Vigalondo. Sold by Wild Bunch, pic looks set to give Villagran some international projection as well. On the horizon: Francisco R. Banos’ “Alicia en el pais de Ali.”

Hits trump Spain’s pirates | Law forces rookie nets to pump coin into film | Almodovars rekindle Riviera relationship | Sales execs play up local pic strengths | Case studies | Battling the behemoth | Madrid’s mondo move | Talent on the verge | Choice on Croisette

Click here for full coverage of the Cannes Film Festival