FNE: You have been Executive Director for five months. What were the main challenges you faced when you arrived?
To me the major problem is that the cinema law is very outdated. Bulgarian cinema is on the rise with very talented filmmakers and very powerful new films but the law needs to be updated. When I came to the office four months ago the process of changing the law had already been started in 2017 by the previous acting director Kamen Balkanski.
He created a working group that made a first draft of the law but for whatever reason it was left on the shelf for six months and it didn’t go any further.
This created tension in the industry. Everybody agrees that the law has to be changed but it hasn’t been changed yet. Now everybody is expecting from me a very rapid action to move ahead with changing this law. This is quite a challenge because this law cannot be changed that fast.
It is a process so what I will try to do is to have a group that consolidates all the filmmakers to work towards a rapid result. There was a certain confrontation between the younger and older generations and I believe that at this exact moment more or less everybody is convinced of the need to work on the same agenda to create a new, better, simpler, more workable law.
Film New Europe has already written about this first version of the law which made three major changes. Would you please explain this process, why it was done and what is going to be changed in the long term?
Another problem that I inherited was that Bulgaria was not synchronised with European audiovisual law. We had to do this very quickly. We had to incorporate the mandatory three or four changes in the law that were necessary to synchronise it with European audiovisual law.
Mandatory is where I put the stress. We did it. It had been postponed for six or seven months. In this very short period of a few months, we did it. It was passed in the parliament. I am very grateful for the support of the whole government. I explained to them why it is so crucial to do this very quickly and they luckily totally embraced this as a priority and helped me and supported me in passing it on four different levels in the parliament in less than three months.
Now we expect the European Commission to close the monitoring. What we are moving towards now is to change the rather cold philosophy of our law. This means to change the regulations inside the law that govern how the Bulgarian cinema will actually work.
In what way was the previous law outdated? It was created more than 10 years ago and for those times it was good but not for the rapidly changing industry. We still have 35 mm in the law! Now our law is 30 pages long and it needs to be10-12 pages at the most and it needs to have the core principles of the rules that Bulgaria will make movies by. Then the rest of it has to be a flexible document that can easily be changed over time as the industry develops.
FNE: Creating consensus within the industry is always a very difficult process. It is especially complicated because you have different sectors of the industry all of which have their own interests. How do you think you can achieve this?
For more than 20 years I’ve been working in Europe and in the Unites States and living in New York City so I come from a global perspective. I am just saying this because when I analysed the situation that I’ve found here in Bulgaria I saw that pretty much the local industry was trying to create the law around their own understanding of it.
Naturally this divided professionals into different groups that were willingly or involuntarily defending their own interests. In my opinion Bulgaria as a part of the European audiovisual sector needs to find power in European knowledge and European practices. So what I think as the director of the Film Center at the moment is that the best way to move forward is to find countries with industries similar to ours and that have good practices. We need to learn from other countries and adapt our law to local specifics following the European agenda.
FNE: How long do you expect this process to take?
Bulgaria is a country that measures time by its own criteria but it is totally doable. What I am willing to try and achieve is to have this law finalised in four months and then try to pass it very rapidly through the parliament. I think it is doable to have a new law adopted by the parliament this fall. This will be my goal. I don’t think we have to wait more for many reasons.
FNE: How many films do you think could be supported by the Film Center in the future? Do you have an ambition to increase this number?
As the head of the National Film Center it is only natural for me to be pushing to have more films and to have bigger budgets. Knowing the community and the creative potential I would say that if we have less than 25 feature films per year it is just a waste of creative power. I think we have this capacity. We have two sessions per year and every session has more than 100 projects applying. This means 200 projects per year. So producing 22-25 films which makes around 10% for me is realistic for the creative talents but it also depends on the budget. My understanding is based on analysing the situation and knowing the film market.
FNE: One of the key instruments for making films is co-production. What is your position on that for the future?
In Europe and especially in our region we can have decent budgets for big films only if we co-produce. This is the reality of the financial situation with all our national industries. So minority co-productions in Bulgaria are very important and also reciprocity is very important when we fund a minority coproduction with another country it is important that we also then are able to have a majority coproduction with them. I had very fruitful cooperation on this for the past few months with our colleagues from the National Film Funds of South-East Europe and Western Balkans. We even came up with the idea to collaborate on deeper level not only in production, but in distribution of our content. This decision will help the audience, the producers and directors a lot.