Hrvoje Osvadić was elected in June 2012 to head of the Croatian Producers Association (HRUP, www.hrup.hr). He spoke to FNE about the challenges he faces in his new position and the most important issues for the Croatian film industry.
FNE: What are the most important developments in the Croatian film industry currently?
In the last two, maximum four, years things have finally started to improve for Croatian film production mainly because of the Croatian Audiovisual Center (www.havc.hr) and the people who came with it, young people educated for their jobs.
When Hrvoje Hribar took the position as the head of HAVC two years ago he brought with him a positive energy that inspired everyone. His biggest accomplishment was getting the money from the institutions that hadn’t paid their dues to HAVC for several years.
Normally HAVC receives 30 m HRK from the Ministry of Culture and also should receive some 30 m HRK from private companies (public television channels and mobile phone operators). They have to contribute a small percentage of their income at the end of the year. Since there were not any penalties, only the government supported HAVC for several years.
What Hrvoje Hribar did was to make them sign agreements and start to pay. The money started to come, and we started to receive money from HAVC on time. The second best thing that Hribar did was to build a decision-making structure at various levels allowing good projects to get money and also helping young directors to get money for their projects.
FNE: What are the main goals for you as the newly appointed head of Croatian Producers Association in June 2012?
I think the most important things for the association were already put in place by Ankica Jurić Tilić, who was the head of the association for three years before me. She put us in contact with the Directors Association and started to work closely with HAVC.
All three of us are now communicating with HAVC on a daily basis. The 10 members of our board and I are in permanent contact with Hrvoje Hribar. The association has 60-70 members, less than the Directors Association, which has 200 members and significantly less than the Cinema Workers Association, which has 720 members. I am also a member of the Cinema Workers Association.
There is no conflict of interests – on the contrary – but they are very big and sometimes it could be difficult for them to make decisions. Our board was mandated to decide for allthe members and we also have another board of three people to check on the decisions of the ten-person board, which is also elected every two years.
Usually I spend some 30 percent of my time in my daily work for the Producers Association because there have always been some issues to resolve in the past two years and there still are. Being a new country with a small audiovisual industry (some 100 m HRK annually) there was a need to change some of the laws in order to function smoothly together with HAVC.
Each time you want to do something, you get stuck on some legal issue. For example, if I want to hire somebody as a freelancer, the law doesn't allow me to pay for the hotel, foodand the daily allowance. I have to use an employee. So the Labour Law has to be changed in order to allow us to work normally. There are several laws that need to be changed and in the past two years the association has worked at several levels to do that.
FNE: What is your relationship with the Ministry of Culture?
It's changing all the time. Now we have had a new ministry for six months and we are on good terms with it. Previously, everything depended on who was on top at the ministrybecause there were some ministers who didn't know anything about cinema and who didn't care about it. Now, thanks to HAVC, we have our own institution taking care of us, not just the Ministry of Culture.
FNE: When was your association established?
It was established four years ago. In order to give an incentive to the industry three years ago we established the Annual Prize Albert Kapović, awarded during the Zagreb Film Festival for exceptional contributions to the Croatian film industry. We have already awarded Martina Petrović from MEDIA Desk and Hrvoje Hribar, and this year we awarded the producer Siniša Jurićić.
FNE: Are you in contact with foreign coproducers in order to increase coproductions in the region?
Of course. Due to the tax rebate scheme we became an interesting country for foreign productions. We currently receive a lot of questions and most of them go to HAVC, which is providing us with the information we need. Croatia is a very interesting country because it has a sea coast and mountains within a four-hour drive, so it's very cheap for shooting.
FNE: How is your experience as a producer helping you in your new position?
If I hadn’t been in the middle of it I would have probably never have read so many laws in my entire life. They are boring, but as a head of the Producers Association you have toknow them. For example, today the board of 15 persons from HAVC got together for the monthly meeting and we tried to change something in the organisation’s rule book, which regulates the grants application process. In order to change something you have to discuss it in the board first.
FNE: Where do you see the Croatian film industry two years from now?
I think things will improve, because they are moving in the right direction. I don’t think we will produce many more movies per year, but I think we will have a very good new generation of filmmakers. This generation started working a few years ago, and I think it will make movies which will finally be awarded in festivals. Young people know how to work already. We need to give them the opportunity to do it. Technology is no longer expensive, and you don’t need ten people to hold the camera.
FNE: Do you have in your regulations at the Producers Association any special policies for supporting young producers?
No, but we have another board of three persons, a sort of Judge of Conflict – not that we had any conflict in the past two years. Since we are a small country, if you aren’t fair you will work five years and nobody will ever work with you after that. It has happened, so that's another plus for a small country. The bad thing is that the admissions are so low. People simply don’t have money to go the cinema. This is not a problem with the Croatian films themselves.
The lack of money is feeding piracy. A few years ago I produced a documentary on the Croatian music of the 1980s and we sent it to a Serbian distributor with time-code and stuff. A friend of mine called me from Copenhagen two months later telling me that he had bought the film on the street from a Serbian guy.
FNE: Are you in contact with producers associations from other countries, from neighbouring countries for example?
Yes, but it has not been my personal case since I am a freshly elected president. In the past six years I have worked in television so I don’t have as many connections as Ankica Jurić Tilić or Siniša Jurićić. As a community we are very well connected especially to Serbia and Slovenia. We can use each other’s actors and technicians and it’s also good for fundraising. Unfortunately the region is not doing very well these days.