Following closely after its distribution in Slovak cinemas in May 2009, Panakova and her production company Arina, Ltd. (www.arinafilm.sk) saw the December 2009 theatrical release of her second feature, T.M.A, (The Darkness) by esteemed Slovak director Juraj Herz.
Though she studied film production at Academy of Drama and Music Arts in Slovakia and in Sydney, Australia, she told FNE that she "indirectly" became a producer. "I was organizing a competition for script writers in Sydney, and when I came back to Slovakia I established similar competition here."
It might seem she had through the competition she had the advantage of access to the best, freshest scripts in Slovakia, but Panakova denies that. "It has an independent jury. I do not participate in the results and I do not have time to read so many scripts," she said.
The Slovak-Hungarian-Czech co-production of a married couple's lack of love was produced by Panakova's Slovak company Arina, Ltd, founded in 2002. Co-production partners were the Czech company Negativ (www.negativ.cz), Slovak TV (www.stv.sk), and Hungary's Tivolifilm (www.tivolifilms.com). It was distributed in Slovakia by SPI (www.spi-film.sk), attracting 13,000 viewers.
Panakova says she wouldn't have gone into producing feature films if she knew how difficult it would be. "It was extreme pressure, especially because I gave a birth after the first seven days of shooting." She praises her co-production partners, saying, "At the moment when I could not see the way out, they came along and saved me." Still she wants to focus on full-length feature films: "It is a drug even though it is a long run."
Panakova claims the most important quality for a producer is to be skilled in the networking. "While producing the first full-length feature film I asked sales agent Marta Lamperova for cooperation. Thanks to her the film was screened at large festivals."
The increasing number of new production companies in Slovakia is adding pressure on limited funding, she says. "Producers have to decide what kind of projects with what potential they want to produce. Arina has decided to produce the films that might echo within Europe." However, she notes, "Actors and film professionals have the chance to become more professional thanks to a boom of television series that has also influenced the development of new technologies in Slovakia. But we will never have postproduction that competes with Hungary, Czech Republic or Berlin."
Zuzana Mistrikova, the president of Slovak Film and Television Academy (www.sfta.sk), has high praise for the producer. "She has done several interesting projects and those who know about the development of My Husband´s Women are aware that finishing the project demanded a huge portion of the producer´s and co-producer´s stamina and love of film." Mistrikova also credits Panakova with inspiring young Slovak scriptwriters through her screenplay competition.
Panakova is looking forward meeting producers from across Europe while in Cannes. "It is very important to have experience with producers from abroad. Until now I've worked with Polish, Czech and Hungarian producers." Producers on the Move "is a good platform that might help co-productions. And I enjoy doing co-productions." She also credits the program for promoting Slovak cinematography. "Finally they have started taking us seriously," she says.
She plans to introduce two new projects in Cannes. Let Live! (Nech zije!, working title) is a coming-of-age feature film about a teenager during the last days of the Second World War, who, though he feels like an outsider in the world of adults, is eventually forced to integrate into their world. Wolf (Vlk) is a documentary about Slovak fashion photographer Robert Vano. The script is development.
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