FNE at KVIFF 2016: Interview with Danijel Hočevar

Nightlife by Damjan Kozole Nightlife by Damjan Kozole

LJUBLJANA: In recognition of Slovenian Day at the Karlovy Vary IFF on 6 July 2016, FNE asked Slovenian producer Danijel Hočevar to reflect on his experience with the festival and to tell us about his newest film showing in competition.

Hočevar has been attending Karlovy Vary IFFsince his early days as a film producer. His production company Vertigo has produced many critically acclaimed and box office hit films in the last 30 years. Danijel told FNE about his long-term relationship with the festival and about the current status of Slovenian film production.

Which movie will you show at this year’s festival?

We are presenting Nightlife, a new feature film by Damjan Kozole. We started working together exactly 30 years ago, when he directed and I produced one of the first completely independent productions in Slovenia (then still part of former Yugoslavia), Damjan's feature film debut The Fatal Telephone, a low budget black and white film, shot on 16 mm and later blown up to 35 mm. We learned many things while doing it, unfortunately most of them from our mistakes, but nevertheless, that was “the beginning of a beautiful friendship”. We’ve worked since then on altogether nine of Damjan’s feature films, including Berlinale Competition entry Spare Parts (2003) and Toronto IFF premiered and world-wide sold Slovenian Girl (2009), as well as several feature length documentaries and short and other films. It’s been and still is a very nice and energising collaboration.

When and how did your relationship with the festival begin?

I’m not really sure, but I think the very first feature film I produced which screened in the programme of Karlovy Vary IFFwas Carmen (1995), directed by Metod Pevec. Many other films followed since then, including Idle Running (1999) by Janez Burger, which competed in 1999, Venice Lion of the Future winner Bread and Milk (2001) by Jan Cvitković, Beneath Her Window (2003) by Metod Pevec, Ruins (2004) by Janez Burger and at least two more Kozole’s feature films: the comedy Porno Film (2000) and Spare Parts (2003). I didn’t mention any of minority coproductions I’ve worked on, but I’m sure that the festival screened at least some of them, so altogether there were really a lot of them. And I’m very proud of the presence of feature films I produced in the programme of Karlovy Vary IFF.

Was it hard for you as a Slovenian producer to enter this festival circle?

Yes and no. In fact, there’s only one thing you have to have: a good, interesting film. Everything is easy then.

How would you describe the top three qualities of the festival?

Engaged audiences, beautiful location and the festival’s dedication to work as a bridge between films from Central and East European countries and the rest of the world. I also admire the focus of the festival team, first and foremost the program department, headed now by Karel Och and earlier by Eva Zaoralova, and their dare to present “our” films and filmmakers to decision-makers and industry people from all over the world.

What does the festival mean to you now?

I haven’t attended the festival for the last twelve years now! Being back for the first time since 2004, I could see many important changes. Especially the industry part that has gradually grown into an important selection of events, which the festival is very smartly offering to many international and domestic industry decision makers in collaboration either with the promotional and/or funding institutions or training and other initiatives.

Nowadays, when especially art-house cinema is struggling at the crossroads of new distribution models and changing markets, it has become even more important than before to promote projects in the development, financing and different stages of the post-production in this new audiovisual landscape.

Why do you see this festival as important for the Slovenian film industry?

As any other among important film festivals, Karlovy Vary IFFis an important event for Slovenian film and the cinema industry in general. In particular, when coming from small countries, it is important to be frequently present at the referential film festivals, which this festival definitely is.

How do you see Slovenian film industry these days?

We have been struggling a lot for the last six years. Severe budget cuts make filmmaking and producing in our country really difficult. Public support has shrunk almost by half and there’s not much market money available in our small territory of 2 million. But in a way, this situation brings other opportunities, as filmmakers are daring and finding ways on how to express themselves even in such a situation. But we, the producers, will have to work hard, all of us together, to change this situation, as without the proper financing, we won’t be able to follow the creative potential of our directors. Knowing and working with quite a few of them, I can assure you, this could be a problem.

Can you tell us something about your upcoming projects?

At the moment, our production company is developing and financing altogether seven new feature length projects, almost equally spread between male and female directors and between more established directors and young, emerging talents. I'm happy to continue my long collaboration with Damjan Kozole and Metod Pevec, whose new projects we're developing. Damjan wrote (together with Urša Menart) a new script entitled Half-Sister, for which we have already received the development funding from the Slovenian Film Center. Metod is fine-tuning his script Being Frank, for which we have already in place the production co-funding from the Slovenian Film Center and are working on bringing foreign partners on board.

Another experienced filmmaker we’re working with at the moment is Maja Weiss. Her new feature project My Name is Damian is an interesting transgender story, based on the eponymous novel written by Suzana Tratnik, who’s attached to the project as a co-writer. We developed the script through ScripTeast and will present the project in August at the CineLink industry programme of Sarajevo Film Festival. Both Slovenian Film Center and Creative Europe Media Programme supported the development of the project.

Miha Hočevar, the director of the huge domestic box office hits Going Our Way and Going Our Way 2 which reached altogether almost 350,000 in admissions, is working on his new project entitled Pirates. At the moment, he’s working on a new draft, together with the Serbian writer/director Srdjan Koljević.

Three emerging talents we’re working with at the moment are Urša Menart, Marko Šantić and Marija Zidar. Urša’s script My Last Year as a Loser has already received production support from the Slovenian Film Center at a call for debut directors and as we’re planning the shooting to start in September 2017, we’re now extensively working on a new draft. Urša just recently attended Mediterranean Film Institute’s Script 2 Film workshop.

Marko Šantić is working on his second feature film Wake Up, which we’re developing with the support of Sources 2 script development workshop. We have so far also received development funding from the Slovenian Film Center.

Marija Zidar started research for her first feature length documentary Avenge approximately four years ago, and we’re still very committed to the project. The lawlessness and corruption in modern society, based on the research of the subject of the blood-taking in Albania, is extremely demanding. We’ll commit another year for the proper research and financing of the project before we’ll enter into production. Nevertheless, the development of the project has already been supported by the Slovenian Film Center and the Kosovo Cinematography Center as well as the Creative Europe Media Programme.

I’m extremely proud of such a strong slate of projects, which will be, at least I hope so, all presented on a big screen by 2020.