Croatian producer Siniša Juričić has a remarkable career under his belt having worked as a journalist, editor and producer on Radio 101 and serving as a producer and program director of Omladinska Televizija. Juričić worked as a producer of documentary programs for ZDF, BBC Radio and television and Nippon TV.
As a film producer, he stands behind projects such as Chris the Swiss, 15 Minutes: The Dvor Massacre, The Miner dealing with the national past and politics. He mostly focuses on young filmmakers from South-Eastern Europe and projects such as Bulgarian director Ilian Metev and his debut Sofia's Last Ambulance, but also co-produces projects in the Netherlands (David Verbeek's film Full Contact) and collaborated on Velvet Terrorists, a portmanteau documentary by Peter Kerekes, Ivan Ostrochovský and Pavol Pekarčík.
In 2012, he received the Albert Kapovice Award by the Croatian Association of Producers for his contribution to the international promotion of Croatian cinema. Juričić continues to produce political documentaries, but also feature projects, and is currently preparing the crime series The Abyss, directed by Marjan Alčevski.
Juričić has returned from Chile, where he is preparing a documentary about the largest telescope at the upcoming Vera Rubin Observatory, when we had a chance to talk to him. In the interview, he describes how he makes films in the COVID mode, how he managed to adapt to the new pandemic normal, why Elon Musk will be the villain of the upcoming project Measuring the Sky, but also about the relationship with streamers and how he perceives the position of documentaries on VOD platforms.
To the Stars
You have just returned from Chile where are you working on a film. What is the new project about?
We were in a place where four out of ten biggest telescopes in the world are. And we are there actually shooting a film Measuring the Sky about the world's biggest optical telescope that is being built in the Vera Rubin observatory.
With which other countries are you collaborating on the new documentary film?
At the moment, it's Croatia, Slovenia and France. But we have interests from a lot of countries. We went there and we met Italians, French and Spaniards. Actually, the head of the project is Croatian and he's a friend from my primary school.
What a coincidence.
We were both crazily in love with astronomy. Then I made a mistake and went into the wrong profession [laugh].
Based on your outcome, it does not look like it.
He became a superstar astronomer.
Can you elaborate with how long you will be shooting in Chile and what you are focusing on?
It will be done in two years’ time. Basically, it's a unique project because it's going to be the first observatory that has the data center inside it. They will be able to process data right away. They have the cleanest skies on Earth in Cerro Pachón. In the evening, they have to open the observatory to air it to adjust the temperatures and then they start observing and an hour costs $200,000.
What we want to shoot there is to make a personal story about the head of the Vera Rubin project, Željko Ivezić, how we left Croatia and how he went there and slowly climbed a ladder to become a world-famous astronomer. He was always part of these teams that are discovering asteroids and potentially dangerous meteors.
He was a member of the team that discovered the first asteroid that was potentially coming very close to the earth. This is the idea that once this telescope is built, they will be able to go deep into the space and discover potential threats. They will also, of course, try to explore the dark matter. But as with everything else, human race is always able to travess whatever good we are doing.
What they will do is basically, once they shot certain parts of the sky within the 72 hours, their measurements will go into public domain. Imagine what happens then. There's so many data that they will have, that they will not have time to go through all of it. Basically, this is where other observatories and data mining centers will take over.
Rubin will say, “okay, guys, we think that in this quadrant, we found something can you take over and we will continue scanning the sky”. But it's also that their data will be minable. There are already two companies in Luxembourg, because Luxembourg is at the forefront of space exploration and I know this sounds funny, but the first satellite in Europe was launched in Luxembourg.
They already have two companies that will do the data mining and then they will sell this data to whoever is interested. And who might be interested?
What Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson´s Virgin Galactic are doing at the moment, they're doing near-stratosphere launch, so close to Earth and back. Imagine this in the context that there is a Japanese probe called Hayabusa II that successfully went to the asteroid, landed there, picked up the samples and came back to Earth. They came back with one of the minerals that is completely depleted in the Earth's core.
Imagine how many rocks are out there. Imagine, if you are able to send an expedition on an asteroid that is passing close enough to Earth to have it mined and for the expedition to come back to Earth with hundreds of tons of gold, hundreds of tons of lithium, hundreds of tons of iodine because the solid iodine is also depleted in our core. It's basically a new Wild West that is completely unregulated and whatever happens there, stays there.
And of course, we have we have an antagonist. We have a villain. And the villain is Elon.
That's a beautiful angle.
I don't know if you know anything about Starlink. Musk wants to provide fast internet for everyone on the Earth. But the real reason is that he wants to speed up the time of transactions between the stock market in London and the stock market in the U.S. Because five seconds mean $10 billion.
He wants to launch 42,000 of those satellites, because it needs to be a lot of them since they are orbiting in what is called “low Earth orbit”. He already launched 16,500. So, imagine what these are doing to the astronomers. They create a grid on their photos that look like a crossword.
Elon will hopefully be one of the people that we want to talk to through Željko who is already in touch with him. We think that we will be able to reach out to him and then there are other people like Bill Gates, Charles Simonyi. For example, Charles Simonyi gave $20 million for the telescope and the telescope is actually called Charles Simonyi´s telescope.
I originally thought that you were in Chile to celebrate the presidential election since the new president has Croatian roots.
No, that was the backstory. We were selling this to everybody that we were actually there to film the astronomers [laugh]. But we were starting the revolution in Chile. Don’t tell that to anybody.
Our Daily Pandemic
How did the global pandemic impact you and your work? And how did you adjust it?
What we understood was that it was a total crackdown. On top of that, we also had the earthquake that was happening in Croatia. I would say that first six months for the most horrible ones, because everything was put to hold.
But then as we are human beings, we slowly started recovering. In a way, these six months were good because surprisingly, people started really thinking and re-thinking their projects and their scripts, and whatever was in their heads. I would say that, coming out of the first wave of epidemic, we were flooded with new ideas and new possibilities.
In a way, it's silly to say it was good, but I would say that in a way it was useful. And then what happened, I would say a year ago, let's say September, October, people already started thinking, okay, we went through one wave, and we understood that in the spring, most likely, we will go down with the numbers and we would be able to shoot”. So, basically what happened was that we started with preparations for shootings, September, October and in February, March, we were in prep.
By July, August, we have already shot four feature films – Crossing, Kaymak, The Great Tram Robbery and SeaSparkle. And it's insane times, and I would say insane times need insane courage and insane measures. But that was also time when me personally, I started traveling again, and for me, I was freaking out and it was shocking. But once you hit the road, you understood that it was possible.
So, if I summarize how it was before we went to Chile, it was hell. Because it was the first time we were going to South America, the first time we were going to this country with all of the corona measures. Take for example airline tickets. At some point, I was getting prices for €12,000 for the three of us.
But then if you persevere, and then if you're as calm as possible, it kind of starts working out. Once you step there, of course, everything can go one way or the other way, but if you have at least some of the logistics prepared, then it's a totally smooth ride.
This week of Chile, if you would ask my director and my DoP before the trip, they were saying it's not gonna happen. After the trip, they were like, “oh, it was so smooth”. And the things that we all knew pre-epidemic, like Airbnb, booking.com, Rent-a-cars, everything works totally fine.
Then borders, of course. When you land in Santiago de Chile, there is a long queue of hundreds of people going directly to the PCR testing. Once you do the test, you have to isolate, for let's say six hours, and wait for the results. These six hours were used to reach the location where we were shooting and we entered the flat that we rented. By the time we reach the place, we got the results.
So, I would say once you follow the rules and rules are obvious – vaccinating, testing - it works out. And once you are jumping from one bubble to another bubble and you do not act as a reckless idiot who's trying to fake his vaccination card, or something similar, everything works out. And this week was totally smooth ride.
But you have to also apply measures on the set to prevent the spread of the virus.
In terms of measures, for example, first film we shot was a feature-length project with Netherlands and Belgium and it that has three stories that are intertwining, and mostly happening on a ferry between Spain and Morocco - Crossing by Jacqueline van Vugt. And we shot the entire film in Croatia.
And the measures that we had, because of course, you cannot risk that you have a driver who brings corona to the main actor. Because a single shooting day can cost you in the range between €50 and €100,000 since it was €2 million-budget film.
What we did, and I have to say thanks to the Netherlands Film Fund which gave us €200,000 worth of additional COVID funding, we had a quick test every two or three day, at least once a week PCR test. And we also did circles.
That means that people wore bracelets, that we're allowing them to step into a certain circle. So, not everybody was able to get through to the director or the actors. And of course, it's a parallel system. We normally have a medic on set but for the first time in life, we were having health and safety officer. She was just in charge of the testing and vaccinations.
That was the time when we were still lacking the vaccine. At a certain point, there was a state decision that the filmmakers were part of these special cases and they deserved to get vaccinated first. So, at some point in the middle of the shoot, I was sending the entire crew to the vaccination. Naturally, everybody who wanted to get vaccinated.
In your case what was the main difference between working on COVID documentary and COVID fiction film?
I would always say that fiction film is easier. Because you're always more or less able to control things. And of course, budgets are higher. I would say and I would think that there are not that many documentary producers, strictly documentary producers, left in the Eastern Europe.
Because they're simply with everything that's happening with the TV, everything that's happening with the streamers, we are left with only the soft funding - national funding - and this is something that I was trying to preach IDFA Producer’s Connection that the only way for us to continue is the co-financing between the countries. Because there's still some left.
For example, if I can bring €20,000 or €30,000 to a documentary project that I co-produce, I can bring in more than like 5 TV station´s pre-buys and less obligations towards my possible partner in the coproduction.
Enter the Streamers
You explained how the production changed because of the pandemic but what is the coronavirus´s impact on distribution in your perspective? How did you adjust also regarding the streamers´ dominance as the cinemas were shuttered?
I don't have any resentments towards the streamers, because we probably had one of the most successful, if not regional, but also Eastern European documentary film. In 2016, we premiered the film Houston, We Have a Problem at Tribeca and it was coproduced with HBO Europe from the start. Then Netflix bought everything what was left of the world's rights.
And for me that was the first time working with the streamers and trying to understand their business model. Of course, that was five years ago, and now you wouldn't be able to get two such a huge SVOD providers on the same project. They both had their good sides and bad sides. So, we started to understand what it means to work with a streamer.
But for me, of course it's lacking that they're - so far that I understand it - really not co-producing anything with Eastern Europe. I also see that I was just talking a couple of weeks ago with a colleague from France. I heard that, for example, Amazon France is going to completely pull out of France, because French government is trying to force them into the paying 25% of their revenues.
So, apparently, they will completely pull out amazon.fr. The merchant website is going to pull out of France, French government is trying to force them to pay what is normal to pay. If you are taking the money out of certain community, you should pay back. So, I think in that sense, Eastern Europe is really lacking and lagging behind.
Another thing that I would propose and I would kind of really fight for - there are several fiction initiatives. It´s not innovative, you know how ends get together and build something. There is an initiative called The Creatives. And it is an initiative that groups eight or nine production houses from U.S., U.K., France, Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany.
They want to fight against the streamers. But fight in a way that they have a pool that is working together creatively and financing-wise. They offer whatever they do, they can even offer it to the streamers, but they want to make national TVs stronger again.
They want to have position where it's not the streamer who is setting up the terms, but it's them. And that´s normal because a producer is the one who is initially acquiring and taking care of the IP. Basically, they should not be gang-raped once they go in front of a streamer.
This idea, this very American idea, of here's 100 bucks and we take it all. Not anymore. So, I would I would promote that similar idea should happen in the documentary world.
Because nowadays you hardly see a documentary film being released in theatres.
You occasionally see Victor Kossakovsky or Seregei Loznitsa. You see these old masters. But for someone to have a breakout film, or a debut film, like something what we had with Ilian Metev, almost 10 years ago, I still think there is space for that. But because of the market, I have a feeling that even the filmmakers are changing the way how they do things.
In what regard?
They are trying to adjust to the market. They're trying not to make big films that will go to the cinema, because they understand it's not going to happen.
But do you mean they need to adjust to the global market because that what the streamers are usually going for.
I would say that the market is global since the last 10 years. And if you did not adjust to that, you are gone. Kossakovsky can do his films because whatever he does, first of all, he will get supported. Because he already has his network. They're not just a network of producers, but also network of financiers and everybody knows what to expect from him.
But for someone who is coming out to a film school with a fantastic idea, fantastic story and she or he wants to do it for the big screen. It doesn't happen, I would say since the beginning. Young auteurs have already some sort of economic “self-censorship” that high budgets are impossible and consequently films for the big screen too.
Riding the Controversies
Let´s take for example your project Chris the Swiss who had a lot of buzz going around back in the time. Was this film tailored for streamers?
No, I don't think so. Eventually it will be because somebody will acquire it. I think we even sold it to the streamers in China. But if you don't see this film on the big screen, then why we have even bothered?
Why we bothered working on the animation for one and a half year. And even when I'm sending it to someone, I'm kindly asking them, please watch this on as big screen as possible. It is a pity to waste such a film on a cellphone screen.
It was a debut film for €2.7 million. If you would said this to the director Anja Kofmel before she started working on the film, she would say are you crazy? Because prior to that she only did a short film that cost 10,000 Swiss francs.
Chris the Swiss along your other projects led to some controversies. Does that mean that you are avoiding anything even slightly politically controversial now?
Well, then I started working on this wonderful Russian project The New Greatness hoping how that would be just a small puzzle in the project. But it turns out that I brought one third and maybe one quarter of the budget to the project.
What is The New Greatness about?
It's a project that was pitched at East Doc Platform. It's a story about how Putin is targeting the youth because youth is the only one demonstrating in Russia. So, within last two years, there were three or four groups, NGOs that were targeted by the secret service, radicalized, penetrated and then sentenced.
We follow the case of a group called The New Greatness, kids that were 17 to 25 including two girls. They were penetrated by FSB army and the police. And they were trying to radicalize them. The most radical thing they did was they were throwing Molotov cocktails in a dilapidated building. So, then, the same night, they were all arrested. The secret service, entered their houses at 5 AM, beat up their parents, took the kids out.
They were tried. These two girls were at some point released to be under a house arrest, because one was developing a psychosis, the other one was having some sort of tumor. Then the judge which released them had her topless photos leaked to all the newspapers in Russia which published them within a month and she had to resign.
Then the other judge brought the girls back to jail. They were again released to be under a house arrest and the boys were tried. Then in November, they were brought for a public hearing with 100 people present, a glass cage and cameras everywhere. As they were starting to read the accusations to them, these boys stood up and started cutting themselves. But they managed to prevent them from the suicide and in February, the boys got five to seven years in Siberia and girls got four and five years of counseling with the bracelet around their foot. They're not allowed to go on- the internet. They're not allowed to go to school, they are not allowed to go to university. Basically, they are dead. They will never have a job in Russia. So, that's how I'm trying not to do controversial films.
What is the project´s stage?
Film is now in the finishing phase. We just won the Best Rough Cut at IDFA Forum. We're finalizing the editing and going into the post-production.
You have a pretty rich history with the Institute of Documentary Film in Prague including East Doc Platform, Ex Oriente Film, East Doc Market meetings…
…yes, for the last seven years, I was always there. I am pretty loyal to the Institute of Documentary Film.
Could you elaborate a bit on how this experience was and did the platform help you with your projects? Whether there are some specifics since you are co-producing Eastern European or Central European projects.
The first workshop we did was not East Doc Platform but a documentary discovery campus at the master school. I was working on the film with Petar Oreškovič who is directing Measuring the Sky. We were in the film school and in 2003, we joined the discovery campus and we pitched a film Dead Man Walking there and we pre-sold it to six countries before the film was done. We premiered the film at IDFA´s the first appearance competition and we were shortlisted for the award.
This was my first experience. Second experience was with Cash & Marry. We brought it to the Institute of Documentary Film and it was an amazing experience. It was beautiful because we worked with some amazing tutors and mentors. Of course, at the pitch, we met our Austrian coproducer, Ralph Wieser from Mischief Films.
For me, it was coming out of a film school and doing two projects that really went international that obviously had some unique selling point that worked with foreign partners. So, for me, the experience with IDF and going through the workshop, through the pitch, everything was fantastic.
That was a time when you were still meeting commissioning editors that really meant something and meant to do business and they did the business. I don't know how it is now but I would say that it's difficult to find those people now.
You participated at IDF events and initiatives with Eastern European and Central European projects because you have also branched to West and North European co-productions.
Absolutely. I was also trying to find projects from Eastern Europe that could work for Croatia and that would help me establish myself as a producer coming from this territory with interesting stories. Not just from Croatia, but from all over Eastern Europe.
North Western of Southern Europe
Your projects were mostly or to a large degree are South European, but you have strong ties to Netherlands as you already mentioned.
Yes, but I have to also underline that I did a film with Peter Kerekes and that was a fantastic experience. That was so funny and so nice and the premiere and everything really worked out.
In terms of the Netherlands in 2015, I was at the Rotterdam Film Lab and the European Film Promotion did the initiative of Producer’s Lab in Toronto. So, I was going to Toronto and this is where I met Leontine Petit from Lemming Film. And we really bonded, we really connected. I would say that I did most of my Dutch projects with her.
We met in 2014 and in Spring 2015, we were already in- the prep. In the spring, the beginning of summer, we did the film Full Contact in Croatia and it premiered in 2015 in Toronto at the Big Screen competition. So, that was huge success because basically you have two producers that met in Toronto and one year later, they're premiering their film in Toronto.
This is where I started collaborating quite a lot with her. We did a number of projects together and then the Dutch are very pragmatic people and they have similar way of working like us. They prefer smaller crews. They prefer not to work with giant productions. Then I started going more to Amsterdam and working more with several Dutch producers.'
Then you branched out to the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and I would imagine the you would be closer to the Czech cultural context rather than Dutch. How did you became engage with the Czech audiovisual industry?
You would be surprised that in the last 20 years, there were maybe 3 Czech co-productions. That is Velvet Terrorists, The Oddsockeaters and When the War Comes. So I'm really surprised because now we are working on animated children's film Young Tesla and the Idea Poachers. This film is going to be directed also by Petar Oreškovič, who was doing my first professional film.
It's a story about Nikola Tesla who is 13 years old, and who has already having crazy ideas. One of these is the famous idea when he's petting his cat and the fur goes up. He starts thinking about how to do the electricity. In our film, this idea materializes above his head and behind him, there is a couple - uncle and his niece - who are idea poachers. They're stealing other people's ideas, and they're selling it.
They have something that looks like a steampunk vacuum cleaner. They steal his idea, they sell it to a crazy scientist who teams up with an Austrian general and they want to conquer the world. Nikola Tesla needs to go and try to save the idea but also save his city and his family because this is a death ray is aimed at his city. This story did not work with the Czech Republic.
And we really wanted to make it because we were influenced by Karel Zeman and we wanted it to be visually a Czech film because we grew up with that sort of films. We submitted it to the Czech Film Fund three times. And the moment we stood in front of the commission, we understood that it is not going to work.
We had a feeling that the commission of the Czech Film Fund is not the right for this type of project. They did not understand why we're putting this story into the world of fantasy. In a way, for me it's really sad. But we had to move on and now this film is co-produced by Serbia, Slovenia, Netherlands and we still have partners both in Belgium and Bulgaria that are interested in the project.
Right now, you're running two production companies.
At the moment, I'm running four companies.
That´s Jaako dobra produkcija and Nukleus Film.
In Croatia, it´s Jaako dobra produkcija and Nukleus Film. We have Nukleus Film in Slovenia. As of last year, we have Italian company Levante Produzioni together with my Slovenian partner Boštjan Virc.
How do you juggle projects between these companies?
It's always the same. We mostly get approached by directors that want to work with us and then we see if there is a possibility of financing. Then we try to establish something. In Italy, we are slowly building it, we got the money for the development of the first fiction project.
But we also work with another director called Carlo Zoratti who is my dear friend with whom I was trying to work for the last 10 years. It was not working out because Italian system is weird and tough. He did the film called The Special Need that won in Leipzig.
Basically, when he heard that we are coming, he was very happy to hear that and he has a slate of three fiction films and animation TV series that is extremely interesting. So, we are in full speed now and we even managed to get equity development funding on one of his projects.
It's a different world and for me, it's also good to explore and establish myself in this world. It's also really good to have a partner like Boštjan Virc from Studio Virc with whom I work on it. With Boštjan, I did several projects. The first one being Houston, We Have a Problem.
In addition to documentary projects, you are also producing fiction features, TV miniseries and cross-media projects. So, I was wondering whether different companies are dedicated to different mediums.
What we want to do is we want to establish the point where creative people can come and say “I have this story” and if the story is good, I don't care if it's a documentary, fiction, animation, short film because primarily, what I think of myself is as a storyteller. This is what I feel, I'm in this world for.
This is interesting to hear because when I speak to other producers they think of themselves as creative people not just money people. They are creatively shaping their projects. This is also your case?
Absolutely. And this is how we were taught in the film school. We had one fantastic professor, Mr. Vedran Mihletic, who was lecturing the main subjects Production I and Production II. He was telling us you can pick to be the one who is taking a chair from point A to point B. Or you can pick to be a money person.
But I think that you need to be creative persons, you need to be the ones starting the projects, and you need to be the ones deciding about what project you want to do. Because then when you see the slate of your projects, you have to say, okay, I understand what I did and why I did it.
Even the first big fiction film that I did, Full Contact, a story about the drone operator that strikes the wrong target. So, whatever I do, I try to do something that is going to be meaningful.
Regarding the new media. What is your opinion are you scouting projects in let's say the virtual reality or mixed media.
There is a project that is dear to my heart and it´s called Chocolate Milk and is done by dear friend Sonja Bozic. It was also pitched at the East Doc Platform. The project is trying to give a voice to people that are in a way deprived, autistic people, and is trying to show us the world of the autistic people that you don't have a chance to see and you don't have a chance to understand.
But Sonja is really struggling with the financing. I would say that there is not that many outlets that support that sort of projects. And it's a pity because I have a feeling that there is a small scene that is even financing that sort of projects. I would say that there is a new venture that is opening up to primarily documentary people and that's this new media in the museums where you can screen these projects, where you can make the little films that can support the visual part of some exhibition.
But can we establish a museum, online museum that is only screening those subjects? Maybe. But who's gonna support?
Based on what I have seen so far, I would say VR is currently better suited for documentary projects rather than fiction works.
One of the films that I did in 1998 was a film that represented Croatia at Expo. What they did was they decide they want to do it in 360 degrees. So, we said, okay, we never did that. Who did it? They have it in France. In France, there's this invention park that is a halfway from Paris to Cannes. Very smartly in the middle of nowhere, you have a huge park dedicated to all of the film inventions, I think it´s called Futuroscope.
You go there, and you see all of the inventions that happened in the film, and did not go commercial. You can see 70mm film at a double speed. Have you ever seen something like that? It hurts your eyes how strong this picture is.
Then there are first films with a chair that is copying what's happening on screen. Basically, you have film of the guys who are riding on these insane skate-like boards. But they lie down on it, there's really steep road somewhere in San Francisco. You're riding it in the chair and it's insane.
And one of the exhibitions was 360 degree. And we went there and we were not impressed. Because it was fine, but it was a bit boring. By then, the French had the system, Americans had the system, Japanese borrowed the system. So basically, there were three films done in 360 degrees and we were the fourth one.
We didn't have money to rent the equipment from the Americans or the French. So, we decided to do our own system and we decided to mix fiction and documentary. And it was insane. Because basically, imagine the set. There is no place for you to hide. There is no behind the camera. Everything is in the scope. So, it was really good experience and it was seen by over 1 million people. That was, I would say, the film that did most viewers in my career.
Did you continue with this technology?
No, because what can you do with it? But basically what we did was, we built a tripod, we built a system with nine cameras. We did the switcher with three monitors. Basically, not even the DOP but the director and the technician who invented the system, they were the ones who were under the tripod reaching to check the shot. Then when they would say, okay, the actors and extras would start doing things.
How do you see the emerging technology and documentary filmmaking co-existing and influencing each other? There is even a special genre of desktop documentary when the filmmaker does not need to even leave his office and can do the whole film on a desktop utilizing just found footage. Do you see a potential in it?
Well, it tells you what the potential is. The potential is that we don´t have money so, let's do it on a desktop. I would prefer to do the film about Vera Rubin in 3D or with some sort of immersive filmmaking where you can go there, you can at least partially experience what we went through.
Because it's insane that you're still on your own planet and it feels like you are on Mars. And there are these weird structures where people are observing the sky. And the air is thick because it's 3000 meters. How do you transfer that into technology?
That´s the immersive filmmaking but there is also interactive cinema.
I have the feeling that whatever type of story, whatever type of technology you used, the film is always relying on the story. So, I don't mind being told the story through any means. But I have a feeling that those new means, I think I remember I read it somewhere somebody was insanely in love with 3D, probably Weinstein.
And he said 3D is gonna do it. I don´t think 3D is gonna do it because I think it's also about how democratic is this medium. If the medium cost me 100 times more then I go back to desktop production.
But there are also films that are shot on iPhones for example.
My iPhone shoots 4K. So, we did shoot some of the things on the iPhone while we were on the summit in Chile.
And are you going to use those scenes in the film?
Absolutely. If it fits into the film, we will use it. I don't mind shooting with iPhone. For example, we tested a camera for the first time which is impossible to buy - Sony fx6. It´s a small camera which is very compact and it can shoot in 6K. And the next model, Sony fx8, can shoot in 8K.
Are you using the camera for the film?
This is the one that we use for the Chilean shoot. Again, they have one camera in the entire region. I really had to push to get it and basically my DOP he had it for two days prior to shoot. And I said let´s go, and if it doesn't work, then we're going to shoot on a smartphone. But it worked out and it's amazing.
And what other projects are you currently working besides those you have mentioned?
We have The Slav(e)s and it's directed by Robert Zuber which whom I did the film Million Dollar Wife. It's a project that we worked on for the last seven, eight years. This is what's killing me with documentaries.
You can't work on a documentary for seven, eight years and think that you can survive on that. It´s amazing project and I think we finally cracked it. It's a story about Swiss franc and all of the nice things that Swiss franc did to Eastern Europe.
Sounds like a romance!
Yeah, I don't know how much it affected Czech Republic, for example, but the story was that mortgages were given in Swiss franc 10 years ago. And then what happened was, there was some scuffle between the U.S. and Russia. The U.S. imposed really tough sanctions. All of these Russian oligarchs have pumped up all of their money into Switzerland and Swiss franc value doubled.
So, all of a sudden, people that were having mortgages, their mortgages doubled and they didn't have salaries to pay for them. Some people were committing suicides, the marriages were broken, the apartments were seized and sold to somebody else.
And Robert was one of the people that went through the experience. So, we were always trying to find how to combine some of his documentary experiences with things that you can´t shoot. You can´t go to the bank, and shoot the scene that he went through.
Basically, what happens is the bank calls you every couple of days, and they tell you please come and pay for installment or they invite you and then this conversation takes place in the bank. And it's 15 minutes and you tell them sorry, I'm broke, I can't pay and you leave.
But on one specific occasion, Robert went to the bank, and he is sharing the custody of his son. His son was with him and he was like, okay, what the hell, I'm gonna go to the bank. I have it sorted out in 15 minutes, and then we're gonna go by our business. They kept him for seven or eight hours.
At some point, two bouncer-looking guys were entering the room and saying to the kid, why don't you come with us? We have a playroom for kids like you. The kid said no, I want to stay with my father. So, how do you repeat that scene? But I think we found a way. The Slav(e)s is supported by the Croatian and the Serbian film fund and it´s, let's say in production, the main part will be filmed in February, then we hope to finish the film by Summer.
And we have Measuring the Sky that is my favorite project and that one is supported by the development and we are waiting for the results of Creative Europe to see if it's supported for further development. We will apply for production financing next year. We also have project that we are supporting as co-producers which is Moldovan-Latvian project called Dnipr.
And there's a project called One Dying Star by Tea Lukač, that's the one that we are co-producing. She is a Serbian director. And at the moment, the project is used by Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Czech Republic, Germany and Bulgaria and it should be finished in 2022.
The interview is part of series of talks with European documentary filmmakers marking 20 years of the Institute of Documentary Film in Prague.