Pleased when the viewer is pleased
by Sakis Kontos
- His films, he says, are everyday stories that are told by him and judged by the viewer. If they accept them, it’s fine. In any case, he has to move on and prepare yet another tale
Cineuropa : Are you surprised with your win in San Sebastian or in Athens or any of the other awards so far this year?
Bohdan Slama : To be honest with you I’m surprised that they even accepted our film there! We had tried other prestigious festivals before, but we didn’t have luck. In the end I was really excited that we went to San Sebastian because the festival had a great line-up. And once you’re in a festival you can’t pretend that you have no chances of winning; pretty much everything goes once you’re there. Still, when we won it really came as a huge surprise to us all.
San Sebastian apart, you’ve won a few more awards this year.
It’s great that a jury places you before somebody else in a kind of ranking system but for me the most important thing is that the public gets to understand and approve my film. I’m happy if somebody simply understands what the film is all about. Anyway, festivals are an extraordinary situation, where people are called to rank art and talent; which is never a good idea if you ask me. I was more contented when Angelica Houston passed me the award in San Sebastian and told me that she really liked my film…
It seems that Something Like Happiness [+see also:
interview: Bohdan Slama
interview: Pavel Strnad
film profile] is a continuation of your previous work Wild Bees. It also seems to me that you love telling stories about people living in the periphery, not only region-wise but also society-wise.
My characters don’t live in an exclusive world. I always try that my stories are as close to reality as possible. On the contrary I would argue that my characters are ordinary people who, for certain reasons, they chose the kind of life they chose – in a small town and out of town. But it’s their choice.
Do budget or production restrictions play a role in how you choose your stories?
Not really. And I think we’re better in that respect than, let’s say, our colleagues in the US. When I did Wild Bees I knew that it had to be low-budget but I also knew that if it did well I would have paved the way for a better budget for the next feature; as it happened. The only difference is that I didn’t expect it to be "that" expensive...
Your film cost almost double what the average Czech production usually costs [the film’s budget was at € 1,500,000, the average for a Czech production is estimated at € 750,000].
Please let’s not talk about "Independents". First I don’t like this term. At the end of the day everybody is dependant on something or somebody one way or the other; so "independent" is more like a brand thing these days. Thankfully in Europe we don’t have a problem with this word since the majority of productions is dependant on state or EU support as it was in our case when at least 50 percent of the budget was covered by them. In this way I can only smile when somebody [in Europe] puts a tag "independent" before or after his film…
But it is easier to fund a film in America than it is in Europe…
I wouldn’t say that. I don’t think funding a film in our continent is as hard as they present it. Europe is a heaven for the kind of films people like myself do.
There is always a chance you will be nominated for an Oscar. Would that mean anything for your career?
Not really. I don’t like the career thing. Sure, it would be great to win or even being nominated for an Oscar but that’s where it ends. I’m happy to be on my "freedom island" here, with a great team of producers... I’m honestly skeptical about this. Anyway, my next project also takes place here in Czech Republic, so all other thoughts can only be really long term.
Do you write uour script having in mind things like casting, locations or so?
Occasionally I do. But in general I have to order myself stop doing it so because this kind of worrying can actually have an effect on the story – direct it somewhere where it shouldn’t be going. Then again I have a positive experience with writing specifically with certain actors in mind; it worked well since after I’d presented it to them I’ve kind of made them partners into the story and they helped the development of it...
What is a typical contemporary Czech film? It is definitely not the crime action genre…
I understand that people get excited with pop-corn easy-to-digest movies where people have guns in their hands and there is "right" and "wrong". But that’s not how I see it. I believe that the biggest adventure in our lives is life itself, stories inspired by the experiences of ordinary people, who are trying to find a meaning in their lives, find a partner or true love. Ordinary, real life situations but extremely stimulating. Czech public is generally a cultured lot; they do of course watch commercial, easy-to-digest films, but they do also go to cinema to watch all other kind, as we say, as my film actually proves.