by Stefan Dobroiu
- Cineuropa met up with Bulgaria’s Producer on the Move, Maya Vitkova, of Viktoria Films, to discuss her career and the current state of Bulgaria’s film industry
The first Bulgarian director ever invited to the World Cinema competition at Sundance with her first feature, Viktoria [+see also:
interview: Maya Vitkova
film profile], Maya Vitkova was born in Sofia in 1978. She is currently developing Gin Air, her second feature, and has her own production outfit called Viktoria Films.
Cineuropa: What is the current state of distribution in Bulgaria? Is there an audience for Viktoria?
Maya Vitkova: The current state is the state we’ve had for decades now: Hollywood rules the market. But there is something new – no- and low-budget Bulgarian features, mainly comedies, have started attracting audiences. As a result, there has also been a change for the worse in terms of taste. Personally, I’m tired of Bulgarian dramas, but I feel uncomfortable with cheap humour. I believe there is an audience for Viktoria – there’s humour at the beginning, it gradually gets sadder, but most importantly, it leads to a revelation at the end. Viktoria comes from the heart, and people will spread the word. Viktoria World Sales and Distribution (a newly formed company owned by Emil Vitkov and myself) will sell Viktoria,and we will have a clear view on the market very soon.
If you had to choose between directing and producing, what would you choose and why?
If I had a gun to my head, I’d say directing... and then probably “shadow-produce” the film. When I was 13, at school, I had to write an essay on my future profession in English. Years later, it came out that my English teacher studied directing, but she made a living out of teaching and translating. I found that out after reading her passionate translation of Milos Forman’s Turnaround: A Memoir. In my essay, I was using the word “producer” to mean “director”. She crossed out all the “producers” in my future plans with a red pen and replaced them with “directors”. But I keep on thinking that the word dealing with the completion of a creation is “producing”; directing is only the beginning. I intend to produce my films and co-produce other directors’ projects.
Is there real hope for a strong independent Bulgarian cinema outside the National Film Center (NFC)?
If you’re referring to a potential “Bulgarian wave” of independent films, I doubt it. There will always be exceptions – good independent films – but they cannot form strong independent cinema. My fellow Bulgarian filmmakers and I are making films not because this is our hobby, but because it is our profession. We need a certain quality of life and work, an income. Can you name another independent Bulgarian film as successful as Eastern Plays [+see also:
interview: Kamen Kalev
film profile] by Kamen Kalev? There are two paths you can follow when starting a film here – with a budget provided by the National Film Center, or independently, which only works if you are well prepared and have a steady crew. I don’t see real hope, but if you have the urge to tell a story and the NFC does not back you up, you need to do it independently and hope for the best.
What would you change in the relationship between Bulgarian film directors and the National Film Center?
There is no relationship between the authors and the National Film Center; the institution works with the producers. The general issue with the average Bulgarian producer is that they perceive themselves as creative producers, while they are only focused on funding – but not taking bank loans in order to make the films. I invested company money in Viktoria – I backed up the film financially, but also artistically, as a creative producer. I see no other problem with the National Film Center apart from the artistic commissions. The way you choose the committee members defines the type of films you will have in the next two or three years.
Can you give any details about the next project you intend to produce?
It is a very exciting and, again, personal project of mine called Gin Air, which is in development and will be shot partly in Brazil. We are pairing up with Mandragora (Anca Puiu, Romania’s Producer on the Move 2013) again, following Viktoria. The project is inspired by two years of writing, a trip to Brazil, a book, a film, a bottle of gin and a subject that moves me: how we come into being. It is a road movie. It is the story of Anna, 36, who, after spending two years of her precious life translating Joyce’s masterpiece into another language, becomes a contemporary Ulysses “looking” for Ithaca, but finding herself.
What are your expectations for the Producers on the Move programme?
I’m very excited about my forthcoming participation in Producers on the Move – to meet the other participants, learn who they are and what they are aiming for, and introduce myself. Taking part in a number of MEDIA-supported initiatives with Viktoria was very advantageous for me and gave me a lot – not instantly, but in the long run. You start belonging to a global family of filmmakers, which makes it easier to survive in this “shark’s” business. I’d like to invite this family to a screening of Viktoria at the Marché du Film on 18 May at 10 am in Gray 5.