by Martin Kudláč
- Slovakian documentary filmmaker and producer Marek Urban established sentimentalfilm in 2008 with documentarian Ivan Ostrochovský; he is currently preparing György Kristóf's feature debut, Out
Slovakian documentary filmmaker and producer Marek Urban founded production company UN FILM in 2004, and together with his colleague, documentarian Ivan Ostrochovský, he established production outfit sentimentalfilm in 2008. Urban produced Ostrochovský’s award-winning fiction feature debut, Koza [+see also:
interview: Ivan Ostrochovský
film profile], the documentary triptych Velvet Terrorists [+see also:
film profile], the documentary Matchmaking Mayor and Juraj Nvota’s highly praised Music, along with his latest outing, Hostage [+see also:
film profile]. Urban is currently preparing, among others, the ambitious feature debut by György Kristóf, the absurdist drama Out, and Miro Remo’s next documentary project, Swan Bride, and is also working on his project Partisans, on which he will serve as director (in addition to writer and producer).
Cineuropa: Koza, which you produced, was named the most promising project last year at Karlovy Vary, a prediction that is being borne out by the recent raft of awards it has garnered. What was special about this project?
Marek Urban: We strive to produce our films at as high a standard as possible. Koza was a fiction feature debut produced by our company as the main producer, and simultaneously it was Ivan Ostrochovský’s debut. So our goal was to make the film even better. Regarding the visuals, we chose attractive locations in different areas of Europe that matched the story. However, the initial support from the Slovak Audiovisual Fund that enabled us to start shooting was fairly restrictive, so we were forced to reduce our crew to a bare minimum, thus gaining sufficient flexibility and freedom. The subsequent entry of Czech Television as a co-producer, the backing from the Czech State Cinematography Fund and Radio and Television Slovakia’s co-production involvement enabled us to eventually finish the film.
Besides Koza and the documentary Velvet Terrorists, you have also produced other award-festooned films, such as Matchmaking Mayor and Music. How do you choose your future projects?
Seeing as each project takes at least two years, which is a relatively long time, and requires a lot of work and energy, we choose projects that impress us somehow; at the same time, they must be realisable with the means we have available.
You are currently preparing the fiction feature debut by György Kristóf, Out, with co-production partners from Hungary, the Czech Republic, France and Latvia. The estimated budget is €1.2 million – ie, almost double the budget of Koza. What is the main difference between Out and Koza?
Ivan has a background in directing documentary films, which was also reflected in the rather free script structure that we continuously modified. The story, even though it unfolded across Europe, was mainly confined to indoors. In addition, we worked primarily with non-professional actors. We adapted the shoot to these circumstances. We had a very small film crew, and frequently shot in real-life or slightly customisable settings. And that gave us a certain amount of freedom and enough time, which also proved to be the best solution for the film itself. In the case of the project Out, the script is very precise. Some situations and locations are clearly defined and stylised, which increases the demands placed on the art department. We plan to cast professional actors in the main and supporting roles, and we will also have a much bigger film crew, so the financial requirements per shooting day are much higher – hence the budget being double that of Koza.
Out was picked as one of the most promising projects by the Cannes curators for the Cinéfondation Atelier, thus making it the first Slovakian project ever to be selected for this platform. Why do you think this project impressed the curators? And what do you expect from its participation in the initiative?
Since the very beginning of its development, we have been working with a very good version of the script; we did some rewrites, too, so the script presented was very precise and high quality. It touches upon a number of fairly topical social themes and doesn’t deal with them through sentimentality, but rather with a dose of humour and hyperbole. Since the co-production structure is almost finished, our main goal is to present the project to sales agents, distributors and television channels for eventual pre-sales. We would also like to raise awareness of the project. We plan to take advantage of informal meetings, meet representatives of various cinema funds and consult on the possibilities for alternative financial support for this or our other projects.
Besides producing, you also happen to direct. What are you working on?
I have not stopped since the end of last year. We were getting Koza ready for its world premiere, preparing Out for production, and dealing with several others in development, so I have not managed to direct anything in the last six months. There is one very interesting project that I am working on with photographer Šimon Klyman, which has the working title Partisans and which I would like to get back to. My other projects are at a very early developmental phase, since I cannot fully focus on them – mostly because of a lack of time.
What are you planning for Producers on the Move?
The main focus will be on Out, but we would like to present our other films that we are currently working on: Home Sweet Home by Roman Fabian and Swan Bride by Miro Remo, which are at different stages of development, each with strong co-production potential. Also, we will be looking for projects suitable for co-production as well as searching for opportunities to gain potential contacts.