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“It’s all about making an impact, however small it might be”

Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

Dominiks Jarmakovičs • Producer, Studio Locomotive


The Latvian Producer on the Move clearly relishes the thrill of solving problems

Dominiks Jarmakovičs • Producer, Studio Locomotive

Now focusing on his first feature-length documentary, El Lobo Leton: Legend of the Latvian Wolf, and Signe Baumane’s animated Karmic Knot, Dominiks Jarmakovičs – a European Film Promotion Producer on the Move who has been with Riga-based Studio Locomotive since 2017 – is also prepping Lotus, a period satire full of colourful characters, which is currently in post-production.

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Cineuropa: Could you tell us more about your new films? From documentary to animation, it seems like you are really covering all the bases!
Dominiks Jarmakovičs:
At Cannes, I will be focusing on three projects, which really represent the variety of voices we are trying to spotlight at Studio Locomotive. Karmic Knot is the third part of Signe Baumane’s animated trilogy, coming right after My Love Affair with Marriage [+see also:
film review
interview: Signe Baumane
film profile
, awarded at Annecy. We are financing it now. It will go even further in Signe’s artistic approach, talking about her decision to leave Latvia and move to the USA. It’s also about a family during the collapse of the Soviet Union, about how you can make all the plans you want, and then one day, you wake up and they are just gone. It reflects this fear of the unknown, which we are now experiencing every day. Signe teased it as a bit of a grimmer story, but I don’t believe she is able to completely leave irony behind, which always makes things more light-hearted.

The other project is Lotus by Signe Birkova, which we recently presented at Meeting Point – Vilnius [in March]. It’s so personal for her, and I think it will have a good festival run. Then we have El Lobo Leton: Legend of the Latvian Wolf, which will mark my feature-length documentary debut.

What is it about?
It’s an entertaining story with a strong social context. There was this Latvian dissident who went to Latin America and became a wrestler and a legend of Mexican cinema. I think it will be a bit like Searching for Sugar Man [+see also:
film profile
, where you just follow the legend. We will be shooting in Latin America, and I have to admit that it wasn’t an easy journey to start. In this industry, you never know which connection is going to be useful, which friendship will eventually turn into a co-production or another kind of partnership. That’s why initiatives like Producers on the Move can be so beneficial. This international spotlight is very, very important.

How do you usually decide which project is the right fit for you? Does it have more to do with the story or with the director?
One answer is quite clichéd and quite simple: I like to work with the people I have worked with before, or we have to “click” somehow. That was the case with Lotus. But you also have to take into account what projects you can actually finance. The Latvian market is not that big. It’s always a combination of many things, but then it’s mostly about this gut feeling. You just know if you want to do it. Like with this documentary.

At first, we were developing another project with the director, and then we found out about this man. We thought it could be a series for television, but after a while, we understood it deserved to be something more. I would say – and this is something we all share at Studio Locomotive – that I always need something more. Even with a film like Jaak Kilmi’s Christmas in the Jungle, which was directed at kids, there was this educational aspect which seemed important to me. It championed family values and international collaboration; it encouraged you to let go of stereotypes. We really believed that it could make our society a bit better. It’s all about making an impact, however small it might be. Or about making an arthouse film that will hopefully encourage some people, who usually watch something else, to go: “Okay, maybe I wouldn’t mind seeing more films like this.” I don’t think I would ever enjoy taking the easy way out.

Do you think you will keep focusing on arthouse? It’s a challenging market these days.
In a perfect world, we would have a combination of both. We would have films that are artistic and personal, and relevant, but which can also be entertaining. This is certainly my hope for El Lobo Leton. I am also quite resourceful, and I find pleasure in fixing problems. I would love to always develop two or three films I am really passionate about, and then have some additional projects I can handle as a co-producer.

Last year, I started to play solitaire. The last time I did that was when I was a teenager. My wife kept asking me why. “Wouldn’t you rather read a book?” But in our line of work, there are always these moments when everything gets so complicated and it’s not easy to find a solution. Sometimes, it takes months to resolve one issue. In this game, there is also a time when you think it’s just getting worse and worse, and then suddenly everything falls into place. It gives me the same kind of satisfaction. This thrill of solving problems makes all this anxiety worthwhile.

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