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“I am curious and interested in discovering stories that I wouldn't have access to in normal life”

Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

Radu Stancu • Producer, deFilm

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The Romanian producer tells us about his unusual career path starting with short film production, and shares thoughts on the current development of the local film industry

Radu Stancu • Producer, deFilm
(© Barna Nemethi)

The owner of independent production company deFilm, Radu Stancu is the Romanian representative at European Film Promotion’s Producers on the Move programme at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. His project Alis [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
won the Crystal Bear and a Teddy Award at the 2022 Berlinale, while To The North [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Mihai Mincan
film profile
]
premiered in the Orizzonti Competition in Venice and won the Bisato d’Oro award for Best Film.

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deFilm embarked on its journey in the film industry by choosing the most challenging path – the production of independent short films. How did that come about?
It came naturally. In college, I studied film editing and sound, but I was already drawn to the production side. I helped most of my directing classmates make their films. When I graduated, I felt that I didn't fit in the existing film industry — both creatively and in finding a mentor. That's how deFilm was born in 2009, the platform on which I started exploring the stories that interested me, made in styles quite different from the minimalism that characterized the Romanian New Wave. I had a lot to learn and experiment with, and making short films seemed like the most natural path to follow at first.

At the same time, this is how I met most of the directors I currently work with, and we had the time necessary to get to know each other well enough to work together more effectively. Especially since most of them did not graduate from film school.

Did the fame of the Romanian New Wave facilitate your work as a producer? Or on the contrary – did it make it more difficult for projects of different style to emancipate themselves and stand out?
A bit of both. The social and political issues as themes present in the films of the Romanian New Wave, the natural acting, and the composition of the image have influenced my professional journey, and I was lucky to have started my career in a space that has managed to bring so many remarkable films to the world in a short time. However, my vibration was in a different place. Even though I was interested in the same themes, I distanced myself from pure realism and preferred genre films, a cinematic direction that I consider richer.

Although the first short films I produced were very well received internationally, it was difficult to finance them locally in a context where the entire industry was focused on minimalist films. Even our first feature, Nicolae Constantin Tanase’s The World is Mine [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, was funded from our own resources and private investments, and co-produced alongside Tudor Giurgiu (Libra Film), with an incredibly low production budget.

But I think the Romanian industry has just passed this threshold, and the projects that are currently being made are increasingly diverse, which contributes to the healthy development of the local market.

What criteria do you follow when choosing a project?
In terms of subjects, the range is very wide. I am curious and interested in discovering stories that I wouldn't have access to in normal life. I like to place the project in an artistic, arthouse area, but with commercial elements, usually imported from genre films. But by far the most important aspect is that of the person — director or writer — I work with. Development, financing, and production of a film take a long time sometimes, and I want to make sure I spend a few years alongside someone that I am interested in and admire.

What projects are currently working on?
At the moment we have quite a rich slate, diversified by the genres we tackle, which I am very happy about. This year we got funding for Bogdan Mirică's black comedy Magnum Opus and Mihai Mincan's mixture of fantasy, coming-of-age, and thriller Milk Teeth. Mincan also wrote the script of Paul Negoescu’s next project, The Atlas of the Universe, the first children's film I will work on.

After the good experience I had with Octav Chelaru’s A Higher Law [+see also:
interview: Octav Chelaru
film profile
]
, I will produce his next film, Rara Avis, a comedy that turns into an action film and then into a satire, to be shot in Spain.

We're also co-producing two big international projects: a Portuguese one shot in Guinea Bissau and Mauritania, and another one shooting in Japan this autumn. We've started to develop series too, but the timing here is a bit more unknown.

What are your expectations from the upcoming edition of Producers on the Move?
Participating itself is a great honor for me, since it's one of the most important European programs dedicated to emerging producers. I hope to expand my network of partners and tap into more financing resources, but I am also glad to have the opportunity to spend a few days with fellow producers from all over Europe, with whom I feel I share many interests. This will allow me to stay up-to-date with the industry and enhance my skills and knowledge as a producer. 

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