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“When considering a film project, I am much more interested in the person behind it, than in what’s on the page at that early stage”

Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

Vanya Rainova • Producer, Portokal

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The Bulgarian producer reveals the story behind her company’s name and shares details about ongoing and future projects she is handling

Vanya Rainova • Producer, Portokal
(© Svetoslav Stoyanov)

Vania Rainova’s uncompromising taste for auteur cinema with a distinct voice and aesthetics brought her awards from the festivals in Clermont Ferrand, Krakow and Yerevan among others, as well as nominations for the European Film Awards. She’s a graduate of Eurodoc, EAVE and MIDPOINT Institute Feature Launch while her projects have also participated in Torino Film Lab and Biennale College Cinema. She represents Bulgaria at this year’s edition of European Film Promotion’s Producers on the Move programme.

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Cineuropa: Portokal is a distinctive name for a film production company. What does it stand for?
Vanya Rainova:
Literally, Portokal means “orange,” the fruit. The company was founded back in 2000 by my partner, Svetoslav Stoyanov, and a friend of ours, Alexander Evtimov, who has since pursued his interest in music, playback theatre, and other forms of artistic expression. In the beginning, the co-founders worked mostly at the intersection of visual arts and social justice. It wasn’t until ten years ago, shortly after I joined the company, that we shifted focus almost exclusively to film production. So, legend has it, that when they were naming the company, they reached for the first word that came to mind when thinking of something “fresh.” I’d like to believe that this association still holds true for us today.

You jumped straight into the deep end with projects such as Pavel Vesnakov’s multi-awarded short Pride and Andrey Paounov’s absurdist January [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
. What were the most challenging moments?
The only good thing about challenging moments is that they’re destined for oblivion. Thankfully, the memories of problems tend to pale with time, and what stays with me are the highs of making it happen. Still, I can say that both those films taught me that humility and perseverance are indispensable and that the only way to weather storms is to be certain that the producer and the director are “seeing” one and the same film, and therefore steering in the same direction.

What kind of films are you eager to produce and how do you choose them?
I think it is virtually impossible to discuss a film proposition independently of its director. In the end, all films are a function, an expression of their directors’ sensibility towards the world that surrounds us. In that sense, when considering a film project, I am much more interested in the person behind it, than in what’s on the page at that early stage. The film proposals that are seductive betray urgency, honesty, and a healthy degree of irreverence.

What projects are you currently working on?
We’ve spent the last few years focusing on author-driven projects by emerging Bulgarian talent, and are excited to see these cinematic propositions take shape and form.

Right now, we’re finishing the post-production of Yana Titova’s second feature, Dyad [+see also:
film review
interview: Yana Titova
film profile
]
, in co-production with NoBlink and Sonus, and I can’t wait to share this emotionally gripping film with the world.

This year, we will be shooting two first post-graduation shorts, Eraserhead in a Knitted Shopping Bag by Lili Koss and Fresh by Stefka Mancheva, with whom we also have a first feature in development – Blind Spot.

We also have a slate of three debut features that have already been supported for production by the Bulgarian National Film Center and are in the co-financing stage. These are Resonance by Yordan Petkov, Two Times One by Vladimir Petev, and The Life We Never Had by Martin Markov.

After a long pause, we are returning to documentaries as well with Mariana Sabeva’s Death Cafe, which just got funded for development.

Additionally, we are minority co-producers of two films that will be shot this year: Those Who Whistle After Dark, a debut by Pinar Yorgancioglou, and Sea of Glass, the third feature of Alexis Alexiou.

Will you be pursuing particular goals during Producers on the Move?
I think of Producers on the Move first and foremost as an opportunity to forge relationships that can broaden my network of like-minded film professionals who could become trusted partners down the road. I am very people-centred and believe that casting the right people for the right reasons is a big part of our job. The more authentic and reliable a producer’s network is, the easier it becomes to accomplish particular goals. That said, I do face the challenge of having three debuts at the advanced stage of development and looking for European partners, so finding the right match for them is a priority. 

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