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“Cross-country cooperation also pushes you out of your comfort zone”

Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

Wanda Adamik Hrycová • Producer, Wandal Production

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The producer talks the role of independent funding in revitalising Slovak film post-2013, her experiences with complex international co-productions, and more

Wanda Adamik Hrycová • Producer, Wandal Production

Cineuropa sat down with Slovak producer Wanda Adamik Hrycová of Wandal Production, selected to be this year’s Slovak representative in the European Film Promotion’s Producers on the Move programme. Hrycová has built a 20-plus-year career in television, film, and theatre production, creating 14 recognised musicals, major television shows and films, and serving as the president of the Slovak Film and Television Academy. Hrycová discusses the role of independent funding in revitalising Slovak film post-2013, her experiences with complex international co-productions, and details her harrowing yet heroic efforts to rescue Afghan filmmakers with the help of Ukrainian officials.

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Cineuropa: With over two decades in the industry and a track record spanning theatre, television and film, how do you perceive the evolution of Slovak audiovisual production over the years? 
Wanda Adamik Hrycová: I graduated film school in Bratislava in 2001 and those were the times when Slovakia had no established film funds, therefore hardly any films were produced. When I was fooled by one producer on my first job as a production manager and never received the money for my work, I told myself, "I am leaving the industry and will come back only when I will be producing myself." And that happened in 2013, two years after the Slovak Audiovisual Fund was established and Slovak film was reborn. Having an independent film fund is definitely a crucial condition for a functioning film industry in such a small market as Slovakia. 

Your company, Wandal Production, has been involved in several international projects including epic series The Slavs (read the news). Could you share some insights on the challenges and rewards of engaging in international co-productions? 
I like co-producing, even though it brings many challenges. Creative, cultural, financial, legal – basically all aspects of cooperation are more complicated and of course the more involved countries there are, the more complicated it gets.  But cross-country cooperation also pushes you out of your comfort zone, makes you face situations you would never have to deal with if you produced in your home territory, with your fellow citizens who speak the same language, write the same alphabet. And I am probably the living proof pf the saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. So far, I am still here and alive.

You have been president of the Slovak Film and Television Academy (SFTA). How do you see the role of such institutions evolving in the future? 
I am no longer the president. After five years in office, I thought it was time for someone else to pick up the baton. I think that we are facing very hard times in Slovakia where politicians currently in power are trying to restrict the free media (read the news) and free speech, and I am afraid that the restrictions of free filmmaking will follow.  I hope all of us independent filmmakers will unite and stand up for our freedom as one.

During a particularly complex situation, you managed to facilitate a rescue of filmmakers from Afghanistan with the assistance of the Ukrainian president and his advisor. Can you share more about this remarkable effort? 
Sahraa Karimi, an Afghani-Slovak writer-director-women's rights activist and very loud anti-Taliban voice and my friend, lived in Kabul and worked as the head of the Afghani Film Fund. But in 2021, the Americans decided to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, and the Taliban very unexpectedly and quickly regained the power over the whole country. Sahraa and her family and friends found themselves with a direct threat on their lives. That was the moment when Sahraa posted an open letter to Angelina Jolie on her Instagram and I shared it on my social media with a comment that sharing was unfortunately all I could do, but I wished I could do more to save them. Fifteen minutes later, I received a phone call from the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Mr. Volodymyr Zelenskyi, from my dear friend, my Ukrainian coproducer with whom I made The Line [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Andrey Yermak
interview: Peter Bebjak
film profile
]
and the TV series The Slavs, Andrey Yermak. Andrey told me that he saw my Instagram post and that he was organising an evacuation flight for Ukrainians from Kabul and he offered help with rescuing Sahraa, her family and other filmmakers. This is how the story started. What preceded and what followed in the next dramatic forty hours is described in our new script Flight from Kabul (read the news), written by Sahraa herself and co-written by a fantastic Belgian scriptwriter, Kevin Meul.  

What projects are you taking to Cannes?
It probably comes with no surprise that Flight from Kabul is the project on the top of my list now. We have a great final script in hands, I am very honoured and happy that we have partnered up with a wonderful Italian producer, Domenico Procacci of Fandango, and together we hope to find other co-producers and to finance the film in the upcoming months and get it ready for production in the second half of 2025.

Did you take a career hiatus to raise your three sons? 
I had no hiatus. My first son was eight weeks old when I was shooting Colette, my second son was six months old when I was travelling Ukraine with him in a carrier on my stomach and looking for co-producers for my next film, and I was pregnant with the third one when we were shooting The Line. My gay friend, director Peter Bebjak, has been making fun of me saying he has never seen so much of a woman’s breasts before he worked with me. I was nursing all the time and everywhere. The lesson learned is that if the mother is happy, the kids are happy and very adaptable. And another lesson – never forget to include the nanny cost in your budget. 

Looking towards the future, how do you envision the growth of Slovak cinema in the next decade? 
Looking to the future of Slovak cinema, unfortunately I don’t see a very optimistic picture. I am afraid that the political situation in our country will affect the dramaturgy and the financing of Slovak film, I am seriously worried that we are facing times of censorship again.

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