“Emotions are the only thing we have”
Industry Report: Documentary
Tomáš Krupa • Producer, Hailstone
Interview with Tomáš Krupa, producer for Slovakian company Hailstone and selected for the 2020 Emerging Producers programme
Why do you produce documentaries? Do you understand documentary film as an instrument of social and political change?
Tomáš Krupa: I became a producer because I wanted to have as much creative freedom and control over my films as possible – that’s the honest answer. I wasn’t planning on becoming a producer. I simply became one, it just happened because of the circumstances. As a producer, I have created two full-length documentary films so far – Graduates (2012) and Good Death (2019).
The first one, at the same time being my debut as a director, was hard to make and I invested resources into the initial stages of its development. Later, I found a producer who took all of the previous work into consideration and we decided on a co-production. We continued to work together on the distribution of the movie. In the course of the entire process, I earned some new knowledge, abilities and contacts and later on it was natural for me to want to add more experience as a producer. It would be a shame to throw away that kind of a ”school“ of experiences and not to continue. So I was doing the production of the second movie on purpose. The third one, which is already in the making, is a certain thing, though. I think a movie is a form of a storytelling and we have had that in our DNA since the ancient times. If the plot of the movie is so emotional that it can make people motivated, make them change, then I believe that it can be an instrument of a change. However, at the same time, I think that the movie itself won’t turn things around in the society. It can only help to transform the way of thinking of someone who has the power to change things.
What qualities should a documentary producer have these days?
The ability to find important topics and to create emotionally strong films. Emotions are the only thing we have that influences us. Nothing else matters. It’s necessary to find a way, any kind of a morally pure way, to make those emotions come to life on the screen. I’m taking a part in a me for producers called Emerging Producers, I am honoured and happy that I have been chosen as one of 18 most interesting young producers. It’s helpful, I am getting more perspective, and it’s a great means of exchange of information, experience and contacts. However, accurate answers don’t exist. That’s what’s clear from that entire training. It’s not surprising me, though. What’s more surprising is that someone expects an instruction manual out of it. We have to search in ourselves, on the inside, not on the outside. Just try to do the best job we can at that very moment, but not any better than that.
What do you think is the future of distribution of documentary films?
In our region, it seems that the interest in the cinema distribution is on the decline. Less and less people are going to see documentary films in cinema. We are talking about hundreds, only in some successful cases thousands. At the same time, cinema distribution is costly, it needs an expensive advertisement. Documentary projects can’t afford that. The internet is the future, is that even a discussion? Successful platforms like Netflix are becoming big on the internet and they are showing that they definitely are the future. There is even a new European law that states that a streaming company must show a certain percentage of the country’s film production, if they want to stream in that country. It’s crucial and it opens up possibilities. Let’s ask ourselves a different question, though – is it possible to make money off of a documentary film? The money which used to be related to TV rights isn’t there anymore, people aren’t selling out cinemas and the VOD business doesn’t make much money. On the other hand, I was reading about how the documentary film industry has been growing in the past few years. It’s all really confusing. However, I do like the initiative of screening films wherever you want. Do the screening at your own house, outside, in the garage, in a club, in a bar, a theatre, a culture house, at school! To open the possibility for individuals to distribute films on their own initiative. It is a shame, and I agree that films are ideal for the big screens, but the viewers want to be free and able to watch them when they want, with whom they want and how they want. I’m not fighting that anymore. If you want, watch my movie on a computer, a laptop, a smartphone, an iPad, or on a blanket spread in your living room, whatever. Just watch my movie for god’s sake!
What projects do you have under way (including in the area of fiction film and other projects)?
I am working on another full-length documentary film. For the past few years, I have been focusing on the topic of impermanency and the departure from this life. This time I am trying to balance it out and concentrate on the topic of survival. The world is changing on many levels, we all are probably sensing it. I think, the humanity probably won’t stop the climate change, but it can adapt to new restrictive conditions. We are evolving and we go to places which have been affected by natural disasters and where life is especially hard or doomed to slow extinction. It is important to answer the question how to live in the world which is trying to balance itself out above the abyss which the climate change represents and how to continue to live. My film is supposed to be about the topic of adaptation.
Emerging Producers is a promotional and educational project, which brings together talented European documentary film producers. The programme is organised and curated by the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival.
Deadline for applications to the Emerging Producers 2021 edition is 15 March, 2020.
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