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Oliver Sertić • Producer

"Dramas are happening in front of the camera"


- Croatian producer Oliver Sertić, working for Restart, has been selected for EFP’s 2018 Producers on the Move, and talks to us about it

Oliver Sertić • Producer

Oliver Sertić is one of the most prominent Croatian producers on the European documentary scene, and he has been active in all fields of documentary cinema through his company Restart for more than ten years, from education to production, distribution, exhibition and promotion. Now selected for European Film Promotion’s Producers on the Move at the 71st Cannes Film Festival, Sertić talks to us about his work.

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Cineuropa: Which is the film you are most proud of and why?
Oliver Sertić
: Every film I produced so far had its separate story, challenges along the way and a different path. Even if the film is not so successful in terms of festivals and awards, working on each of them had its charm and significance. 

But lets say that I’m proud of The Blockade by Igor Bezinović, about student occupation of universities in Croatia, as it was my first documentary feature, released in 2012. It had a good round at almost 30 international festivals including DOK Leipzig, Jihlava, Planete +, and American Documentary Film Festival, but more importantly, it had some 130 non-theatrical screenings in more than 20 countries, and even now, six years later, people are still asking for screening rights.

My Life Without Air [+see also:
interview: Bojana Burnać
film profile
by Bojana Burnać was the first Croatian film to premiere in the competition of Hot Docs, and the last one, Days of Madness [+see also:
film review
film profile
by Damian Nenadić, is a pretty heavy topic and after 6 years and 250 hours of material, I think we managed to find the right narrative.

What are the challenges and merits of producing in Croatia, especially in the documentary field?
It is always a challenge to finish a film in a low capacity production country. We have only one national fund, that is Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC) and two or three local funds where you can get up to €7,000. Our national broadcaster is almost not co-producing films at all, so if you don’t receive funds from HAVC, and you can hardly co-produce with other countries without that, you are basically cursed to finish the film with a small or even no budget. However, documentary budgets in Croatia are way below the European standard and we usually complete our films with very small fees for the crew. 

Creative documentary film is making a comeback after 20 years of being considered it only a TV form. There is no proper documentary education, but stories are often amazing, and people in the Balkans are open, so it is not that hard to enter their lives and gain their trust. In many cases dramas are happening in front of the camera, so you don’t need to direct your characters at all. But after you finally make it and screen it in front of the audience, it pays off all the challenges. If those emerging directors get selected to big festivals or they win an award, the happiness is even bigger.

What are your expectations in Cannes as one of the "Producers on the Move”?
I expect great networking, good fun, interesting people, possible reliable co-production partners for the future projects, and what is important for me, public recognition of the producer’s profession. I really want to see how documentary will fit in this shiny world of Cannes. I’m really grateful to HAVC that they nominated me and also to the PotM jury who finally accepted me.

What are your next projects?
I‘m in the development of Bride in Search of Happiness by Tea Vidović, a vivid story about cultural differences and similarities between a newlywed Croatian - Roma couple. There is another project that we are in looking for funds for now, Learning to Walk 2 by Jelena Novaković, about a stubborn and sharp comic and cartoon animator. I’m finishing a documentary series of 4 episodes about the history of Kurdistan, I hope it will be done by summer.

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