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Miro Drobný • Director of Who’s Next?

“The internet has become a new religion”

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- We talked to Slovakian producer and director Miro Drobný about his latest film, Who’s Next?, which addresses the perils of the internet

Miro Drobný • Director of Who’s Next?

Miro Drobný is a Slovakian director, scriptwriter, producer and writer of books aimed at youth audiences and young adults. He shot the documentary Rytmus: A Dream from the Block [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, the television series Cookie.sk for Czech Television, and the animated series OVCE.SK, which aired in 23 countries, including China. Cineuropa talked to him after the premiere of Who’s Next? [+see also:
trailer
interview: Miro Drobný
film profile
]
, an anthology film about the perils of the internet.

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Cineuropa: Why did you opt to make an anthology film as your next project after the feature-length documentary Rytmus: A Dream from the Block?
Miro Drobný: It would be irresponsible of me to start making a feature film, since I am hardly able to receive financial support from the Audiovisual Fund. If I managed to get some, it would only be a symbolic amount. That is why I decided to start working on an anthology. I could work on one short film and, after receiving some financial backing, I could proceed to the next one. On the other hand, I really like the series Black Mirror where Charlie Brooker made an anthology series out of five feature ideas. What had also inspired me was the film Wild Tales [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, which proved that great ideas can work in short forms.

Why the topic of the perils of the internet?
I have worked in this field for over 15 years, and the animated series OVCE.SK was about a similar topic, essentially the first season of Who’s Next? The internet is the number-one topic of today. It has become a new religion. This phenomenon influences everybody’s lives, not solely those of the young generation.

Did you intend to work in the preventive and educative framework from the beginning of the project?
I feared these words from the beginning. People won’t go to the cinema to see educative and preventive films. But with Who’s Next?, one goal was that the audience would come home with an idea to do something positive about these issues. That was a part of the project from the start, whether I took into account our studies and researches about sexual abuse online or my books on cyberbullying and online hate speech. Basically, the film aims to talk to anybody who works with youth and could contribute to preventing the kinds of tragedies portrayed in the three stories.

Why did you shoot Who’s Next? as a fiction feature instead of a documentary, especially when all three stories are inspired by true events?
I tried my hand at documentary filmmaking with Rytmus: A Dream from the Block, where I addressed the topic of family as well, a family of mixed racial marriage. Due to the nature of the film and the topic, the production swelled to 8 years and even if I had envisioned some particular scenes, I had to wait for them to transpire. I could not simply make them up, and life interfered and changed my plans frequently. I wanted to make my next project under 4 years, which is why fiction filmmaking became a viable option. And it was something I was missing. I had already done documentary and animated projects and I wanted to experience live-action fiction filmmaking as well.

Your primary target group is 12+ but you mentioned that you also did test screenings on older audience.
Well, I expected the film could speak to audiences of 40+, but that was not my primary target group. I chose the script, the stories and the cinematography to accost the young generation. Through the test screenings, I found out that the film worked well with 12-20+ demography and then 35+. The weakest and coldest reaction came from the category of single men. They do not feel the emotion in the film and I work with the emotion a lot.

You use the cinematic language of younger generations in the film. The segment about rooftoppers, killfie, is filmed almost entirely as GoPro POV from immense heights. Aren’t you afraid that this passage in particular could draw young people to such stunts instead of deterring them?
I have some concerns whether I was clear enough in passing my message in this segment onto the younger generations. On the other hand, I could not just dismiss rooftopping and say “don’t do this.” I do not think they would have believed the film if I had chosen a different approach. But Angela Nikolau [model and rooftopper starring in the film] has some good answers about this, saying that the most important role models for teenagers are their parents.

Who’s Next? is in English, Russian and Slovakian with an international cast and locations. Does this mean you have plans to export the film?
We are currently shopping the film as a concept around big companies such as Netflix and HBO with my American sales agent. Naturally, we need to have some results from domestic theatre, but we are working on international outreach. We are going to show it as a series with three episodes already shot and I have ideas for twelve more. But it can be also adapted as a concept and shot with a new crew and cast.

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