Ada Solomon • Producer
“If we look too far into the distance, we risk falling into the hole at our feet”
- Ada Solomon, one of Romania’s leading producers, who recently released Ivana the Terrible in her home country, shares her hopes and concerns regarding the future of the national film industry
With a feature, Ivana the Terrible [+see also:
interview: Ada Solomon
film profile], released exactly when the coronavirus epidemic drastically changed the Romanian cultural landscape, and with a new project that was supposed to enter production in May, leading Romanian producer Ada Solomon has experienced at first hand the effects of the ongoing crisis. Here is what she has to say about the situation and the steps that could help the industry to recover more swiftly.
Cineuropa: Your film Ivana the Terrible was released in March, exactly when the Romanian authorities’ recommendations resulted in a 77% drop in cinema attendance levels. How difficult was it for you to limit the film’s release?
Ada Solomon: At first, I was in denial, and I was all for going on and pursuing the whole campaign as planned. Reality was a hard pill to swallow. The most difficult thing was to make the decision to cancel the gala screening. The recommendations to avoid big gatherings were already in place, but we were still allowed to do it. At the same time, everywhere there was already this fully justified call for less interaction. We were in a weird position in terms of communication, where it would have been immoral to invite people to the cinema, but at the same time, we wanted people to come and see the film.
After that difficult moment, I accepted the situation and my brain started to put things into perspective: I tried to salvage what was still possible to salvage. But there wasn’t much I could do, as the small cinemas were already closed, and while the multiplexes were open, they didn’t agree to postpone the film’s release. And here we are, in limbo, as the film was released but not actually released. We couldn’t go online immediately (which probably would have been the best option in terms of revenue), owing to the conditions in the agreements with the cinemas, and we couldn’t screen the film.
We will re-release it as soon as this immense challenge is over, but who will be willing to go into a confined space after having been locked in the house for so long? The only idea I have now is to organise as many open-air screenings as possible, as soon as possible, and to go online as soon as the theatrical window allows it. We will also definitely need a re-release campaign.
In May, you were supposed to start production on Ştefan Constantinescu’s first feature, Man and Dog [+see also:
interview: Ştefan Constantinescu
film profile]. What will happen to the project, and how does a producer manage such a financial and logistical conundrum?
We are working hard to come up with plans A, B and C in order to start the shoot as soon as it is safe, and to evaluate and anticipate the losses. We are ready to restart the prep as soon as the restrictions are lifted, and the good thing is that we are very advanced with the preparations. As we are supposed to shoot mainly in the city of Constanţa, by the seaside, currently the only unknown is whether the place will be crowded this summer.
What is your opinion of the institutional support being offered to Romanian film professionals? What can the state do so that the industry recovers more swiftly after the crisis?
The Minister of Culture is showing a lot of good will, but they don’t know how to help, and they seem to be unfamiliar with how freelance mechanisms work. Unfortunately, the Romanian National Film Center didn’t understand our perspective very clearly: we want to function, to move on with our duties, and we can do it right up to the point of the shoot. Instead of consulting with the filmmakers, the centre even decided to block the steps that would have been possible in the current conditions – for example, signing contracts, or making initial payments for projects in prep or for those which had to stop shooting.
The centre also decided to postpone the announcement of the results for its ongoing session of financial support [see the news]. I never dreamed of getting additional funding – for instance, support for films whose release was affected or for events that had to be postponed, even if they were entirely prepared and poised to happen. But to decide to stop almost everything, that was especially hard to swallow.
When do you expect the industry to be back on its feet? Do you expect funds to decrease after the crisis?
I can’t predict when we will be fully functional or how these events will change the field of cinema, both production- and events-wise. I can only look back to what the financial crisis in 2008/2009 meant, and I would say that I expect productions to travel less and everyone to try to spend money at home as much as possible. But for how long? I have no idea.
As for the funding, the cinemas will sell drastically fewer tickets, and the advertising field will be less active. Both of these sources contribute to the film funds, so it is clear that the resources will diminish. We will continue with whatever is available; we are in the fortunate position that we have never had too much, so we are used to that. But we can only continue if we can depend on a national film centre that is functional and in sync with the real world.
Do you have any advice for your colleagues in Romania, Europe and the rest of the world?
I can share my way of doing things, which is related to any crisis situation: I move forward with small steps, I stay active, and I keep myself busy trying to anticipate the next challenge and the next opportunity. If we look too far into the distance, as if we were trying to see the horizon, we risk falling into the hole at our feet.
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