Marina Andree Škop and Dražen Žarković • Directors of My Grandpa Is an Alien
“I’m proud that we have made a mark on the history of Croatian cinema”
- We met up with Marina Andree Škop and Dražen Žarković, the co-directors of My Grandpa Is an Alien, Croatia’s first sci-fi film for children, now on release in Luxembourgish cinemas
My Grandpa Is an Alien [+see also:
interview: Marina Andree Škop and Draž…
film profile], portraying the extraordinary adventure of a girl and an alien robot on a mission to save her family, was first successfully released in Croatia in March 2019. After this, it came out in several neighbouring countries, such as Slovakia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Czech Republic. Cinemas have now reopened in Luxembourg by programming this colourful and original animation. We spoke to its co-directors, Marina Andree Škop and Dražen Žarković.
Cineuropa: One year after its original release, what do you have to say about the movie’s journey? What is the general feedback like from audiences?
Dražen Žarković: The release in Norway and Luxembourg was delayed because of COVID-19, but with the opening of cinemas, we are releasing it this summer in both countries. I must admit that I am very happy with the feedback we are getting from the international audience of children. They find our film intriguing because it makes them think about universal themes: what can happen in the future if we continue to live our lives in an individualistic way? And what is the role of friendship and empathy towards others?
Your film was also shown at several festivals: how do you think this has helped reinforce its international career?
Marina Andree Škop: Our work has been shown at all major children’s film festivals around the world, including Cinekid, FIFEM Montreal and Zlín Film Festival. But it was also selected in the children’s sections of some renowned standard film festivals, such as Sarajevo, Warsaw and Cottbus. It has been screened at more than 50 gatherings and has won 13 awards. Some of the festivals even asked us to do case studies for professionals, which made us feel proud that we could share our experience. Film festivals have helped to increase awareness about the film in the industry, which is fruitful for our future children’s projects: some potential partners have already shown an interest.
My Grandpa Is an Alien has been described as Croatia’s first science-fiction film for children. Was it your intention to make a mark on the history of Croatian cinema?
DŽ: From the very beginning, we were aware of the fact that, in the sci-fi genre, we were in the same “basket” as Star Wars and the Marvel superheroes. Throughout the entire production process, we were fanatically striving for that visual “elegance”, so as not to let our young audience down. A big part of that credit goes to our experienced DoP, Sven Pepeonik, who has shot hundreds of visually stunning adverts. He was our first and only choice for this movie. I am proud that we did indeed make a mark on the history of Croatian cinema: our film is included in textbooks for the third grade of elementary school, and the kids will learn film literacy through it, too.
How many years were you working on this project for? Can you tell us a bit about its budget and your co-producers? It is rather unusual to see so many countries involved – seven in your case!
DŽ: The making of My Grandpa Is an Alien took us seven years, from the first idea until the final movie. On the technical level, this was a demanding picture to make. That’s why we decided to split directing duties, and I’m very happy that we did!
MAŠ: The financing is crucial, of course, starting with the biggest co-producer, Wady Films [Luxembourg]. We were really looking for the specific qualities and capacities of the international partners that we teamed up with: for example, experienced puppeteers, the animation studio MagicLab [Czech Republic], a team of animators working under the supervision of the unique Michal Struss [Slovakia], and the world-renowned commercial promotion bureau Fabrika [Bosnia and Herzegovina]. We really appreciated how Filmbin [Norway], with its lengthy experience in children’s films, got involved with every particular aspect of the creation of the movie. And all of the music and sound post-production was done in Lillehammer, Norway. We met several times in person with all of the partners from all seven countries, but most of the cooperation was discussed via Skype and via an online post-production framework. Modern technology allowed us to push it forward. It was extremely important to have the production coordinator disseminating all of the information at the right time. Working with this melting pot of people from different countries was an eye-opener for me. I loved this structure and our very diverse, multidisciplinary crew.
What message did you intend to convey with this story of a little girl whose life totally changes when her grandfather is abducted by aliens?
MAŠ: Together with producer Darija Kulenović Gudan, we worked on our story development always bearing in mind that the film had to convey important messages to the young audience. I am happy that we succeeded in doing this. At Q&As after the festival screenings in different countries, the kids talked about the same topics. We can be friends with aliens, or with anybody who is different from us, if we dig down to the core of the true relationship, if we are fair and we do not want to use the other party for selfish purposes. Rather, we should understand and help them. “We have to be amigos,” as Dodo says.
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