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Pavel Gumennikov • Director of Tiger Martindale’s Survival Expert

“We feel incredibly honoured to be the first recipients of the Eurimages Co-production Development Award in Latvian history!”


- We had the chance to ask Latvian director Pavel Gumennikov a few questions about his new project, the recipient of the Eurimages Development Award at this year’s Cinekid

Pavel Gumennikov  • Director of Tiger Martindale’s Survival Expert

Cineuropa caught the opportunity to interview director Pavel Gumennikov. His project, entitled Tiger Martindale’s Survival Expert and produced by Sergei Serpuhov for Riga-based firm Baltic Pine Films, is the first Latvian winner of the prestigious Eurimages Development Award. Assigned during this year’s Cinekid Junior Co-production Market, the €20,000 cash prize is granted to the best film project, with the intention of supporting European youth film and to further stimulate European co-production. For the same project, Gumennikov also received the Filmmore Post-Production Award, consisting of a cash prize of €5,000.

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Cineuropa: What is Tiger Martindale’s Survival Expert about? How would you describe your project and its main themes?
Pavel Gumennikov: Tiger Martindale’s Survival Expert is an emotional story about a 16-year-old girl called Wendy, who creates an imaginary wilderness survival competition in order to protect her blind little sister from the news of their father’s death. In the film, we will dig into the themes of losing a loved one, allowing other people into our lives and building a new family through the world of fantasy. Our characters will show how, through survival, it is possible to learn to live again.

Could you tell us something about your teamwork with writer Ross Knight and producer Sergei Serpuhov?
I believe that our solid teamwork on this project has brought great results. We are constantly in touch and I really enjoy our weekly conversations, during which we share ideas on story development. We all have our strong opinions but, somehow, we listen to each other and, by digging deep into the subjects, we find the best solutions. Through our discussions, we get to know our story and characters better. There is an atmosphere of trust where we can also share and reflect on our own life experiences. For me this process is personal, as it requires for each of us to be fully transparent and honest.

How are you planning to use the Eurimages award?
We feel incredibly honoured to be the first recipients of the Eurimages Co-production Development Award in Latvian history! It boosted the project domestically and internationally and gave us more confidence. It attracted a lot of attention from co-producers and sales agents. The money will be spent on the final script rewrite, translation and localisation, work with children and family psychologists, script breakdown, timing and scheduling as well as on other activities in preparation for the national production funding application.

How would you evaluate, overall, your participation in the Junior Co-Production Market?
Very useful, indeed. Not only did we have the chance of getting our project out into the international arena, but we also highly appreciated the opportunity to pitch to young audiences, participate on various platforms and listen to very inspiring speakers and case studies. Besides, it was good to learn about the youngsters’ new ways of consuming content, their interests as well as something new about our potential audience. Most importantly, we gained new contacts and had meetings with potential co-producers.

What kind of challenges did the current healthcare crisis pose to the project?
Personally, it was an up and down ride and still is. On the one hand, you enjoy the luxury of having time to fully focus on the project in the confines of your apartment, sharing ideas through your laptop or exploring nature solo, in order to understand what the characters would go through while living and surviving in the wild. On the other hand, I missed personal connections. Cinekid was a new, interesting experience for me, which I truly enjoyed. At the same time, I remember the experience of shaking hands or sharing a cup of coffee. Pitching to kids while being in the same room could also have been a lot more personal, allowing for a more theatrical way of presenting the story. What I learnt from this situation is the ability to stay calm, focused and be flexible to change. It also made me a stronger person.

What is the next step? Any idea about when the project might be ready for release?
Our timeline says: “release: first quarter of 2022.” Considering that the project has been in development for three years and is in pretty good shape, now we need financial support from the National Film Center of Latvia to achieve this goal in 2021. It looks like we might have found our future co-producers at Cinekid. It’s a bit too early for me to make an official announcement, but we are in the process of finalising our partnership.

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