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CINEKID 2021 Cinekid for Professionals

Nora Lakos and Claudia Sümeghy • Director and producer of I Accidentally Wrote a Book

“It will be a playful film with lots of humour, even though it is a serious topic; humour is essential for all of my projects”

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- We talked to the director and producer of the project that won the €20,000 Eurimages Co-Production Development Award at this year’s Cinekid for Professionals

Nora Lakos and Claudia Sümeghy  • Director and producer of I Accidentally Wrote a Book
(© Melanie Lemahieu)

The Hungarian feature I Accidentally Wrote a Book was the winner of the €20,000 Eurimages Co-Production Development Award at this year’s Cinekid for Professionals, as decided by jury members Charlotte Henskens, Karin Schockweiler and Stian Tveiten (see the news). The film, which will be based on the multi-award-winning children’s book by Dutch writer Annet Huizing, will be under the direction of Nora Lakos, and will be produced by Claudia Sümeghy for JUNO11 Pictures and Lakos herself for Squirrel Film. The project participated in the 2020-2021 Cinekid Script LAB. Cineuropa sat down with Lakos and Sümeghy to talk about the project, their victory at Cinekid and the way forward for them now.

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Cineuropa: Can you introduce your project to us?
Nora Lakos:
The film is about Katinka, a 13-year-old girl who wants to be a writer. While she is learning to write with the help of her neighbour, she suddenly realises that her life is actually becoming a novel. Katinka lost her mother as a small child. Through this process, she becomes more and more familiar with herself and is able to process her long-concealed grief. It is not only a heart-warming story of a 13-year-old girl and her family, about how they accept a new step-mother in their life, but also an inspiring journey about writing and imagination. It will be a playful film with lots of humour, even though it is a serious topic. Humour is essential for all of my projects.

Claudia Sümeghy: On the flight back to Budapest after our visit to Cinekid, I realised that Nora is always laughing. Expressing her emotions is important to her. And it is also a quality we’ll see in this project. Our aim is to create a film where viewers cry and laugh, and can identify with our heroes.

How will you visualise Katinka’s emotional world?
NL: The visual approach is unique and is really meant to express the protagonist’s inner feelings. We will use elements of 2D animation, such as written letters on the screen as well as drawings that accompany her writing. We come to understand her story through her writing. The story unfolds as the protagonist writes it, and we can follow how each decision made by the writer affects the whole story. For instance, we see scenes that play out with different endings as the writer changes them, and there are scenes that the writer deletes and we see them played backwards until they completely disappear from the screen. These all give great opportunities for playfulness and creative visual solutions.

The story is based on a Dutch children’s novel, correct?
NL:
Yes, it is based on a novel by Annet Huizing, which I read about two years ago. I was – again – crying and laughing so much while reading it that I just sent her an email saying that I loved her book and would like to make a film adaptation of it. We spoke about it and both had the feeling that it would be a fruitful cooperation.

Did you have to make any major changes to move from novel to screenplay?
NL:
The novel was perfect as it was because it is about writing; therefore, the content and the form just fit perfectly. But as a film, it will need a bit more action and more plot. For example, we added more locations and also other characters, such as Katinka’s friends, expanding her world a bit. One of her friends falls in love with someone, touching upon Katinka’s main issue. Will she be able to open her heart to someone new? She could be afraid that something will happen to them again, like it did to her mother, who died. This, for example, is a new element in the script.

CS: Annet really liked these ideas, which we were happy about. She even said that she would add them to her novel if she had to write it again. It is great to have her blessing when working on the film. We also changed a few names that were typically Dutch to more international ones, so that we can reach a broader audience.

What was your experience of the Junior Co-Production Market at Cinekid like?
CS:
It was amazing and also intense. We had 24 meetings in 30 hours or so, with producers, distributors, sales agents and commissioning editors. Also, it was nice meeting the other filmmakers, who had some very interesting stories as well. We received some useful feedback on our pitch and our story from them, too. We also had a meeting with the jury of Eurimages. They were very interested in the visual aspects that Nora has in mind, and also in how we are trying to integrate it into our country’s strategy regarding children’s movies. There aren’t that many kids’ movies made in Hungary. It will be our first international co-production, so we have many things to decide upon and work out. All in all, it was great and helped a lot with the development of our project.

How exactly will the award help with the development of your project?
CS:
Now we have time to think and create a co-production strategy that works best for us. After our meetings at Cinekid, we have some opportunities to co-produce with different producers from various countries. This is a prestigious award, so we hope that it will be a good “reference” for the decision makers and help us put our financing together. A first specific step might be to create a proof of concept for our visual approach.

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