Miljenka Čogelja • Producer, Pipser
"It's a privilege to work on different genres and to bring auteur voices to audiences"
- The Croatian producer reflects on her successes, which include Locarno prizewinner Safe Place, and tells us about her upcoming projects and her view of the production process
Croatian producer Miljenka Čogelja broke out internationally last year when the film Safe Place [+see also:
interview: Juraj Lerotić
film profile], directed by Juraj Lerotić and produced through her company Pipser, which she runs together with Djuro Gavran, won three awards at Locarno, including Best First Feature, and went on to represent Croatia at the Oscars. At the production company Hulahop, she also produced Dana Budisavljević’s docufiction hybrid The Diary of Diana B. [+see also:
interview: Dana Budisavljević
film profile], which won all the major awards at the Croatian national Pula Film Festival in 2019, including Best Feature Film. Čogelja has been selected to represent Croatia in the European Film Promotion’s Producers on the Move programme.
Cineuropa: What is it that attracts you to a project?
Miljenka Čogelja: It's the opportunity to examine and reflect on the world we live in through the stories we tell, issues that affect us, and that we tend to avoid. Equally important to me is working with authors who have something to say. Without romanticising the process, which is on one hand creative and on the other quite demanding and risky... I don't think I’ve ever approached any of the projects I worked on thinking, “how will we deal with this difficult subject matter?”. Every project I choose to work on, I see as a potential for a quality collaboration with an author I trust, or as an important story that needs to be told because it addresses topics that I personally consider important; ideally, both at the same time. The approach varies because the people I collaborate with are different, as are the themes, but I approach them with an openness to jointly enter a process in which I am primarily prepared to take risks, take responsibility and make compromises.
Tell us a bit about the projects you are currently working on.
We have several projects on our slate that are in different stages of development and we hope to advance them in the following months.
Milch Cow is the debut feature film by director Miroslav Sikavica, who co-wrote the script with Marija Šimoković Sikavica (their 2016 short The Beast won a special mention in Cannes Directors' Fortnight in 2016). It's a story about a family gathering that turns into a battlefield over the course of a few hours; from warmth, unity and belonging to a place where no one chooses their weapons. It's a story about how fragile interpersonal relationships are, how little it takes to destroy closeness and trust, perhaps irrevocably. The film is planned as a co-production between Italy, Serbia, and Slovenia.
The feature-length documentary film One Minute Enough to Kill You by director Damian Nenadić and writer Espi Tomičić is a hybrid that experiments with form and tells the stories of women who have experienced, without provocation, brutal violence in public spaces — on the street, in the park, in their own car.
Jetzt, a film by the multi-talented director Katrin Novaković, combines stop-motion animation and documentary techniques to tell a warm and personal story. It follows a conversation between the author and her grandmother as they travel through memories. It transitions from tender childhood memories to a story about universal fears resulting from certain traumas.
I'm also developing two documentary television series directed by Djuro Gavran and a documentary fairy tale about fatherhood (the way we affectionately refer to that project), also directed by Gavran, called Hey, Dad.
You work on documentaries and fiction, for TV and cinemas. How do you combine these different aspects?
Choosing and deciding on a project is a very individual process, but because I firmly believe in serious project development and preparation, I get to know all aspects of every project through those stages. Then I plan according to those needs. I feel it's a privilege to work on different film genres, to carry, support, and bring to audiences the voices of auteur cinema, but also to be able to develop, produce, and defend documentary authors and their visions as well as working on high-quality TV content.
What do you expect from Producers on the Move?
My expectations are focused on seeking new opportunities for collaboration with like-minded professionals, exchange of ideas and experiences. I believe that by working together, we can tap into various perspectives and create films that have a unique ability to connect with audiences from different cultures.
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