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Rapporto industria: Produrre - Coprodurre...
Júlia Berkes • Produttrice, Proton Cinema
Abbiamo parlato con la Producer on the Move ungherese della sua compagnia, delle sue prospettive internazionali e del sistema di finanziamento cinematografico nel suo paese
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Júlia Berkes, producer for Hungarian company Proton Cinema, tells us about her career so far, her upcoming projects, and the philosophy of her company. She has been selected to participate in European Film Promotion's Producers on the Move programme at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Cineuropa: What have been the main stages of your career as a producer ?
Júlia Berkes: It all started with a great friendship. I met director Gábor Reisz in the University of Theatre and Film Arts, Budapest (SZFE) in 2006. We developed a creative collaboration from the start and have made 5 short films and 3 feature films together since. This has remained one of the main foundations of my producing work. I have learnt the value of collaborations and partnerships, and this is what I keep my focus on ever since.
I joined Proton Cinema right after finishing university in 2009. That is the other backbone of my career, I think I can proudly call Proton Cinema my home. The company enabled me to reach out to more talents, develop myself and grow as an international producer. Not only was I encouraged to co-produce from the first moment, but I could also experience hands-on production by line producing several production services.
A significant step was joining the EAVE producers’ community in 2016. I learned a lot there and established my own network. That is where most of my close partnerships are rooted in. I am still collaborating with EAVE members today on several projects.
In 2018, I started to work with director Hajni Kis — this new encounter opened up new possibilities. In 2021 we premiered her first feature film, Wild Roots [+leggi anche:
scheda film], and we are developing her second one now, called Ich bin Marika.
Can you describe the Proton Cinema feature slate?
Proton Cinema’s slate is very variable, as the company gathers several producers. Despite our current difficulties in our country regarding financing, we keep going ahead with a strong slate developing several feature, documentary and series projects. We were lucky to gain the slate funding of Creative Europe again, which keeps us afloat in international waters. We focus on projects that could be marketed as European, universal stories. We feel responsible for several Hungarian talents, always looking for new international partnerships and opportunities for them, so they don’t get lost in the current over-politicised Hungarian industry.
Recently, we shot two independent feature films without any state funding. Summer to come, by György Mór Kárpáti, is the story of two boys and a girl in a high school summer camp, a year after the suicide of one of the boys, with the remaining two having to return to that same place.
Explanation for Everything, our 3rd feature film with Gábor Reisz, is in post-production. The film paints a realistic picture of a country torn in two through the story of an 18-year-old boy’s high school graduation exam which ends in scandal.
Shooting is wrapping on the first feature film Árni, by Dorka Vermes, which was supported by the Biennale College Cinema. The film is about a lonely young boy called Árni, who travels around the countryside with a family circus, trying to be a real part of the family.
We are also currently shooting Pramen, a Slovakian-Czech-Hungarian co-production directed by Ivan Ostrochovsky, which is a project that received state funding. The story takes place in 1980s Czechoslovakia, at the time of the existence of so-called abortion commissions. Two women — a white ob-gyn doctor and a half-Roma paramedic — get closer, as they both discover that good intentions often pave a path for horrible actions.
We have several feature and series projects in development. One of them is hopefully our next feature film with Hajni Kis - Ich bin Marika, which was granted the Nipkow Fellowship and is now in the Jerusalem Film Lab. The story is about 55-year-old Marika, who moves from Hungary to Germany to become the caregiver of a problematic elderly couple in order to make enough money to get her husband out of jail.
What is the production philosophy of your company? What type of films are you interested in making?
I think what’s special about Proton Cinema is that it is an international production company built by a creative community of like minded talent and producers. We share a love of cinema, values, tastes, and still can be very different from each other. We have each other’s back, and the business model of the company has our back and keeps us independent. This synergy is priceless in today’s Hungary, therefore we do everything to protect it.
Our core activities are content development and the production of fresh, cutting-edge movies, quality television series and creative documentaries for international distribution, encouraging the work and expression of young talents on emerging topics.
We look for projects that have a strong vision regarding the contemporary world, that can resonate with who we are today and provoke thoughts and reach young audiences. During the last few years, we focused on the questions of autocracy and social injustice in addition to love, friendship and responsibility.
Our business model is built on reinvesting part of our profit from the production service to our productions and development. This way Proton Cinema can hold a large-scale development slate, risking its own investment and supporting young talents’ first steps. The key to this business model is to be as independent as possible.
We love to discover new talent and be there for their first steps. It is one of our most exciting missions to accompany our first-feature directors through their 2nd and 3rd projects. This idea has worked for us, and by now we have filmmakers affiliated to our company who already proved themselves on the international market with their first features – like Gábor Reisz, György Kárpáti Mór, Hajni Kis, Ábel Visky and several others. Now, we have a strong line-up of their and Kornél Mundruczó’s films.
We develop 4 to 5 features a year. We have been working on more and more documentary materials in the last two years, and also started to develop television series.
What do you think of the film financing system in Hungary?
Financing in a country with a small production industry and a limited-range language was never going to be easy. Hungary has a significant cultural subsidy level combined with a high profile, well-working tax rebate, and a big talent pool. There is therefore an opportunity to be one of the strongest industries in the region, not only for production services but for content producing as well. Currently, cultural politics have a huge impact on the creative landscape. It narrows down the real options for independent filmmakers. The good thing in filmmaking, however, is that we always need to adapt. So now we are adapting to this unfavourable situation, trying to stay with Hungarian filmmakers and to provide for local talents relying more on international financial setups.
Streamers are not present in the financing either, now that HBO has closed its offices. Local television productions are limited but getting stronger. The National Film Institute still shows some openness for minority co-productions. Yet, reality trains us well these days. Being connected to the world market trends is absolutely vital.
Because of the financing situation and out of necessity for directors to carry on, more and more independent micro budget features have been made in the last two to three years, but in the long run, only those ready for this challenge can survive. We are here to provide a survival kit for this.
Do you have international perspectives involving co-producing with other European countries?
I’m looking for connections and possible partnerships all the time. Co-producing is everything. It is vital to stay tuned in Europe. I hope the next stage in this journey will be Producers on the Move. We need to identify ourselves as European, as Eastern European, searching for local content that broadens our horizons.
You are one of EFP’s Producers on the Move. What does this mean to you and how do you think it will help you?
I hope to meet like-minded producers and future colleagues. I’m ready to embrace again the complexity of the audiovisual industry, and find myself with more questions, and new roads.
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