Thursday, August 19, 2010

Edinburgh Book Festival

A very short post to let you know that I will participate to the British Council Edinburgh Bookcase from 19 to 23 August. For all of you interested in literature from the UK, you can follow the Bookcase through "My Edinburgh Bookcase Blog"
Hope you'll enjoy!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My week at the Sarajevo Talent Campus

It's been more than a week since I'm back from the Sarajevo Talent Campus. Being part of such a great international film festival like the Sarajevo Film Festival was definitely a wonderful experience both at the personal and professional levels. More than 60 participants were selected as "Talents" in the following fields: directing, producing, screenwriting and acting. I was one of the selected screenwriters. I'm still not very comfortable being called a "talent", but I got used to accept the term within the frame of the programme.

The one week programme was extremely busy and productive, including lectures, workshops, meetings, screenings followed by Q&As, with experts in different fields of the film industry. Memorable moments include lectures of Semih Kaplanoglu, Samuel Maoz and Gaspar Noé, that I reported back on this blog. One most memorable moment was the one hour conversation with Morgan Freeman, who came to see the Talent Campus participants. He spoke about his early career, shared some anecdotes from his years on Broadway, talked about his collaborations with Clint Eastwood, pretty general stuff you would say, but it is quite something to hear it from the man in real, sitting in front of you.

We had the opportunity to meet with young german producers to share ideas and look for potential projects to apply for the Robert Bosch Stiftung Co-production Prize. Frank Albers, director of the Robert Bosh Stiftung (partner of the Talent Campus), was present at most of the Talent Campus events and really encouraged participants to look closely at this opportunity. Also present during the whole programme were organisers of the Berlinale Talent Campus, also partner of the Sarajevo Talent Campus. Both organisations hosted special sessions about their own programmes and the opportunities they offer to young film makers at the national and international level.

Within the general programme, each area of work had its own workshop sessions. Screenwriters had the chance to work with Licia Eminenti, script analyst and director. We had a two day session during which we analysed two movies: Flanders by Bruno Dumont and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days by Cristian Mungiu. The format wasn't really that of a workshop, as intended, but the focus of our analysis was "From the particular to the universal" and to see how these writers/directors managed or tried to tell a universal story from a very particular situation. Another very fruitful session for screenwriters was a one to one feedback session with an expert. Mine was with Miroslav Mandic, screenwriter and director. It was incredibly refreshing to have someone sit in front of you and tell you straight what was good, less good, to be developed or simply to trash within your script. The script I gave for analysis is the one I have written about the 1999 earthquake that took place in the Marmara region in Turkey. A difficult one I must admit as it poses many production problems. But after this session, I can now re-work on the script and develop the relationship between the characters rather than the chaos that surrounds them.

Among the many other interesting sessions you can read about on the online programme, was a session with Bosnian animator and director Ivan Ramadan. In a session entitled "Animation in a nutshell" Ivan Ramadan talked about his work and how he came to start animation short films - you can also see him explain it himself in this video interview. Ramadan has worked on two short movies, one of which, Tolerantia, was awarded the best short film award at the Sarajevo Film Festival in 2008, and Wondermilk, presented at this year's Children Programme of the Sarajevo Film Festival.

This week has given me the opportunity to develop some ideas by talking to fellow "talents", get inspired by major artists and experts from the industry and receive some very valuable feedback about my work as a screenwriter and the possibilities that are out there to further develop myself.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gaspar Noé at the Sarajevo Talent Campus

One of the last directors to visit the Talent Campus was Gaspar Noé, in a session following his latest movie "Enter the Void". This was Gaspar Noé's fourth visit to the Sarajevo Film Festival where a tribute was paid to his work in a previous edition.

Gaspar Noé explains that with "Enter the Void" he wanted to get inside the head of someone who is doing mushrooms. He thought of making "Enter the Void" for almost twenty years. When selling the film to potential producers, he explains that he kept giving successful films as examples to illustrate his film, one of them being "Trainspotting". But he also explains that financing was made possible because he had previously made "Irreversible", a commercial success starring Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci.

In the beginning of "Enter the Void" you see reality through the eyes of a character, Oscar, until a shift happens when he gets shot. The viewer doesn't really know what is happening, says Noé, is it a dream, an hallucination? But Noé adds that trips and dreams are far more experimental than what we can experience watching "Enter the Void". Music and colours were really important to render the mushroom trip experience. The film takes place in Tokyo and is very visual, therefore the script needed to describe the locations in details explains Noé. Some scenes were very short in the script but really long in the movie. Gaspar Noé adds that for him scripts are made to finance the film and that the real film starts when you start shooting. The film is full of very vivid colours but no blue, because blue isn't a mental colour, explains the director. They avoided using blue in the film because dreams are most of the time in black and white, maybe on acid you can see some colours, but never blue. He adds that the music in the film is also messy, like a mushroom trip.

Within the powerful visual and sound effects are the main characters, a brother and sister who were seperated in their childhood because they lost their parents in a car accident. Both are craving for affection and want to produce the family they lost. There's an incestual energy in their relationship, which wasn't in the initial script, explains Noé. The characters are complex because, says the director, he doesn't like films where you're told who is good or bad. We are all complex, he adds.

Making a feature film takes at least a year, explains Gaspar Noé, and an extra year for promotion. Some directors like to shoot a film a year, like Woody Allen, but Noé explains that he prefers to shoot a short film in between two features. Working on a short film acts like a rehearsal for the next feature, says the director. Gaspar Noé also worked on documentaries, commercials and music videos. He filmed a documentary in Africa about people dying from AIDS and explains that he watches much more documentary films than fiction. Sometimes he also shoots commercials but says he doesn't enjoy that process as it leaves very litlle freedom to the director. He also shot video clips for Placebo. Gaspar Noé is now working on a new project: an erotic love story.

You can see the pictures of this talk on the following webpage:


Monday, August 2, 2010

Samuel Maoz at the Sarajevo Talent Campus

Within the Talent Campus programme, participants had the opportunity to see Golden Lion winning movie "Lebanon" by Israeli director Samuel Maoz, and to attend a session entitled "From Personal Experience of Director to the Golden Lion" in the presence of Samuel Maoz, David Silber (producer) and Katriel Schory (executive director of the Israel Film Fund).

"Lebanon" is the personal story of Samuel Maoz and was a necessity to make, explains the director, a need to find some understanding. It took Maoz twenty five years to deal with the issues he experienced as a soldier during the first Lebanon war. When he first tried to write the script in 1988, Maoz explains that the first memory that came to his mind was the burn of flesh, which made him back off. Maoz felt the need to process the story almost in a mathematical way and told himself that as long as he could smell it, he wasn't ready to write his film. It's in 2006, during the second Lebanon war, that he decided he was ready: he tried to smell again but couldn't.

The only way to deliver war, according to Maoz, is through a very strong experience, and that's how he decided to set his film inside the tank. The aim of Maoz was to make the audience feel the war, to see the victims staring back at us. That's where the text becomes an ennemy, says Maoz: how to write such extreme feelings? He therefore decided to trust the body language, the eye. After twenty five years, Maoz wrote the script in four weeks.

Samuel Maoz went to Rotterdam to sell his story to producers. After having told it twenty, forty times, he would look at himself in the mirror and think: "you're a whore!" but then, laughing, Maoz adds,"at least I'm a whore who likes his job!"

Reactions to the film differed between older and younger generations in Israel. Some older generation people would say not to show this movie or mothers won't send their children to war. But reviews were good in Israel, although the audience feelings were rather mixed. According to Maoz, "Lebanon" appeals to the human and this why it works.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Semih Kaplanoglu at the Sarajevo Talent Campus

On the first day of the Sarajevo Talent Campus, participants had the chance to attend a lecture entitled "Tradition vs Modern: Ebb and Flow of Cinema between Center and Periphery" by Turkish filmmaker Semih Kaplanoglu, who was awarded the Golden Bear at this year's Berlinale for his film "Bal" (Honey).

Kaplanoglu started his talk by giving literature as an example of the struggle between modern and tradition. He explained that the most powerful liteature in Turkey dealing with such struggle started bursting after the thirties - i.e. right after the creation of the Turkish Republic by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923 - with authors such as Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar who has been a model for future works of literature in Turkey. This conflict between modern and tradition still goes on today, says Kaplanoglu, between the culture in which we were born and the one we've been educated in. He adds that Orhan Pamuk, for instance, is an author who is in between these worlds.

Kaplanoglu says that he experiences this conflict every day and presents "Bal" as an example. Yusuf for instance, the main character of "Bal", is a poet who experiences things in a passionate way. Kaplanoglu has chosen a poet to be his main character because he comes himself from a culture full of poetry, as he explains. Because it takes so much effort in today's world to be a poet, Kaplanoglu has chosen to show his own struggle through the eyes of a poet, Yusuf in his film.

The basic questions one aks oneself within this struggle is "Who am I? What am I doing here? Why am I here?", but Kaplanoglu says that we tend to forget these questions in our life journeys. He adds that he believes we come to life with a feeling of loss, and that we come to the world with a certain knowledge that opens up to a spiritual or non material understanding. Our experiences are not only about this world and material things and Kaplanoglu says that art is the struggle to try to explain and feel what's beyond our material world. We were all born into a culture and caught into something different within the environment in which we live. But beyond all this, there is something we give to the world. Kaplanoglu's work represents this searching and exploration of the loss.

When Kaplanoglu first presented his trilogy at the Rotterdam film festival, producers told he was crazy and that it would be impossible to make three movies when even producing one can be extremely difficult. Fortunately, Kaplanoglu's Greek partner believed in the project. Following that, Kaplanoglu was in Cannes with two projects, found new partners and could work further on finalizing his trilogy made of : "Yumurta" (Egg), "Süt" (Milk) and "Bal" (Honey).

Kaplanoglu was 36 when he finalized his first movie, which means that he struggled for fifteen years to find producers and professionals interested in his project. In the end, he became himself a producer and learned to perform many other roles within the film industry. It took a long time for Kaplanoglu to achieve success with his films, but not all filmmakers need to experience the same process, says Kaplanoglu. Every artist, every filmmaker has its own story, its own path. Kaplanoglu ended his lecture in a very positive note reminding talent campus participants that no matter how long it can take, "never give up, believe in your project and work hard. Someone at some point will show interest in what you are doing. There are good people out there".

You can see the photo gallery of this lecture on the following webpage: