Alexandru Maftei • Director
He is the man behind the first Romanian romantic comedy in ages
by Stefan Dobroiu
Alexandru Maftei’s feature debut Hello! How Are You? [+see also:
interview: Alexandru Maftei
film profile] was warmly received at last year’s Transylvania International Film Festival and released domestically this March. Over four years in the making, Hello! How Are You?, a romantic comedy about an estranged husband and wife who find new love chatting on the Internet, is expected to be a hit in Romania. The director tells Cineuropa what making this rare Romanian genre film meant for him.
Cineuropa: Hello! How Are You? received a grant from the Romanian Film Centre in 2006. Why so long before the release?
Alexandru Maftei: We started production with the smallest amount the Centre has ever granted to a film project: approximately €90,000, which is more or less 15% of the total budget we needed. From December 2008 to May 2009 we gathered funds for the project and started shooting in the summer of 2009. The film was ready in May 2010, but then the two foreign co-producers we were counting on decided to leave the project, leaving us with a huge hole in the post-production budget. Instead of finishing the film, we started again looking for funds. It was painful. Compared to these financial problems, the artistic difficulties inherent to filmmaking were a piece of cake!
A romantic comedy usually features famous actors in order to attract audiences to theatres, but you chose actors for the most part unfamiliar to cinemagoers. Why?
Choosing the right actors is one of the most creative stages in filmmaking. You have some ideas about what you want, but a certain audition makes you discover new approaches, so you reconsider everything. I don't think the audience should receive what it expects to see, it must be surprised in some way.
Is the finished Hello! How Are You? identical to the one from the screenplay? What changes were made to the story? How long did the shoot last?
I think that the director must find ways to bring the screenplay to the screen as it is and not to change it in order to make his life or the actors' easier. Of course, now we're talking about a good screenplay, like the one Lia Bugnar wrote. On screen the film is shorter, the first cut was two hours and 45 minutes because it seems I'm not the kind of director who respects the standard of one page of screenplay per minute of film. We cut several sequences which were too explicative or useless and sometimes we cut the final moments of a sequence when it was too obvious what was going to happen.
We started with a 28-day shooting schedule but soon realized the film's style didn't allow us to shoot enough per day in order to observe the schedule. We also realized we had to build four sound stages. We finished shooting in 37 days.
Although very familiar in daily conversations, the film's title is quite surprising on a poster. How did you choose it?
The idea came when we tried to think about the first thing the two protagonists would say to each other while chatting on the Internet. “Hello! How Are You?” seemed to sound the best. Then, in 2010, when we had the first screening at Transylvania International Film Festival, we made T-Shirts with the film's title and the people went crazy about them. Only then we realized its huge potential.
Now that Hello! How Are You? is out in Romanian cinemas, what about new projects?
I have a few, but who knows how many years will I have to wait to see them in cinemas. The first is a musical called Supermarket, based on the stage musical of the same name by Teodora Herghelegiu and included this season in Operetta Theatre's repertory. I’m also planning a historical drama about Stephen the Great of Moldavia.
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