by Theodore Schwinke
05/05/2010 - Silvia Panáková began as a production assistant in television before moving to local and international features. Since 2002 she has produced the Tibor Vichta Prize for screenwriters under 35. In 2004 she and her husband Erik Panák founded ARINA, a co-producer on Juraj Herz's T.M.A. and lead production partner on Ivan Vojnár's My Husband’s Women.
Cineuropa: Tell us more about the Tibor Vichta Prize.
Silvia Panáková: The prize is named after a great Slovak screenwriter. It is the only competition of its kind in Slovakia and has resulted in 40 projects being implemented. I had worked on a similar project when I was living abroad. When I came back, Slovak screenwriter Ondrej Šulaj and Vichta’s daughter, dramaturge Dagmar Ditrichová, helped me adapt the competition to the Slovak environment. It offers young screenwriters a chance to present their projects alongside Slovak and international projects and present them to the film community.
Since 2008, ARINA has been a partner in the ScriptEast competition in Poland, where the winner of the Tibor Vichta Prize for feature-length film participates every year.
What challenges do you face with local audiences?
Getting people to come to a Slovak film is a complicated process where several factors positively or negatively influence the outcome. As regards Slovak audiences, making the right choice of actors, theme or genre is very important. Another factor is willingness on the part of the distributor to really do the maximum to promote the film and create a good campaign for it. The most important thing, though, is the attitude of the cinema owners, who are not always interested in keeping Slovak films running in the theatres, but often pull them after the first two weeks and compare their results with the intense competition provided by American films. Often, they are the ones who deprive Slovak films of viewers.
What big changes are afoot in the Slovak film industry?
This year, the long-awaited Audio-Visual Fund was launched. It replaces the state support for audio-visual art that used to come from the Ministry of Culture. The AVF has different rules for financing, which can make production and co-production of audio-visual works easier for us.
What are you working on now?
First and foremost, we are preparing to do the final shooting and post-production this summer of the docu-drama Time of Grimaces. The film is about the 18th century sculptor F.X. Messerschmidt, famous for his “character head” sculptures of contorted faces. We have a feature-length film called Let Live! in development as well. It’s the story of a teenager during the last days of WW2. The film is about that moment when the innocent world of a child fatally collides with the jaded world of adults. We are also working on a documentary about the photographer Robert Vano, who is originally from Slovakia. His photos were the pride of such magazines as Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Elle and Cosmopolitan.
What do you expect from your participation in the Producers on the Move initiative?
I would like to meet new producers and gain new ideas for future co-productions. It will be a good opportunity to share experiences with producers from Europe. I am looking forward to learning more about the film business in different countries.