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Slávek Horák • Director

“The best argument for securing funding is the 90 pages of the text”


- KARLOVY VARY 2015: Cineuropa chatted to Slávek Horák to find out more about his feature debut, Home Care, and how he made the transition from directing adverts to making feature films

Slávek Horák  • Director

Seasoned Czech director of commercials Slávek Horák recently made the transition from making adverts to directing his feature debut. At 40, he finished Home Care [+see also:
film review
interview: Slávek Horák
film profile
(which he wrote, produced and directed), an uplifting drama about a terminally ill protagonist, which was picked as an entry for the main competition at Karlovy Vary. Cineuropa met up with the director to discuss the creative process and how debuting filmmakers can secure the necessary funding for their projects.

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Cineuropa: There seems to be a new generation on the horizon in the Czech Republic. What is your view on this situation?
Slávek Horák:
I tried to do everything differently than in the usual Czech approach, those generic conceptions about how the film should look, which makes all domestic films look so provincial. Currently, I do not know any other debuts, nor their makers; we are not a homogeneous group, and everybody tries to make his or her own film for him or herself. However, the conditions are great for this, thanks to the State Cinema Fund, Czech Television and the Slovak Audiovisual Fund, which so generously funded my film based solely on the script, in spite of the fact that I was totally unknown to them and a filmmaker who had not yet proved himself. The script charmed them to the extent that they were not afraid to take a risk and give me the full support. With this I was able to make the film without making compromises, and I hope the Karlovy Vary competition entry that the film has earned is adequately satisfying for them. The same reaction was generated among the private co-producers, Fog’n’Desire Films, Sokol Kollár and Svoboda&Williams. They all embraced the project, not because they were hoping for commercial success, but because they wanted to see the script materialise on the screen. Everybody was focused on the film itself, and they manifested their support financially, thus creating the ideal conditions to make Home Care.

You are a prolific maker of commercials and short films. When did you make the decision to direct a feature film, and what preceded it?
Naturally, I have entertained myself with the idea of making a feature since my studies, although I knew I had not yet matured enough. I wouldn’t want to see a film I would have made as a twenty-something, nor as a thirty-something. Two years ago, I started to feel as though the wait to reach maturity might last my whole life, and there was no point in waiting so long, so I immersed myself in the work, thinking I would mature in the process. Now I see I will need a whole bunch of these processes!

How did the idea for Home Care come about?
I was thinking a lot about what theme would be worthy of my feature debut. I retreated into seclusion and headed to my parents’ place in the countryside to get some peace and quiet while writing, but my talkative mother kept disturbing me with her never-ending, bizarre stories from work. She was working as a nurse, doing home care, and one meets an array of interesting people there. You see it now, but it took me a while to realise that the best idea was right there in front of me my whole life – in the character of my mother.

European or Eastern European films tend to be labelled as depressive. Despite the motif of the terminally ill protagonist, your film maintains a rather uplifting tone. What prompted this decision?
I did not make any decision as such; it’s just in my nature. I see the world like this, as a mixture of comedy and tragedy, and I think the most truthful image of the world lies at the intersection of the two. For me, those depressive films – excluding filmmakers who adopt a metaphysical approach – are depressive because of their limited, incomplete vision of the world. I see joy, sadness, futility and emotion all around me, and if all of these elements come together in one scene, I suspect I have a film.

What was the funding process like?
The funding was, curiously enough, the easiest part. Everybody considered the script worthy of the support, and we just fine-tuned the details of the co-production conditions. The main role in successfully securing the financing was played by the two years spent writing the script, during which time we put together the final product, helped along by some very valuable support from dramaturge Jan Gogola, Czech Television dramaturge Jaroslav Sedláček and co-writer Rudolf Suchánek. It was a big educational experience for me as a producer who was just starting out. Despite the conspiracy theories, I learned that the best argument for securing funding is the 90 pages of the text, which will spark the desire to see them as a film. The process is so outwardly simple because a good script stands out from the mass of texts, even though there may not be a famous name behind it.

How did the experience of shooting a feature influence you?
It was an education. Only now do I understand that I am at the very beginning! A lot of things I thought were enough to experience in my head proved to be things requiring physical, time-consuming experience that applies to the whole creative process, from writing to shooting and post-production. All the theory is just the first step on the road to real learning; that’s why I want to carry on shooting films, to learn more, to blend my (often comic) visions with the objective (often tragic) reality of the creative process. I can’t wait to get stuck into writing my next script. 

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