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Max Tuula • Director

"Dispute and argument between producer and director is the way to achieve the best result"

- Max Tuula, Emerging Producer 2016 from Estonia, works for production company Marx Film. Cineuropa chatted with him

Max Tuula • Director

Max Tuula, Emerging Producer 2016 from Estonia, works for production company Marx Film. Cineuropa chatted with him. 

Cineuropa: What qualities should a documentary producer have these days?
Max Tuula:
I’m afraid I won’t discover America here – although a producer does have to reach out to something new to discover.  A producer should embrace the new, feel the right trends, tell the important, talented and promising from glittering but useless wampum; be able to correctly estimate the risk and unafraid to take it; have a lot of patience (my word at Emerging Producers) and work, work, and work. I also believe that a producer should be cultured and educated, possess a great knowledge of the history of film and the state of contemporary cinema – these are the requirements necessary for someone who wants to create something of a real value and significance.

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But there’s one key thing that I articulated for myself during our Emerging Producers talks and that I keep encountering while working with such a troubled country as Russia: a producer should be able to understand the limits of the compromise he or she is ready to make. It is always necessary to be able to find the balance that would suit all the participants, but you also have to understand at what point you may lose your integrity and damage the quality of the entire project. It concerns many aspects of filmmaking. The compromise between the creative team (the director, first of all) – and the producer as the person responsible for the organizational side. The compromise between what kind of product sales agents, TV channels and other commissioners want to pay for – and what the authors intend (and are able) to deliver. The compromise between the audience in the country where the film is made – and international viewers that need more explanations (which was a big issue for our most recent film about Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, killed in 2015: it is too hard to understand outside Russia). The compromise between ethical restrictions – and the urge to overstep borders and create a great film. More specifically, the compromise with the Russian omnipresent government and censorship (the type of compromise we are hardly ready to make – in our last film we only agreed to beep out coarse language for the theatrical version, keeping all the anti-Putin criticism), etc.

To what extent do you, as a producer, get involved in the creative process?
I don’t think my experience is too different from that of other producers. It always depends on the directing manner and the relationship you build with the director (here comes the compromise I mentioned above). It is a question not only of my wish to be considered, but also of the necessity – if the director is looking for advice himself/herself. In some cases, with more experienced and established directors, you just let it flow. In others – you must step in to give the project the right direction when needed. But, honestly, there is always some element of dispute and argument between us and the director – and this is the only way to achieve the best result. Discussio mater veritas est.

What projects do you have under way?
Our most important project at the moment is The Trial by Russian director Askold Kurov – a documentary about Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, imprisoned by the Russian authorities in Crimea on contrived charges and sentenced to 20 years in jail. Such a film is a great responsibility to everyone, so we have to be very meticulous, and this is why we are putting a lot of effort in its postproduction. We are also engaged in the development of Svetlana Strelnikova’s documentary Paper Cities about an extremely interesting futurist architectural project, “the New Element of Settlement”, initiated in the Soviet Union in the 1960s: it was meant to create an entirely new concept of city planning and, consecutively, human life. We were also working on a film focusing on another architectural masterwork, the Viipuri Library, built by Finnish genius Alvar Aalto and now situated in Russia. The film’s idea belongs to Russia’s Stanislav Doroshenkov, and it was supposed to be made by three directors. One of them was Finland’s Peter von Bagh who, unfortunately, passed away over a year ago, so now we are reinventing the whole concept. Another film we had to put on hold (because our protagonist had a stroke) we have been shooting in Tajikistan for several years: it is called On the Edge of the Snow and follows the fate of the little ancient nation of Yagnobi, deported from the Tajik highlands and treated severely by the Soviet authorities. We are also working on the debut feature Time to Be by Georgian filmmaker Anna Sarukhanova in collaboration with Russian producer Yulia Mishkinene and Georgian producer Rusudan Glurjidze. During our Emerging Producers session, I met Estonian filmmaker Vladimir Loginov (whom I had known before and who screened his film Anthill in Jihlava) and we agreed to collaborate on his following projects. One of our other important Estonian projects involves the history of my family, the story of my father –an Estonian, born before World War II. He remembers the war, Soviet and German invasions, Estonian post-war resistance; in the Soviet times, he found himself at a place farthest away from Estonia – in the city of Vladivostok on the Sea of Japan. This is a very personal project for me, so I’ll keep the details to myself.


Emerging Producers is a promotional and educational project, which brings together talented European documentary film producers. The programme is organised and curated by the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival.

Deadline for applications to the Emerging Producers 2017 edition is 31 March, 2016. Click here.

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