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Mila Voinikova • Producer

“There is quite a lot of pressure to have a package that looks ‘sexy’”

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- We interview Bulgaria’s 2017 Producer on the Move, Mila Voinikova, who debuted as lead producer with Konstantin Bojanov’s Light Thereafter

Mila Voinikova • Producer

After studying and working in the United States, Mila Voinikova started working as a producer for production company Miramar Film, whose most popular domestic release to date is Ilian Djevelekov’s comedy Love.net, which racked up more than 200,000 admissions in Bulgaria.

Cineuropa: As a producer of Konstantin Bojanov's highly personal feature Light Thereafter [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, what do you think about the pressure exerted by commercial film in European cinema?
Mila Voinikova:
In Europe, overall, personal cinema and individual voices are valued, and there are both decision makers and members of the audience who care about talent and unique style. Sometimes, “difficult” films are appreciated only after they are made, despite a general disbelief, but at least they can eventually find a good place and reach the right audience. There is quite a lot of pressure, however, even for arthouse films, to have names, to have a package that looks “sexy”. That can sometimes shift the focus of both the director and the producer, who start to become preoccupied with preconceived notions about how a film would sell, rather than maintaining the integrity of the project. This is, of course, and has been a universal problem in the art world throughout the centuries, and when we look at this from a more general point of view, I think in Europe today, there is enough space for quality cinema.

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Light Thereafter feels more like a European film than a Bulgarian one. What do you think about the importance of making co-productions?
Light Thereafter in particular is the film that it is, not because it is a co-production, but because from the very beginning, Konstantin was interested in a story that explores existential ideas about coming to terms with oneself and finding a place in the world. To make the film as a co-production seemed a natural step from a production point of view, as the story doesn’t take place in Bulgaria, even though eventually we ended up making it mostly with Bulgarian money and Bulgarian crew, while the cast was international. 

In terms of co-productions in general, they do work for certain projects, and they are very important for the directors as well as film professionals, as they allow them to broaden their perspective. At the same time, there is a lot of time wasted and energy involved in co-productions, and for some projects it is better to focus only on the funding available in Bulgaria and just do it.

What are the best things about producing films in Bulgaria?
There are not many sources of financing, but that helps with being more creative in terms of working with what is available. Bulgaria has great film professionals and a very varied landscape; everything is always close by and very manageable. We have equipment and facilities at very affordable prices, and producers know their way around and are flexible. In the past few years, the Bulgarian Film Center has introduced funding for low-budget films, which gave more movies the chance to be made and gave young filmmakers access to funding. It is high time for Bulgaria to become more active and visible on the European scene.

What do you look for when searching for a new feature project?
The most important things for me are the director, and his or her vision. The story and the genre come second. As a viewer and a producer, I appreciate both purely stylistic exercises, as well as more story-driven films. It is always a gut feeling that makes me get involved in a certain project. In minority co-productions, of course, it also depends whether there is a realistic chance of getting funding and if there’s a natural place for Bulgarian creative or technical elements.

What can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
We are currently in the final stage of post-production with Ilian Djevlekov’s film Omnipresent, the story of a man who becomes obsessed with spying on everyone around him with hidden cameras. This is a very contemporary subject matter, and we hope the film will resonate with audiences around the world. We are also developing Ilian’s next project, quite a different affair from his two previous films: Pernik Tragedy will be a sort of crime story taking place in one of the most desolate and run-down cities in Bulgaria.

What do you expect to get out of Producers on the Move?
I expect to meet peers with whom I can collaborate in the future, to be inspired, and inspire others to work hard and give it our all to make quality films and nurture talents.

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