Mikuláš Novotný • Producer, Background Films
“It will turn out well”
- Mikuláš Novotný is the Czech producer selected for EFP’s 2020 Producers on the Move, and talked to us about how the current situation impacted his projects
Mikuláš Novotný co-founded the production outfit Background Films based in Prague where he has produced Tomasz Mielnik’s feature debut Journey to Rome [+see also:
film profile] or Karel Vachek’s docu-essay Communism and the Net, or The End of Representative Democracy [+see also:
film profile]. Novotný has been selected as one of the participants in this year’s edition Producers on the Move of the European Film Promotion.
Cineuropa: The coronavirus crisis has affected all sectors with a significant impact on the film industry. What was the impact of the crisis on your work in the Czech Republic and how did it affect your projects?
Mikuláš Novotný: We were very lucky and the whole situation affected us a just a little bit. Majority of our projects were not in the production phase at that moment. We are co-producing a Polish film that was supposed to start shooting at the end of March. However, even there the losses stemming from the postponement are significantly smaller compared to the disruption occurring during the actual shoot. Of course, it's still early to celebrate. The main problem are the large crowd scenes of demonstrations. I remembered those promo videos of the Lord of the Rings where someone double-clicks on the computer and a thousand goblins appear, music plays, and Jackson in sweatpants laughs. That's what we need.
What do you think of the COVID-19 situation in the Czech Republic, also with regard to the fact that the government has relaxed measures for the film industry among the first sectors?
I do not understand this issue expertly, but I am glad that colleagues and friends will have something to eat.
You produced Tomasz Mielnik's directorial debut, the spiritual comedy road movie Journey to Rome, while your newer project, 5-hour philosophical documentary essay Communism and the Network or the End of Representative Democracy by Karel Vachek could have been seen in Rotterdam recently. These are quite different projects, how do you choose what you will work on?
Nothing compares to Mr. Vachek's work. But both films have a number of common topics - the organization of society, the spiritual plane of being, destiny, of course, humour. I couldn't make a serious movie about someone falling in love with someone else or killing someone.
Do you plan to profile the Background Films focus on specific type of projects?
I think I answer the question partly above. Someone made me formulate it, even though I resisted it terribly. I wrote that we will help create authors who have come up with something that we do not see ourselves or that we may have forgotten. It's banal, of course, but it excludes a large portion of the spectrum of projects, so at least something!
You are collaborating with Tomasz Mielnik and you are currently preparing his second feature project, Gregorius, the Chosen One, and are also co-producing the second feature film by another Polish rising star, Jan P Matuszynski, Leave No Traces. Do you have a special relation to the Polish cinema?
It's more of a coincidence. I like Poland and I have friends there, but Tomasz Mielnik is my classmate from FAMU, he lives in Prague. And I got to co-production of Jan Matuszynski's project in Karlovy Vary. I liked his film The Last Family [+see also:
interview: Dawid Ogrodnik
film profile], I was glad that they ultimately invited me to work on Leave No Traces. However, our role in the project is not that significant, so I would not overestimate our participation.
What’s the biggest challenge in your career of producer?
I wouldn't call it a career. And not a challenge. I do what I think I should do. I try to do it honestly and the rest is adapting. So the challenge is probably to believe in oneself even though the rest is not completely adapting.
What other projects are you working on?
I have now head full of Tomasz Mielnik's upcoming film Gregorius, the Chosen One. The film is an adaptation of an epic medieval poem, which Mielnik has now prepared after Thomas Mann. Partly as an ironic comedy in the style of Journey to Rome as a life road-movie from a fishing village to the papal throne, nothing easy although a great fun. In addition, I am developing two chamber projects from the Czech present with Tomáš Janáček and I am participating on several foreign co-productions.
What are your expectations from the Producers on the Move initiative, especially if it will be held virtually this year due to the current situation?
I'm not afraid of online edition, it saves money and clarifies expression. It also eliminates a lot of disturbing phenomena. On the other hand, the time for meetings is so severely limited that when you finally come across someone who really inspires and interests you, you naturally can't continue the conversation throughout the night, what probably most likely happened in Cannes. We'll see, however we're all in the same situation, so our "crippled" group of twenty will be united by this situation from now on. I believe that in a few years, the results of the cooperation will appear and this is the point of the initiative. It will turn out well.
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