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Interview with director DORA ŠUSTIC

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

I’m still not sure whether film making is my way, whereas writing is. But I remember during high school, after watching certain films, I would fantasize about seeing some of my stories on screen. It slowly started happening that during writing I would see the film, the story divided in frames, different shot sizes, locations. However, the visual aspect still appears late for me. The character is what obsesses me the most in any storytelling mode.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

No, not at all.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

The beginning of any project is very exciting and easy, lots of ideas, courage and passion. For me, it’s always much more difficult to keep going in the right direction and not to lose track of the initial idea. Few times it happened that along the way I got impressed by some ideas that did not really match with the initial one, so the main strength of the project got deluded in the end.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

With Blooming I learned about the necessary balance between planning and improvisation. More you plan, freer you are on the set to break the plan, to listen to your own intuition, but you shouldn’t be nervous, otherwise it’s difficult to spot that magic moment and consciously go sideways from the plan. And everyone around the director have to be synced for that to work out. So I think it was positive to experience this (lack of) balancing and see how the whole team reacts to these shifts.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

The film was done with friends, in a small team. It was a second-year exercise at the master’s studies, financed by the school, so the budgeting was as always challenging and people were working on the film for free. The post-production was done with no-budget, by ourselves. The compromises are part of any collaboration, especially where there’s no budget or when you work with children, but that brings a certain charm to the whole process. It somehow makes the project more ours.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

I made a decision beforehand that the film would be shot only handheld, in one location, which caused negotiations and compromises in all other departments.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

The members of the film are my friends or colleagues from the academy, with some of them I also worked on previous projects. I think films should be made with friends, in a group of people you like and they like each other. It makes the whole process fueled with creativity and personal discoveries, and it somehow becomes much more than a film.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

No, it’s distributors’ and sales agents’ role.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

I made only short films so far, so film festivals are the only way to get the films out there, screened to the audience. Naturally, they’re important also to meet people who work in the same field as you, who are inspiring because of their ideas and experiences. It’s also great to see a lot of films in a short amount of time, to talk about cinema, to drink together… it’s more about people sharing their experience of filmmaking than selling their films, at least it should be.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

Well, for sure fresh ideas and experiments in style are great. But I think in order to achieve freshness and courage – the real, authentic freshness and not trendiness! – one has to go through the safe and classic period, to master the rules of the craft. Only then, when we’re in control of the rules, we can bend them, eliminate them completely or make our own. I think that the work of every great director in the history proves this, revealing the journey from the classic to the original.