“Producing is a skill that will always be applicable and that’s where my ambition lies”
Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...
Vesela Kazakova • Producer, Activist38
Part of the EFP’s Producers on the Move, UK-based Bulgarian producer Vesela Kazakova talks about the advantages of being part of two worlds
After finding fame as an actress, Vesela Kazakova delved into producing and directing together with her creative partner Mina Mileva, with whom she founded production company Activist38. After two documentaries exploring Bulgaria’s troubled relationship with the past, the duo directed and produced their fiction feature debut Cat in the Wall [+see also:
interview: Mina Mileva, Vesela Kazakova
film profile]. Here is what Vesela Kazakova has to say about adaptability in times of crisis after having been selected for EFP’s Producers on the Move.
Cineuropa: First let's get rid of the elephant on the continent: how well do you think Bulgarian authorities have managed the cultural crisis caused by the pandemic?
Vesela Kazakova: We’re personally affected. As a company we expect to receive zero compensation. We couldn’t even dream of the prevention and protection funds set up elsewhere in Europe. On the other hand, some freelance artists are theoretically able to receive state support, but I haven’t followed up on that. Small, limited companies are left out in the cold.
You work both in Bulgaria and the UK, do you think this an advantage? Or are you an outsider in both worlds?
It’s actually an advantage. Changing your location gives you a necessary distance and fresh ideas. It helps you appreciate both places and be relevantly critical. Exactly this aspect was highly appreciated in our London fiction debut Cat in the Wall. British-born critics spoke of the striking authenticity in it and we were pleased to see that they appreciated the intimate knowledge of our “South London turf”. That’s also thanks to Mina [Mileva]’s accumulated cultural layers. Basically, it’s a blessing to be able to share time in two different cultures.
The relationship between crisis and opportunity is frequently quoted right now. How did the health crisis make you a better producer?
We’ve always worked with extreme financial limitations, but never compromised on artistic quality and achieving our wildest ideas. We are not at all fantastically supported by the state, but there is so much demand and competition, with about 800 film production companies registered in Bulgaria. Until not long ago the Bulgarian National Film Centre was a very lucrative niche, a source of comfortable income for a couple of Bulgarian directors working only domestically. We hope that this changes, as pressure builds up to let a new generation in the game.
You are currently developing a new project, Women Do Cry. Can you tell us more about the story? Was the projected affected by the crisis?
Yes, the production was affected quite seriously, but we’re in the same boat with many other colleagues, especially those in the theatre medium. The lockdown was a necessary time for refreshing our ideas. Women Do Cry comes at a right time when it’s important to look within ourselves and reflect upon what’s happening here and now. For me this is an extremely important project on a personal level and it’s hard to speak more about it at this stage.
Regarding the effects of the crisis in the long term, how do you think it will change the European film landscape?
Perhaps there will be tougher competition, fewer companies sharing the pie, less travel and money shortages. Mina and I are extremely flexible and we presume we can easily change profession. We have never harbored the thought of clinging on to directing. After all, we have suffered a lot doing it. When I achieved success in acting, I never imagined that I’ll be able to match that success behind the camera. Now I feel more assured that I can change career again. But producing is a skill that will always be applicable and that’s where my ambition lies.
What are your expectations regarding Producers on the Move?
For me Producers on the move came at the right place at a right time. It’s a powerful promotion aid and it gives a great visibility. I’ve followed the programme for quite a few years and secretly wished to become eligible one day. It’s quite a luck that it worked out with our first fiction, a co-production between Bulgaria, UK and France, which, after starting its festival run at Locarno was selected at four other A-list festivals and it also received an award at an A-list festival. My expectations [regarding Producers on the Move] were completely fulfilled and even exceeded because not being physically there saved time to concentrate on important ideas and networking. I’m very grateful for being selected!
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