“It’s not just about learning from your own mistakes; it’s about learning from other people’s!”
Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...
Nima Yousefi • Producer, Hobab
by Marta Bałaga
Joining the ranks of the Producers on the Move, the Swedish company’s CEO helps his directors to clearly express their vision
Sweden’s Nima Yousefi, who started working at Hobab in 2010, recently completed production on Nathalie Álvarez Mesén’s Clara Sola and Hanna Bergholm’s Hatching [+see also:
film profile]. He is determined to produce arthouse projects that actually have an audience, just like Hlynur Pálmason’s A White, White Day [+see also:
interview: Hlynur Pálmason
film profile]. We chatted to the producer, who is taking part in this year’s iteration of European Film Promotion’s Producers on the Move initiative.
Cineuropa: It seems like you didn’t really have a choice – your parents have a background in film and theatre as well. Was this useful in any way?
Nima Yousefi: One of my earliest memories is from a theatre play in Iran – it really affected me. When we came to Europe, I was always surrounded by that, too, by actors and directors. Still, when I started to study, I decided it was not what I wanted – I chose economics instead. But I did feel that something was missing, and suddenly, out of nowhere, I decided to make a short film. From then on, I have tried everything: I have even shot a wedding video! I have been learning by doing.
Your company, Hobab, was already involved in Kilimanjaro, your second short as a director. Is that how this relationship started?
I helped another director on a pilot for a feature film before, and he was working with Peter [Krupenin, founder]. Afterwards, he asked me: “Hey, do you want to be a production manager?” We have been working together for ten years now. We had a deal with the distribution company that is now SF Studios, but when they changed their structure, we decided to start from scratch.
One of the best things about having my own company, which I now share with Peter, is having the flexibility to figure out how I want to do things. It’s just so rewarding. Also because in the end, it’s not just about learning from your own mistakes; it’s about learning from other people’s!
As a producer, you have worked only on international co-productions. I actually think that more and more people will share this experience now.
For the kind of arthouse films I produce, it’s a necessity. We have good production incentives in Sweden, and if they co-produce, it’s mostly with the Nordic countries. But I think this tendency is here to stay. For me, it’s really about the filmmakers behind the project, their vision. No matter if they are female or male, I am just interested in these new voices. “What is it that you actually want to say?” I am very intrigued by that. For Stupid Young Heart [+see also:
film profile], I had seen Selma Vilhunen’s previous film, which I loved. Then, by chance, I met her producers, and it all happened very naturally.
Such chance encounters are hard to come by in the online world.
You can still meet, but it’s different. I have a bigger network now, though; I know who to follow, but of course you still want to find new people. With Hatching, we were pitching at the same co-production forum. I was very nervous, and I forgot what anyone else was saying – everyone except her. But I didn’t approach them immediately – we met at a party in another place, and it just cropped up. I am not a horror fan, but there is a real layer of drama here. Like, say, in Border [+see also:
interview: Ali Abbasi
film profile] – it just speaks to your soul. It was Hanna’s feature debut, but the budget was €3.5 million. It can be a challenge, especially for someone who is just starting out. But it just came to the market at the right time. I like to produce high-quality arthouse projects that have an audience, and that’s what I am trying to look for. I don’t want to do something that’s just for a small number of people.
The old idea of a successful producer being a bit of a bully is now changing. You also talk about the need to “provide the authors with the necessary attention”.
As a filmmaker, especially at the beginning of your career, you have to think about what it is that you are trying to communicate, which is not easy. I try to nourish them and to encourage them to crystallise their vision. You have to say: “This is the core of the story, so remember it.” In Europe, we have so many workshops and labs, which sometimes make everything more confusing. I always say to them: “Once you can clearly communicate your vision, then I can finance your film.” That’s something I like to work on, even though it takes time. You don’t need to be good at talking; you just need to know what you’re talking about.
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