“I wouldn’t be able to work on a project unless I knew it inside and out”
Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...
Katarína Tomková • Producer, kaleidoscope
by Marta Bałaga
Slovakia’s Producer on the Move is looking for the truth in the story
Since launching her own production company, kaleidoscope, in 2015, Katarína Tomková has worked on the likes of Pavol Pekarčík’s Silent Days [+see also:
interview: Pavol Pekarčík
film profile] and Ivan Ostrochovský’s Servants [+see also:
interview: Ivan Ostrochovský
film profile], using her past experience at the Slovak Film Institute to help them gain international recognition. We talked to the producer, who is taking part in this year’s iteration of European Film Promotion’s Producers on the Move initiative.
Cineuropa: You worked for the Slovak Film Institute before, figuring out how to promote films outside of the country. Now you are making them, but I guess you still know what people want?
Katarína Tomková: I think that’s the biggest skill that job gave me. I understood how the industry works, and I met people. It was priceless, really, and laid the groundwork for me doing what I do now. I never produce alone; I always partner up, taking on this international aspect. It wasn’t even my initial plan, to become a producer. But when I quit the institute, some of the directors came to me, saying: “I am so bad at this whole ‘international thing’; would you do it?” Not every project has the potential to travel, but when it does, that’s where I come in. I trust them as creators, I admire them, and they trust me to position the film in a way that would bring international recognition. It allows me to work in a team, which I have always enjoyed, and lead my double training life [as a programme coordinator for the MIDPOINT Institute].
You started off with documentaries, arguing in an old interview that the more authentic and “true” the story is, the more captivating the project.
This has to do with the kinds of filmmakers I work with, the generation of Slovak documentary directors who transitioned into fiction films. Because of that background, they are looking for the truth in the story. I can connect to that easily, and many projects I have done could be labelled as “hybrid”. They are asking the kinds of questions that maybe don’t have just one answer. It’s not that I look for a certain kind of story – these directors bring them to me. They are brilliant at observation, seeing things I personally would never notice, and the shoot itself tends to be quite organic.
On your company’s website, you mention that your focus is on the arthouse titles. I remember people being scared of Servants at first, as it seemed such an acquired taste.
I feel like I would be cheating a little, pretending I wasn’t making the films that I am making. Servants is very minimalistic, but it also uses some elements of genre cinema, and that’s what I think was ultimately appealing. It made it more universal. People tend to be confused by these crossovers between arthouse and genre, not to mention that it was shot in black and white and in a 4:3 ratio, which is every distributor’s dream [laughs]. But what I love about the guys I am working with is that they know what they want. This allows me to sleep well at night.
The way we collaborate comes down to the nature of these films. We talk about how we see them, how we can present them to others. These are hours and hours of discussions. Later, when we do Q&As, some of the directors joke: “I am going to sit down, and you can answer these questions yourself.” I wouldn’t be able to work on a project unless I knew it inside and out.
You have quite a few upcoming films, but has the pandemic delayed some things?
For sure. It might also be a good thing – normally, you work on these last few stages in such a rush. Now, we have actually had time to prepare. It’s still a COVID year, so nobody knows what the second half will look like, what will happen to cinemas or to festivals. With Servants, we waited with the domestic release because we really, really, really wanted to show it on the big screen. But then the distributors switched to online, and in a way, I am grateful for that. After working on this film for six years, we would rather see the glass half full.
Peter Kerekes’ Censor, now known as 107 Mothers, will be another hybrid. Juraj Lehotský’s Applause, also in post-production, has [Polish actor] Bartosz Bielenia in the lead: he had to learn Slovak, German and how to play the cello for the role. Juraj has moved a little out of his comfort zone; he is discovering all of these new styles of storytelling. It’s the same with Ivan, the director of Servants, now working on The Spring and exploring the 1980s in Czechoslovakia from a very different perspective. It’s exciting to see directors grow and change these approaches.
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