“When I find the right people to work with, the financial part is not a priority”
Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...
Nikolay Mutafchiev • Producer, PREMIERstudio
The Bulgarian producer, selected as one of EFP's 2021 Producers on the Move, talked about his career and producing work
Bulgarian producer Nikolay Mutafchiev started his career as a theatre actor and continued as a film and TV director until he co-founded the PREMIERstudio production company in 2009 with like-minded colleagues. Besides numerous commercials, the company has produced Mutafchiev’s debut feature One More Dream (2012), the recently released Dante’s Heaven [+see also:
film profile] (2020) and is currently working on several projects simultaneously. We talked to Mutafchiev on the occasion of his participation in European Film Promotion's Producers on the Move.
Cineuropa: Your company is very active at the moment: almost all your current projects have already received financial support from the Bulgarian National Film Center, and among them is your second feature directorial debut.
Nikolay Mutafchiev: Apart from the projects listed in my profile on the European Film Promotion webpage, we have one documentary project and an animation project which have just received support. We are also in the script development stage of a feature film with the working title Disabled, which is being elaborated by journalist and historian Dimiter Stoyanovich and writer Kalin Terziyski. I could confidently say that we will not be lacking work in the next two years.
So, it seems that the COVID-19 pandemic has not affected your work negatively?
The commercial production of Premier Studio has been negatively affected and our profits have dropped significantly. However, the suspension of the stressful working schedule allowed us to finally concentrate on more artistic projects, and that is how we managed to prepare applications in order to receive support for those films we are currently working on. I particularly like the Deception Queen documentary project, about the convicted Bulgarian fraudster Ruja Ignatova, responsible for the OneCoin affair. The fiction film project The Good Parents is tackling the internationally discussed issue of Norway’s childcare system, accused of forcibly taking children away from their parents. It features a mother whose child has been taken away and in order to get it back, she needs to literally alter her personality. My personal directorial project is The Platform, which centres on five immigrants in different countries who have reached dead end situations and therefore decide to found a brand new state on an abandoned sea platform. I entered the ACE Producers program with the idea for this film, then developed the script and we hope to start shooting in autumn or next spring since we need relatively good weather. Its execution is more complex, so we might need to wait a bit more. Meanwhile, we just wrapped up filming of the black comedy Yellow Oleander.
Are you expecting to find co-producers for some of these projects through Producers on the Move?
Yes, that is one of our desired goals. Another one is to meet possible sales agents. We are also looking to encounter future partners among the participants and eventually establish long-term collaborations.
Would you also be interested in participating in film projects as minority co-producers?
We are currently involved in the production of Goran Radovanovic’s new film Bauk as minority co-producers, together with colleagues from Serbia, Slovenia and North Macedonia. It is a different experience as we are following a project developed without our participation but I like to adapt and to look for ways to contribute with some creative input. I would definitely be interested in joining further projects as a minority co-producer since it is a great way to exchange expertise and to expand our network.
Regarding networking, how do you imagine it in a digital environment, since Producers on the Move will be happening online?
I am not sure what to expect. The situation is quite challenging for me since the personal click is very important in our work. I worked a lot through Zoom meetings in the last year, however it was always with people I already had established connections with, before the pandemic. I have already participated in two industry forums online and I exchanged some emails with colleagues afterwards but nothing really came out of it. I really hope to have a more fruitful outcome from Producers on the Move.
What is your criteria for choosing a project to work on?
Thanks to my participation in the ACE producers program, I have developed a strong insight regarding the dramaturgic potential of an idea. The genre does not matter that much for me. I don’t impose myself as a scriptwriter, however I think I have a good intuition about the stories that could be successfully transferred to film. Once I have detected them, I am immediately ready to get involved. Moreover, when I find the right people to work with, the financial part is not a priority.
You are producing animation too. What are the specific challenges there?
We currently have two animation projects. One of them is Button of Dreams directed by Ivan Stoyanovich and based on the locally popular children’s play by Bulgarian poet and scriptwriter Valeri Petrov. The difficulty we faced with that project is that we applied for a full-length film, however, according to the Bulgarian National Film Center, the runtime limit is 28 minutes. We wanted to have it longer, however we could not find co-financing, hence we had to adapt to the circumstances. Also, the music composer passed away of Covid-19, so it is definitely not an easy production. The other project is a stop-motion animation in a very initial state of development for which we are planning to seek funding from the National Film Board of Canada.
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