“In the Czech Republic, we need to examine closely what defines us as a society”
Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...
Marek Novák • Producer, Xova Film
by Marta Bałaga
The Czech Producer on the Move appreciates authentic stories. And weasels
After graduating from FAMU, Marek Novák founded Xova Film in 2014. He has so far produced Michal Varga’s Circus Rwanda [+see also:
film profile], Petr Šprincl’s oddity Moravia, O Fair Land III, as well as collaborating with Cristina Groșan, whose first foreign language film, Ordinary Failures, will start shooting in June. We talked to him on the occasion of his participation in European Film Promotion's Producers on the Move.
Cineuropa: I noticed that you keep repeating that, even though you graduated law, you “didn’t feel like” practising it. Why did you feel like moving into production?
Marek Novák: I was determined to work in film – I was always attracted to that. I just felt like I should study something else as well, to give me some perspective on life before finally getting into film school. Then I didn’t want to leave it unfinished. I can’t see myself working as a lawyer, although my former classmates seem to be doing just fine [laughter].
Your company, Xova Films, is described as having an “eclectic” profile, which I guess opens up many doors. You have done documentaries, but also a mockumentary. Featuring zombies!
In the beginning, it felt logical to start with the shorter form and this DYI approach with Petr Šprincl [director of Moravia, O Fair Land III], who actually comes from the same town as me. We went to high-school together, so it just felt natural and manageable, although nobody got paid and it was all very raw. I didn’t know anyone in the industry yet, none of my relatives were working in film, so it was all a long process of discovery.
Does it help when you work with a filmmaker you already know? Like Cristina Groșan, whom you will join on her leap into feature-length work.
I was a minority co-producer on her short Along Came A Prince, we wrote the script together. Cristina has already completed her first feature, awaiting release now, and as for Ordinary Failures, she has been attached to it even before the short happened. We knew we would do it together. We already have another feature in early development too, so I hope this long-term collaboration can continue.
I believe that this independent, arthouse filmmaking can be a generational thing. If you happen to connect with the people who share some of your life experience, it just makes it all so much easier.
Do you have a limit on the number of productions you normally take on every year?
I am trying to balance between projects in development, (post)production and films getting ready for release. Of course, with the pandemic things are uncertain, but I finally feel optimistic they will eventually resume. There is the feature debut of Jan Březina, Erhart, which we shot already in 2019, or the TV documentary series Investigators, which we couldn’t continue shooting. Another documentary, Building Europe, was supposed to take place in Brussels and include crowds of young people. At first it was supposed to deal with European bureaucracy, but it turned out it’s much more interesting to spend time with all these young interns, getting drunk every Thursday in front of the European Parliament and observe how they network.
At Ji.hlava, you were asked to complete a very peculiar Q&A once. I found out that your favourite animal is a weasel, but also that authenticity is your go-to word. How do you understand it exactly?
It’s not about something being factually correct – it has more to do with someone’s vision and their intention. I need to know there is really this urge behind the project, that the director doesn’t just want to make films because it’s “cool” or whatever. I need to feel that this story is this person, that it’s coming from their very core. If they can convince me to feel passionate about it too, I can then convince others. I like it when the story can really capture the zeitgeist, explore what it means to be Czech in 2021, for example. It’s all about finding something new.
You are not afraid of international projects, but how do you see Czech cinema now? And your place in it?
You have seen Petr Zelenka’s last film, Droneman [+see also:
interview: Petr Zelenka
film profile]. I actually appreciated that he wanted to do something serious and say something deeper about our society. I believe that in the Czech Republic, we need to examine closely what defines us as a society. What is our place in contemporary Europe, now that communism is over? I would like to go into that direction a little. There is still a stereotypical image of Eastern Europe in general that the world seems to navigate towards. It’s time to move on.
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