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Matija Radeljak • Producer

- Matija Radeljak is a Croatian producer who took part in the Maia Workshops. In this interview, he looks back on his career

Matija Radeljak • Producer

Matija Radeljak is a Croatian producer who took part in the Maia Workshops. In this interview, he looks back on his career.

Please briefly introduce yourself and the films you have produced.
Matija Radeljak: I am a self-educated filmmaker with a 15-year background on stage and three years of BA in IT – I dropped out, realizing that I’m not getting any younger and that storytelling and film art is my true calling. I started working professionally as a producer in 2009, and it took me two years of different projects on which I worked on as a producer, production manager, PA etc. to start my own production company, Aning Film. At the same time I have been fulfilling my need to tell stories using literary and cinematic tools as a writer/director. So far, I have produced around five short films, two of which I myself directed. Two films and several other projects were enough for me to decide that when the authorial part of me wishes to come out through a film, I should not be on board as a delegate producer. For this reason I am very happy I started a long-lasting business partnership in 2012 with producer Bojan Kanjera with whom I have worked in Zagreb often in the past.
Since 2009, I have produced a number of audiovisual projects such as transmedia campaigns, filmmaking workshops and other projects that promote audiovisual art and art in general, always giving my best to have my work reflecting authorship and respect for the format and/or surroundings.

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In what ways has the Maia programme transformed your career?
It was my first introduction to a world of film that I can intellectually respect, as both an artist and a film professional. A world in which film is not something hip or cool, but a passion, need and business –  this was a world I could finally embrace and find myself in. MAIA was my first extensive programme of this kind, after which I have confirmed to myself that I should look beyond my country’s borders to find and utilize opportunities. Some ideas work better in other surroundings and MAIA has given me an opportunity to step into these other surroundings, welcoming me without asking for much in return except respect and progress within the same window of professional film-making.

How did your project, ONE, benefit from your participation in Maia?
After just completing my biggest project to date, a transmedia campaign and an annual event for Allianz insurance, with five intense months of something not really related to film, I landed into the Creative aspects Maia workshop with One being just two months away from production. My mind was finally at ease to involve myself in it completely on authorial, artistic and production level. It was another grand welcome for me, where consultants and lecturers had some great feedback which influenced the script directly and significantly.
At the time my ten-page script had its two years of development and around 13 drafts in it, so I wasn’t really sure how an objective point of view during an international event of that kind would be reflected in my own perspective on the script and the future of it. The result was completely beyond expectations: the very distance, cultural or otherwise, of the feedback I received (not only from the experts but from fellow participants as well), was the very motivator towards further development and work on it. I believe nothing can profit from international events like a project in development, for the safety of a closed circle of trusted professionals like you who all give and need feedback.
For me it’s the most honest and simplest of a trade that pushes knowledge and experience into focus – it’s like a big bowl of useful facts and experiences from all corners of the Europe, from which everyone’s invited to try whatever they like. It’s the most direct and useful way to utilize the magnificent cultural diversity of Europe, or its backbone, I’d say.

You have organized with another participant the screening of Miss Homeless, produced by Peter De Maegd, trainer at Maia. Tell us a bit more about this experience.
It was my first experience with cross-media, actually. Peter case-studied Miss Homeless during the Marketing and Distribution workshop in October 2010, and soon after he had this funny release of a small ‘mockumentary’ worldwide at the same time. Together with my colleague from Zagreb, producer Iva Tkalec, we organized one of the premières which all occurred at the same time on different locations around the world. It was a very small event, with about 30 people showing up for a premiere in a small homeless squat in Zagreb, but the effect was truly amazing: a subject which had its interested parties (e.g. Belgian society) was transferred from a need to something fun, the film and its multiplatform nature, and back again giving the very first story to people who would have normally never experienced it. As I was wondering for years about how to promote cinematic art form beyond cinema-enthusiasts and lovers, but onto our parents and friends who just see it as an alternative in entertainment, discovering such a strong set of (anti)laws to create a story universe was incredible to me, and it was most surely my first bump into putting less focus in the format, and more into a story and its delivery.

Did you have the chance to cooperate with other Maia colleagues?
While I am answering this interview I am in the final stages of postproduction of a short fiction film “Breakfast” directed by Salvatore li Causi, a Maia 2010 alumnus. The film is produced by me and my company Aning Film, and it’s a true cultural mix. Besides me the director of photography (Damir Kudin) is also Croatian and the film was shot in Brussels with American-French cast and Belgian crew. We expect this film to première sometime in spring next year; let’s keep our fingers crossed that we’ll succeed in assuring the DCP in time!
I also have had great contact with several other Maia participants, with whom I have no doubt there will be futrher great work in the future. We always meet during film festivals, bump into each other on other film workshops and forums etc. It is truly amazing to observe such great connections being grown from the simplest moments like a lazy early-morning coffee break when you just started to talk to someone without even realizing. It’s two years after and this person is joyfully introducing you to a commissioning editor who just has that slot you really need. Amazing.

What about your future projects? You seem to be going in the direction of new platform and new media projects.
I’m working on a lot of projects right now, and it is really difficult to point one out. I’m producing what I believe is the strongest short film script by a Serbian director, in Paris. I’m also in an advanced stage of development of a big cross-media project revolving around wine and everything that goes with it. I have two of my own short films, one of which is an adaptation of a short story by Hemingway and the other one being an original screenplay - a sequel to my previous short which was an adaptation/inspired by. There are several other smaller or potentially bigger projects, e.g. we’re producing a first-time short of a very interesting girl in Zagreb who just found a need to tell stories in her thirties, and are very serious about it. We always try to be prepared to have “something else” in our back pocket and taking care of this art and its public presentation is just something very spontaneous that comes with it, to us.
I wouldn’t say that I’m moving in this direction, but simply embracing what surrounds me as true. Converging media and new platforms, as I see them, are a natural extent of regular storytelling. I understand the abstraction cross-media can have in a wide perception, and I think the main problem is that we do not have the memory of such technological advances which aren’t aimed, but just a subtle and spontaneous consequence of something completely different. In a world that pays most of its attention to communicating, exchanging, living an experience (which is really a broad and “cheap” term these days), who cares about the side effect this will have on media or the audiovisual sector? It is sometimes easy to forget that what we have chosen for our professional careers is trivial to 95% of the population which has its own needs, desires and problems. Somewhere along the way of the world reaching for new technologies the idea came out to tell stories on a more personal, and now available, way. Freeing a story from a designated format but at the same time providing it with the necessary constraints of very exact and short windows that then drive creativity – for me, it is the most challenging and delivering way of one’s authorial expressionism. I’m known to reach high, but I am not afraid to claim that cross-media is the most delivering way to combine authorial, financial and audience aspects into an art piece or, trivially, entertainment.

What are the most important lessons you learned during the training programme?
Creating a network and continuously working and progressing are the only things that are important for reaching such high goals, like making films for a living. Creativity or ‘an idea’ is crucial, but it is also cheap and common. Ideas are everywhere, all the time. 98% of the end-result lies in using this creativity, developing, channeling, testing and resetting it, and then patiently doing it all over again. Twice.

Would you recommend the Maia programme to other producers?
I would say that the Maia programme is an excellent way of introducing a filmmaker to the way the European filmmaking world works. Experts were always from the practical, business sector, which gives very up-to-date and lively lectures and case studies. Every emerging producer should seriously think about investing into participating in Maia as they will discover a world of beautiful collaboration, hard work and many uncertainties – just as the film world is.
Not only would I recommend Maia to all emerging producers, but I already have, successfully and several times, urged a number of people to attend, all of which found the experience as helpful and valuable as I did.

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