Producers on the Move is an European Film Promotion (EFP) program that focuses on assisting European producers in finding partners for their upcoming projects and, since 2000, it take place during the Cannes International Film Festival each year. This year, Romania producer Monica Lăzurean-Gorgan, who co-founded 4 Proof Film in 2007 was among the participants.
Besides Adrian Sitaru’s Hooked/Pescuit Sportiv, for which she was associate producer, Monica Lăzurean-Gorgan produced Sitaru’s multi-award-winning short, The Cage/Colivia, Gabriel Achim’s Adalbert’s Dream/Visul lui Adalbert, and was co-producer for Sitaru’s Best Intentions/Din dragoste, cu cele mai bune intenții. She’s also the delegate producer for Adina Pintilie’s Touch Me Not/Nu mă atinge-mă, a feature that has been selected for this year’s Cannes L’Atelier of Cinéfondation. I took the opportunity and talked to her about what it means to be a producer, about film business and about her favorite films.
On being a film producer and what is the difference between producing a short film and a feature film…
The producer is the one who spends most of his day sitting comfortably in a chair, counting money, has a great lunch, goes to golf and ends his day at a celebrity’s cocktail. This is not the case not even in the U.S. The producer is the one who assumes the risk for the projects that he develops within years, tries to get the funding to cover the budget, together with the scriptwriter creatively develops the story, finds reliable partners for the project, financiers, the creative team, and then has to choose a co-producer or several ones that would suit the project and that could bring financing from their own country.
Then he has to organize the film crew, ensure the cash flow which is extremely important for the shooting, stand by the director at the editing, make a film strategy that would start with submitting the film to a well known film festival so that it would have a good visibility for the national release, handle promotion and distribution.
There is a great difference between producing a short film and feature film. The short film only goes to some festivals, possibly gets bought by a television, so the impact on the public is limited, unfortunately. And of course the work volume differs.
On how she chooses the projects she works for…
I look at the originality and at the relevance of a story and in the same time I think what chances the project has to attract financing nationally and internationally.
I couldn’t work for a film project that I don‘t resonate with, that I don’t understand properly or that doesn’t say much to me. At the moment, I am very fond of some fiction and documentary projects that are in various stages of development or pre-production, among which I would mention Adina Pintilie’s project – Touch Me Not, a very daring and personal project, exploring the limits of cinematic language from the narrative structure shot to the very shot construction. I have a special affection for this project and I’m glad that I am able to work for it in all its stages, read each draft and afterwards make a brave brainstorming.
On Romanian film business…
I don’t believe that Romanian films have the goal to win awards in festivals. But I do believe that there are some directors with a very strong personal voice who can tell a story in a very authentic and daring way, even forcing the limits of cinematography and dramaturgy. When they start working on a script, they don’t think about a certain festival or award, but try to understand the world we live in.
I’m sure that in the next years there will be some directors and producers that will focus on commercial films. But I don’t think that we can talk of a true Romanian film industry, because in our country people still don’t go to cinema, and film, besides art, should also mean profit. And at the moment, we cannot talk about profit when it comes to European films, not particularly Romanian ones.
On the choices a Romanian director has for financing his/her film…
The production house usually applies to the Romanian Film Center and sometimes to the Romanian National Television, but even if the TV financing is confirmed you still can’t get any percentage because the Romanian National Television has been paying late their contracts for so many years.
There is also a media fee, so if you have a winning project in the Romanian Film Center contest, you can get a small amount from the media agencies, money that is also considered as financing for the respective project. But one gets to receive this financing quite hard, so the Romanian Film Center is essential. We still don’t know if the Romanian Film Center will organize a contest this year, even if the law says that there should be two contests every year.
Her advices for a newcomer film director/screenwriter…
When we made Hooked by Adrian Sitaru, we started it with our own money. Actually, Adrian’s own pocket money. After the film was edited, MPM Films from France got the money for covering the post-production and this is how we managed to have the film selected in Venice Days 2008 and after that in many worldwide cinemas.
My advice would be quite simple: talk to a producer that they trust in and resonate with and of course ask the producer for a very straight answer with regards to the chances for their project to receive financing. They (director/scriptwriter) should be open to suggestions, but shouldn’t forget what has been their motivation for fighting for their project. And if they don’t manage to get finance, they shouldn’t wait too long, but shoot it with their friends and also with the help of some professionals, even if only as advisers.
On her selection for Producers on the Move program…
It’s an important inspirational source for the projects that you develop. You meet people with whom you share the same ideas and energy for the future films and you are aware of what is happening in Europe. This gives you confidence in what you do and is another form of confirming that your efforts and energy are focused on film projects that deserve all the attention.
On what she’s working on…
Touch Me Not by Adina Pintilie is a personal exploration on how human beings can reach intimacy in the most unexpected ways.
This feature film project has already been quite successful, being selected in L’Atelier of Cinefondation Cannes, receiving the Production Award in Torino Film Lab 2011; the greatest score from the MEDIA evaluators in the category Single Project, first session – 2011, the ARTE France award in Cinemart 2011, Special Mention Cinelink 2011, developed in Binger Script and FilmLab and Nipkow 2011.
At the moment we are developing the feature length documentary Circuit (provisional title), co-directors Michaela Kirst and Monica Lazurean-Gorgan, a project that follows one man in his fight against forest extinction and wood mafia.
We are also working on an ambitious feature film, a co-production with the UK, a film to be shoot in London, based on the book The Death of a Salaryman by Fiona Campbell, director Adrian Sitaru. This will be a comedy about one man who is fired on his fortieth birthday. Broken and embarrassed he must learn to lie, gamble and slave to achieve his extraordinary dream.
Monica Lăzurean-Gorgan’s Top 5 Films…
Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino
Belovy, documentary by Vikctor Kossakovsky
Dead Man by Jim Jarmusch
A Woman Under the Influence by John Cassavetes
The Man Without a Past by Aki Kaurismaki