Interview with director Ani Novakovic


Ani Novakovic was born on June 16, 1992, near Vienna. At the age of 18 she moved to Los Angeles and lived there for several years, spending most days writing her first novel. Moving back to Austria, she decided to get her high school diploma and in 2017, was accepted into the Vienna Film Academy. She now has a Bachelor’s degree in screenwriting and dramaturgy and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in directing.

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

At the age of 24, I was googling writing workshops, when I came across my film school’s website. I applied for screenwriting and got in. But although I had never directed a film before, I very well knew that I wanted to direct my own stories!

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

I think that every filmmaker has their own path which works best for them. Film school helped me realize that I actually want to make films.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

It really depends on the project. Sometimes it’s harder to get started and sometimes it’s harder to keep going. Shooting “Cranberry Juice” I had the pleasure of working with a great assistant director who kept motivating me during the harder days!

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

When I shot my first 30 minutes short film in my 4th semester of film school, my screenplay was not ready to be filmed. But I wanted to shoot the film as soon as possible and I remember being on set and not knowing what to tell my actors because the story wasn’t properly thought through and I myself wasn’t sure what I was trying to tell here. When I wrote the Cranberry Juice screenplay, I made sure that the screenplay was solid enough to work as a story before I started preproduction.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

The casting happened online and from like 50 casting videos there were only 2 actresses that seemed to understand the role of Stella. Actress Xiting Shan had had experience with chronic illnesses and that was extremely important for me. Before and during the shooting I had plenty of discussions and disagreements with my DOP about the style of the movie, but eventually we found a style that suited the story and he loved the experience. During post-production my editor had a part time job and could not edit more than once a week. At some point she then informed me that she could not do any more changes to the film as she had to start another project. So my co-producer, who also happens to be an amazing editor, then continued to work on the film and finished it on schedule.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

When shooting the end scene of “Cranberry Juice” I had to cut Stella’s ending monologue down to a third because we were under extreme time pressure and had to leave the theater at a certain time. Unfortunately, I could not get my actress to the emotional level that was needed to make the ending scene with her long monologue work. The shortened ending scene now works but I remember it was hard for me to agree with my assistant director that it’s better to keep the monologue short and so gain time for more takes.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

I met my co-producer/assistant director/co-editor, Kristian Machtlinger, at film school. We started dating and we’ve been together for four years now, making movies, raising cats, etc. I met my DOP, Dimitri Fjodorovs, and my editor, Sadé Jerabek, at film school as well, and I always thought that they were very easy to talk to and they understood my sense of humor, so a collaboration developed quite naturally. Same goes for Kat Brandstätter, whose choice of costumes I found amazing! We had met a couple months before Cranberry Juice on a different project and I would definitely love to work with her again soon!

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

I believe that audiences want to be entertained, they want to dive into another world, see themselves in a situation or a character, or perhaps even learn something new. I cannot talk for other filmmakers but for me – I do worry about my audience because it’s them that I write and make movies for. 🙂

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

Ever since I started film school back in 2017, film festivals were a common topic in our school. I would say that film festivals are a great way of showing your work to diverse audiences and putting yourself out there to be seen and heard. Film festivals offer filmmakers the opportunity to get in touch with other fellow filmmakers with the possibility to expand one’s network all around the world!

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

I believe that every filmmaker should be original, meaning that they should tell and show their story the way it feels right for them. Film to me is a very personal way to express myself, so as long as I keep fresh, hopefully my movies will too :).