Interview with director Denisa Novakova

Denisa Novakova’s alma mater is the Faculty of Arts in Prague, the Czech Republic, however, now is studying Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto, Canada. Wildflowers are her first experimental film with a stronger sense of symbolism, which she adores in the 60s films of the Czech New Wave. Her favorite part of filmmaking is the director’s work with actors since she grew up performing in the theater herself. Mikulas Pejcha is a videographer from Prague with his own production company. He is also known as a composer for Mydy Rabycad.

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

I think that telling stories and creating meaning was my thing ever since I was able to listen to and understand. And when I was a witness to my brother’s talent to capture all of those beautiful images, working (and playing) together with the film felt like a great fit.

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

In my opinion, that, in reality, depends on a person. I know friends that bloomed in stimulating environments at film universities, as well as those who never went to one, and they are bringing incredible perspectives on the film medium with their every work.

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

There are always going to be moments of crisis in every type of creation and not just a few of them. It is brave to start writing on a blank page, it is brave to keep shooting at 3 am, and it is brave to sit for hours and hours over the first edit of the film, feeling like everything is falling apart rather than falling into place. But at the same time, for me, this is kind of the necessary bravery. The whole process is as joyful as hard, but I always hear the whispering voice in the back of my mind. You have to do it because telling stories it’s just part of you.

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

For me, it was the, probably obvious, fact that filmmaking is teamwork. You can do everything on your own and I deeply praise those (mostly documentarists) who are doing that, but in most cases, you are a part of the process of creating by different individuals. That’s the reason why it is always important to listen to others doing their jobs as best as they can.

  • 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?

Casting was quite easy, since I and Ester (the older girl’s character) were both parts of the same theater assembly for quite a while, so I know how impressive her acting skills are. And meeting Anna (the young girl’s character) was a fortune smiling at us: she was also a part of the same theater and her mom responded to our call for a gifted child that would like to change a stage for a film set for a moment. Thus, such talents make directing much easier. Shooting itself was challenging because of the props and slightly extraordinary set. Moreover, speaking of cinematography, my brother Daniela Novak did a masterful job while using the entire potential that one room in a flat can offer. Thanks to his eye for detail, Wildflowers visually appeal to the audience while keeping a hidden message. That was really challenging task. Moreover, we had surprisingly very different opinions on the editing of the film, since all of us naturally navigate the message of the film separately. Eventually, the music by incredible Jakub Vlasek helped us to achieve a cohesive result, I hope, and the version we all agreed on.

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

I hope I can speak for the entire crew if I point out two choices, that seemed similarly unattainable: the huge cloud’s head and the shot when Ester is getting up from the couch. However, those are also the ones that I am most proud of.

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

Well, as I already mentioned, I am incredibly lucky to call our DOP a brother, and the rest of our crew are friends we met on various occasions, on other sets, or even in the theater. In my opinion, those crew relationships are like every other, you need to take care of them. And that requires work, but the most pleasant one.

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

In my opinion, the question of what the audiences want is wrong. The audience is only a name for many individuals united by the fact they are sitting in the dark of the theater at a certain time. The audiences unquestionably know what to expect from the film: this is what genre distinction is for. It helps us to navigate and save time if we know what might be more appealing to us. However, if you asked me since I am also part of the audience, what I personally want to see in the film, I could give you a few or tons of clues, but also not even one. We should not pretend the audience is an established institution or subject. We all have a story to tell, and various stories resonate with us differently. In my opinion, a filmmaker should rather be worried about if she/he is creating the story that she/he wants to tell. Anything beyond is unpredictable. And that is also a part of the beauty of cinematography. You never know whose eyes you can catch.

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

Film festivals are a vibrant places that stole my heart. The very act of going to another city to see movies from totally different places as well as from your own creates an atmosphere of deep focus and shivering that no one can find otherwise when tasks of job, family, and life are around. This immersive experience also helps bring attention to new filmmakers and raise their voices next to established ones. From the perspective of a creator, there are not many better places to be.

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

I personally like to explore the possibility of cinema to the edge of the media itself. But one of my favorite professors of analytic aesthetics always says, that even though criticism is a very important way of reflecting on things, and art, in particular, reality has its practice. Picasso would have to stop painting after showing Les Demoiselles d’Avignon if he would follow those do’s and dont’s from others’ reflections. And we would lose perhaps the whole cubism era. But we did not. Thus, I believe, we could have a conversation about any
recommendation for filmmakers, however, it is a topic for debate rather than the advice of any sort.