Interview with director Dominik Gyorgy

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

I got into the movies through an innocent incident from childhood. More or less  I appropriated my first camera from my parents, who bought it on vacation. But after their return from vacation, it became somewhat useless. So I took care of it as a little curious boy. My parents protested, because they were afraid that I would break it or ruin it, so they hid it. But my curiosity was stronger than their ban, so I always secretly stole it and filmed my first films. Nobody found out for about half a year. Until the parents decided to show their holiday experiences to their friends. I didn’t know much about the cameras yet, and of course I had no idea that my shots would overwrite the holiday ones, as it was still an old well-known VHS tape camera. I had no idea that with my clumsy shooting I would destroy all the experiences recorded on the tape. However later, I proved to my parents that I am good at shooting when my first animated film, “Titanic,” was released, featuring a model of a ship that I had previously created. Subsequently I filmed grotesques, which we played with my friends from school and with children from the housing estate. Then I realize that I really like making films so I took it seriously and went to High School of Film Arts, and then I become a student of FAMU in Prague, where I am still studying.

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

Well, I think that on beginning of this long way to become a successful filmmaker it’s good to be part of some institute, school or some society, it’s easier this way, but it is certainly not necessary. School can really change your vision as in a good way so as in a bad way. So if you don’t have strong personality enough it can really transform you into someone who you really aren’t. School is good if you know what you want from it and not waiting what will came.

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

Well for me is definitely harder to start. Because I know myself, when I start something, I just can’t stop until it’s done. I am like a machine, I am going right to the edge, because I love what I do and that’s only thing in my life.

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

Most important lesson I had, was shooting The Next Stop on 16mm film material. We had just 30 minutes of total material for 13 minutes long final film. We had to be really prepared, had a perfect and exact storyboard and perfect timing of acting. If we would run out of the material we would be out. That would be the end. So we had to be really careful about timing and concentration on precise storytelling. So this precise concentration was maybe my most important lesson I had in past few years.

  • 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 Next Stop was really difficult do produce. We had to find and tried hard to get that historical bus, because it was really expensive and rare replica. And I insisted on it! But after long negotiation we thankfully get it! Get a mannequins was also a hard crux! You would not believe how hard is to get a mannequins for shooting, especially that retro ones. The Next Stop was also difficult by costumes and make-up. Both actors wears a wigs and artificial eyebrows, so every morning of shooting day we spent like three hours just with doing make-up. We shot this film in the woods by the lake, so it was really difficult to get that bus in the woods, because it is really huge one. There was just one compromise, what I remember and that was to skip one shot from planned storyboard, because we were afraid of running out of material. It was supposed to be a single shot of an ambulance blue lights flashing on the mannequins in the bus, when a doctors came. Otherwise I was fighting hard for my original vision. The Next One was paradoxically very easy to shot even though it is one-take film. We built that hospital in a studio so we had a huge freedom of camera movement and lighting. We were practicing camera choreography and acting just for two days and on the third day we were shooting it. Casting was very difficult because I had a very clear vision about all characters and I was looking them really long. But finally I found them! And they were amazing. In The Next One wasn’t any compromise. Everything was like I wanted. But we were thinking about compromise to shot some rescue backup shots in a case that one-take will not be good enough and cut these shots somewhere, where it not be good. But we had gained courage and didn’t do that at the end. We use the last take from nine takes.

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

At The Next One and The Next Stop there were plenty of a very difficult decisions. For example at The Next One was hard choice to do it like a one-take or not and also casting. At The Next Stop there were so many hard artistic choices that I can’t even remember all of them. But the hardest decision was to choose a right stilization for this story. I didn’t want to make like a “realistic” film, because that would be boring and nonsense. I decided to use retro and colorful stilization due to main character diagnosis of schizophrenia, because people with this diagnosis liked colors and they help them to stay calm. Also in these age of 2020 will not be really realistic to hiding in the woods with bus and mental disabled son, so I desired to put the story in early 60s in Czechoslovakia. But I can tell that generally for me is always the hardest artistic choice in post production to cut something out from the film. I hate it. That’s the only one. Mostly I am very sure about my visions and what I want, I am not even think a lot about that, it just came to me.

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

I am a really strong individualist and a workaholic, so maybe that’s why almost everyone who ever had worked with me always says that I am “tyrant.” But in my eyes it’s not true, because I just want everybody to be in full deployment, do maximum and I like things to be done perfectly. But afterwards everybody can see our work and they can be satisfied with the result. I love my colleagues so much and I am really happy that they work with me and that they tolerate my strict manners, because they know why I am doing it. It’s always for the good of the film, not because of that I need to “abuse” someone. And I am sorry for everyone who can’t see that. I am an especially good friend with my director of photography, because he is a very funny and smart man and of course he play a very important role in some of my decisions at shooting.

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

On the beginning of the evolution of film arts or industry there were no audience with any expectations. Filmmakers was just trying and people starting to like it. There is no way that we must gave to audience what they want. If we will always think about what audience wants there will be nothing original and truly deep and creative. You must think about art and film as an original personality who wants to tell something to audience. Not sell a product. But if you can sell an idea, that’s perfect ideal!

  • 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 is even more important than schools. I was at film festival for the first time in my life when I was 12 years old and I will never forget on that day. It gives my so much! Film festivals taught me already as a child how to do films, not some teachers or whoever. It was the other filmmakers, jury and friends I met there. And how to get the most out of them? Well, for young people especially students and kids are festivals without a jury and a feedback seminar totally useless, because they can not become better without feedback. They just think how amazing they are, because they won some prize and had a screening. But what they don’t know is why they won, why people liked or not liked they films and what to change and adjust in the future to become a better filmmaker. Feedback is the key in the beginning of learning and also seeing what others do.

  • 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 if you are true artist you just can not do a “classic safe cinema style…” That’s nonsense… Classic is empty, in a way if it’s just for audience satisfaction and safe money making. This is not a way I choose. I am trying to be original in my every single film. And if I feel I have nothing new and innovative in my head I am not doing these safe things… I am just waiting for an advice for original ones from universe.