Interview with director Kajetana Bevc

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

There was no particular event, I have always liked telling stories through any medium available and I always found film to be particularly mesmerizing.

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

I do not, but it does help to take some courses, or get a mentor to show you the ropes.

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

Starting was hard for me because I haven’t studied film making and I initially didn’t have connections for all the roles needed to make a film, ultimately film making is a real group effort and it is hard to do everything alone. But being interested in it I met all the right people, and we all came together to make Zarja come alive. Once I started and realized I love directing as much as I do, I wanted to keep going and have been doing it ever since. 

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

This was my first film and while writing the script I made a beginner’s mistake; I wrote a film that is largely visual, but I added a very long dialogue scene to it. The scene was initially very long, much longer than other scenes. There was more dialogue in that scene than in all others combined. In post-production, I therefore had to cut the scene substantially to make it fit better. With that I learned that the script and the story board and even the way I see the film in my head are not set in stone, I should always be flexible to change anything or to cut any scene (no matter how much I like it) for the bigger picture.

  • 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?

Zarja is a short film with no official budget, it is a passion project of me and the director of photography Vida Habjanič and we initially invested what we could of our own money, which was not a lot given that we were both still students at the time of production. This definitely made it harder to produce the film and we had to accommodate a lot. For example, we couldn’t pay actors and we mostly had to rely on anyone that was willing to participate for free. We were very lucky to get a really good main cast, such as distinguished actor Zvone Hribar that was kind enough to make time in his busy schedule and join our project. However, we had troubles getting actors for all the roles of extras we envisioned, which required us to convince our non-actor friends to participate and to downsize some scenes. Having less extras in these scenes was a compromise but we accommodated it in the way we filmed them and positioned the actors to fill up the space in a satisfying way.

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

I think it has to be cutting that scene I mentioned before and changing the initial vision I had for the film. Because nothing can ever look the same as it does in my head as I imagine it, letting that go was really hard but also crucial for making a good film.

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

I started this project with my childhood friend Vida Habjanič, one of the most talented directors of photography I know. We were chatting over coffee, and I was telling her an idea I had for a novel, and she suggested I write a film script instead and we make it together. The rest simply followed, we were both so excited about the project that we talked about it to everyone that was willing to listen and the right people joined the project along the way. For example, Gal Gjurin a renowned musician that is the composer of music in Zarja, is my neighbor and when he saw us carrying costumes he got intrigued and joined the project. Benjamin Friškovec joined to help with technical side of directing as I had no prior experience. I really think that the right ideas attract the right people.

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

I think it is more important to follow your own ideas first because if you are not interested in the project you are making it’s just not going to be good.

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

I am a complete newcomer for entering my own films to film festivals. However, I have always been a frequent visitor and have loved watching new, interesting, and different films brought on the big screen by festivals. They offer a window to new worlds, cultures, and ideas.

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

Having an idea and the desire to bring it to life is crucial, because the rest will follow as some projects require a more classical approach than others. However, I am a firm believer of getting out of the comfort zone because it brings the best results, so my advice would be to always push the boundaries of what you consider a safe cinema style.