“It is painfully clear how important the missing social element of our work is”
Industry Report: Documentary
Marek Novák • Producer, Xova Film
One of the 2021 Emerging Producers, the Czech producer tells us what he thinks about the social importance and the future of documentaries
Why do you produce documentaries? Do you understand documentary film as an instrument of social and political change?
Marek Novák: I like to think that I am interested in producing films without choosing between fiction and documentary, because both can reflect on our reality to help us grasp it better.
I would be careful about understanding film as an instrument for promoting a social change. The world today is too big and complex to be suddenly and radically changed by something as delicate as a single film. But seeing it as a conversation starter, a contemplation which inspires and provokes a train of thoughts that perhaps leads to some kind of action – that is for sure.
How do you deal with the current pandemic situation as a producer? What are your main concerns (or opportunities)?
Apart from a few paused or postponed projects, I've been lucky enough to say that my work hasn't been affected heavily by the pandemic, or at least not yet. I try to keep low overheads, which helps me to adapt to the new status quo. Probably a lot of time, money and energy is saved by not travelling and attending markets/festivals. But it's also painfully clear how important the missing social element of our work is.
What do you think is the future of the distribution of documentary films?
The pandemic has accelerated the conceptual shift regarding distribution windows, for the better and the worse, so I think we'll see even more progressive release patterns and perhaps more digital-only releases. At the same time I believe that cinemas and non-theatrical screenings will still be important for documentaries, probably with better labelling and more precise, event-driven marketing, taking advantage of the social element against digital offerings. So the pandemic has maybe propelled the evolution of digital distribution, but when it's over, I will be glad if it also brings a renaissance of the real-world, the offline experience.
What projects do you have underway (including in the area of fiction film and other projects)?
This year we're planning to release Erhart, a fiction feature debut by Jan Březina. In late spring, we plan to start shooting the second feature by Cristina Grosan titled Ordinary Failures, a Czech/Hungarian/Italian co-production, a story following a day in a city hit by mysterious explosions. We're also developing a dystopian debut by Vojtěch Strakatý titled Eternal Peace, and the upcoming feature by Michal Hogenauer, a story about an absurd war between neighbours over a shared driveway titled The Last One Turns Off The Light. As regards Covid-affected projects, we're looking forward to resume the production of Investigators, a Slovak/Czech docu-series about pseudosciences by Peter Pokorný, the development of Ondřej Šálek's documentary debut from the heart of European bureaucracy and also the production of Blue Box, a hybrid detective feature about hate groups, by Petr Šprincl and Marie Hájková (read news). We have lots of plans, but we're now watchful and waiting, looking forward to experiencing the new reality the post-pandemic world holds for us.
EMERGING PRODUCERS is a leading promotional and educational project, which brings together talented European documentary film producers. The programme is organised and curated by the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival.
Deadline for applications to the EMERGING PRODUCERS 2022 edition is 31 March 2021.
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