Katarína Krnáčová is an EAVE graduate and Producers on the Move participant, the Vice-President of the Slovak Film and Television Academy and a voting member of the European Film Academy. Krnáčová was delegate producer of the family drama “Little Harbour,” a Slovak-Czech co-production awarded with the Crystal Bear for Best Film in the Generation Kplus section at the at the 2017 Berlinale. She has previously worked on Mátyás Prikler’s short film “Thanks, Fine” that premiered in Cinéfondation at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, followed by Prikler’s feature “Fine, Thanks” that premiered at the 2014 IFFR and “Slovakia 2.0.” Krnáčová has also worked on Mira Fornay’s “My Dog Killer” that won the Tiger Award at the 2013 IFFR and was the Slovak Oscar entry.
Tara Karajica talks to Katarína Krnáčová about her producing career so far, producing in Slovakia, women in film and her next projects.
How did you become a producer?
Katarína Krnáčová: I was always drawn to film and arts; during my high school studies I was a regular visitor at local film clubs, watching old and new independent films that were too out of mainstream to be screened at regular cinemas. And when I was deciding what to study after high school, I chose visual arts, keeping my love for film as a “hobby.” Later, by chance I was involved in a film production, and I just couldn’t leave this world behind afterwards as I was so intrigued by it. I learned by working on various positions to become a producer at last.
In that sense, Little Harbour was your first project as delegate producer. Can you delve into that experience?
K.K.: Little Harbour was a wonderful experience for me, with a huge happy ending when it won the Crystal Bear at the Berlinale. I feel very lucky that I have had this opportunity to carry this film from its beginnings through all the ups and downs, hesitations and decisions, tears and laughter. I learned a lot, and I can say I grew as a producer with this film.
You said you like to find unexplored ways of producing and distributing films. Can you elaborate on that?
K.K.: Every project I work on requires a different approach, specifically knitted for its needs and direction. So it’s a very natural process for me to search for new ways to make the film happen. I do use my experience from my previous films, for sure, but then, I throw it away and look for the new paths to take. Living and working in the current audiovisual world is also challenging in terms of finding the right audience. You need to know your film very well, and then pave the way for bringing it to its viewers to enjoy and appreciate it.
Can you talk about the importance of regional co-productions?
K.K.: Coming from Slovakia, a small country in the middle of Central Europe, I find co-productions crucial and essential for our film industry. Considering the size of our small market, we are not able to finance our films locally, so we turn to our neighboring countries and recently even more far-away countries. I find it very beneficial not only in terms of financing, but also sharing our views and experiences on both creative and production aspects of the film. Moreover, co-productions widen the distribution potential of the film, which can be truly beneficial for all partners involved.
What can you offer as an international co-production partner?
K.K.: I believe in sharing experiences in a mutual way, and in the honest support of the partnering parties involved. I approach every new project with my experiences and enthusiasm; this is what I am offering and what I would be appreciating about my co-production partner as well.
What factors in Slovakia help or hinder the process of producing films?
K.K.: The small market potential of our country also defines smaller budgets and lower financial support capabilities. We lack regional funds and other multilateral sources to finance our films. This often decreases interest from larger productions. On the other hand, lower prices are often beneficial for foreign partners. Also, having certain barriers along the process often helps the creative part of the production. Moreover, due to the small size of our film industry we are able to react to new challenges in a more flexible way and improve efficiently.
In that sense, what is the best thing Slovakia can offer for film production such as locations, the 20% cash rebate, VFX, etc.?
K.K.: Filming in Slovakia offers culturally rich and diverse locations; it is famous for its beautiful medieval towns with over two hundred castles and unique nature and wildlife. Our country is located in the heart of Europe so it’s easily accessible, and thanks to the small size of the country, nothing is too far away, making the locations affordable and easy in terms of time and money spent. We offer 33% cash rebate of certified private or foreign expenses spent for film or TV production in Slovakia. Lower rates for film crew comparing to the Western part of Europe while keeping the high quality of work is highly advantageous. Also, we support environmentally friendly filming by taking part in the Green Screen platform.
And how stiff is the competition in that regard with the rest of the Eastern European countries that pretty much have similar offers?
K.K.: We cooperate with our neighbors a lot when it comes to either co-producing or offering service production for larger foreign crews. So instead of competing we try to cooperate and support each other, which is beneficial for all parties involved at the end. Of course, we differ by the variety of locations and also one detail which is important – compared to our direct neighbors in the Czech Republic, Poland or Hungary, we use the Euro, so there is no need to change currencies.
Does the Slovak Audiovisual Fund offer support? If so, to what extent? What about private financing?
K.K.: The Slovak Audiovisual Fund has a variety of support schemes for Slovak and international filmmakers – Slovak majority productions in development, production and distribution phase, live action, documentary and animation films, international co-productions, film festivals, educational events and film publications. As I have mentioned before, we are not able to fully finance our films, therefore international co-productions are crucial for us. Private sources are still rare to find, but some current projects prove this trend is gradually evolving. Also, private television broadcasters are moderately stepping in by co-financing audience-friendly films.
What are, according to you, the current trends in Slovak Cinema?
K.K.: I am happy to say that every year, the number of Slovak films produced is increasing. Thus, the variety of films is also broader every year, having all kinds of genre stepping into the game. Having a systematic support from the Audiovisual Fund for the last eleven years, there is a good environment for experienced filmmakers as well as newcomers to create their film works. Following on a successful generation of documentary filmmakers of ten to fifteen years ago, I am proud that we have a new generation of talented filmmakers already celebrating their success on international platforms as well.
What about the reality of the Slovak distribution market?
K.K.: Cinema admissions in Slovakia have been increasing in the last years, including the admissions to Slovak films. We have had several box office hits in the recent years, which has proved that Slovak cinema viewers are changing their habits and starting to appreciate local stories and productions. However, considering the current trends in distribution, I do see a lack of local online and VoD players to be able to find better audiences for my films.
How do you pick your projects?
K.K.: I always perceive the project as a package. An intriguing initial story or a good script is essential, but with the literature, I also choose the people and the core creative team behind it. Producing a film is a relationship that lasts for several years, so this is something that has to work well, and needs to be unified as one team working towards a common goal – to make a great film. I also appreciate writers and directors with a strong vision, a clear idea about what they want to do, dedication to the work and positive spirit.
What would your dream project be?
K.K.: I always try to make my current project become my dream project!
There has been a lot of talk about the situation of women in film in the past two years. What is your take on the matter? How is it in Slovakia?
K.K.: I must say there’s a favorable situation in Slovakia. I was also lucky enough to personally work with many women on my films – directors, DOPs, scriptwriters, production designers etc. There are many talented female filmmakers fighting hard for their opportunities in Slovakia. We still need to change the general perception on gender equality in film production – it’s still a man’s world. From my own experiences, I can say it is rather common to view a film crew where there is gender equality as a “too female” crew. Moreover, I fully support enhancing not only gender equality, but also full cultural diversity in the audiovisual sector since I am convinced that the power of diversity creates better films, a better society and a better world to live in.
Who is your favorite female filmmaker? And what is your favorite film by a female filmmaker? Is there any female filmmaker you would particularly like to work with?
K.K.: In general, I admire all the women who are making films because they are all struggling so hard with the lack of opportunities, overcoming obstacles and dispelling gender stereotypes. For instance, I like to follow the work of Reed Morano, a very talented DOP who has done some extraordinary work. She also works as a director and executive producer, like for instance, on my favorite TV show, The Handmaid’s Tale. She is definitely one of the female filmmakers I would love to work with. I also admire the work of Sofia Coppola or Andrea Arnold – both different, yet very compelling artists.
What are your next projects?
K.K.: This year, I will be premiering two films. One is a children adventure film, a Slovak-German co-production, and the second is a road movie about the stand-up comedy community in Slovakia, a dramedy with a comedic touch. I am looking forward to presenting both of them out to the world very much. I am also working on the second feature film of Gyorgy Kristof, a Slovak-Hungarian director who premiered his feature debut in Cannes, in Un Certain Regard, and on the debut feature of Slovak director Martin Gonda whose graduation film also premiered in Cannes, in the Cinéfondation program. As a minority co-producer, I am cooperating on the Czech co-production film by award-winning director Vaclav Kadrnka. We are just about to start shooting! I am really excited about my current line-up that is diverse. There are so many challenges ahead of us!
Photo credit: Katarína Krnáčová.
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