An interview with Hungarian film producer Ferenc Pusztai

Ferenc Pusztai is a producer and the founder of the Hungarian production company KMH Film. Pusztai and his team are trying to provide opportunities for young and upcoming artists, which means they primarily deal with shorts and first features. Ferenc Pusztai is a member of the Ateliers du Cinema Européen and the European Film Academy; he is a tutor at MIDPOINT Central European Script Centre. At the 41st Hungarian Film Week he was voted Best Producer of 2009. Daazo proudly presents Mr Pusztai as the member of the international jury for the Visegrad Shorts on Tour project.

What do short films mean to you as a producer?

When I meet new filmmakers, it is always very important for me to find out if we can work together, whether we think alike. Short films offer this: we can try each other out, which is a crucial thing to do  before embarking on a large-scale project together.  It is always important to get to know the previous works of new directors, but to me, their personality and the project they want to involve me in are much more relevant.
Naturally, one cannot always be certain and debutant filmmakers often mean a risk. There have been cases, where, based on the personality of the director and his previous works, we started a co-production but we failed.

How much say do you have in the co-production project?

I am not a director, nor am I a scriptwriter or art director – but I am no sponsor, either. Having worked with a great number of debutant filmmakers, it has happened many times that directors called me to say that they needed money for the shooting of their exam film that was to start the following day and would I please give them the money they needed. But that’s not how it works. I like to be involved in the development phase from the very beginning, from the moment the idea for a film hatches. I like to observe the work in progress, to see where the project is going. I can only think of the project as my own if I was there at the solving of the problems too.

When somebody contacts you with the plans for a feature film and sends his previous short films as a reference – what do you primarily focus on?

I watch these films with great interest, because I am primarily intrigued by the creator behind: I have to put the filmmaker’s person into context. Fortunately, over the years I have developed an ability to consider each film as a whole, irrelevant of how much money its production might have cost. Right now, the situation of exam films in Hungary is controversial, which is a great problem: it would be crucial for every filmmaker to embark on the project of his first feature film after having made shorts in decent circumstances and of decent standards.

Does making short films mean any financial advantages for you?

We have not made a profit with any of our short films yet – at most, we broke even. Luckily, we can invest our profit from other ventures in short films. But the situation is not all hopeless. There are film festivals where the short films in competition get paid for, and after a number of festival appearances, this amount can be a significant one to rely upon – of course, one needs a successful film for that!

In your opinion, what opportunities do debutant filmmakers have in the Visegrad region?

MIDPOINT and NISI MASA are two of the best organisations offering opportunities for filmmakers in the region. MIDPOINT is a two (one plus one) week workshop, specifically aimed at students and graduates living and working in Central Europe, that focuses mainly on scriptwriting. At these workshops, participants can develop their scripts with the help of script doctors. NISI MASA’s European Short Pitch project consists of a series of events too: first, the selected film ideas are developed at scriptwriting workshops, then, at the closing event, they are pitched in front of a panel of film professionals – that is also something that filmmakers don’t usually learn about at film school. Both programmes can be, in my opinion, very useful to emerging filmmakers.

Text: Anita Libor
Collage: Francisca Pageo