Producer Ferenc Pusztai and director Orsi Nagypál on taking film to another level.

FIRST MEETING: BERLIN

Orsi Nagypál:
I participated in the Talent Campus at the Berlinale in 2010 and I went to eat Vietnamese food with my friend Virág Zomborácz, who had already been working with Ferenc Pusztai. At the time, I was deeply depressed: I had just graduated from the London Film School and I thought that nobody was interested in my work. I didn’t know any young Hungarian filmmakers – I wanted to meet them and make friends with them so I was glad to hear that there was going to be a Hungarian producer in Berlin, one I had already heard a lot about.

Ferenc Pusztai:
I felt the same. We had a mutual aquaintance, a Welshman who had known Orsi from film school: he had raved about her to me so, naturally, I was curious. I had made up my mind early on that I wouldn’t want to be a producer who works with one director exclusively: with KMH Films, I wanted to found a studio that continually looks for young and emerging talent. After my meeting with Orsi, I watched her films and then in the summer we met again in Budapest to talk over what she was interested in and what kind of  films she wanted to create.

SECOND MEETING: BUDAPEST

Orsi Nagypál:
This was really funny. Ferenc asked me about my feature film ideas and since I didn’t have any I just said four words about what more or less interested me. And he said „Good”.

Pusztai Ferenc:
She didn’t have a plan for a feature film ready to be realised, but I still thought that it would be interesting to do something together.

THE SHORT FILM

Orsi Nagypál:
He said he wasn’t interested in short films but I really wanted to make one – I even have a very sweet short animation idea, something I would like to do very much. But it tipped the scales for him when I told him that I was neither interested in making abstract arthouse films nor stupid entertainment movies: I wanted to do something in between the two, a film about relationships, because something like that is always fun.

Ferenc Pusztai:
I’m not interested in short film when that is something a filmmaker wants to make all his life. But if they want to make a feature film together with me, we can try each other out in the short genre. So we started to work on a short film idea that received special mention at the Bosch Stiftung Co-production Prize, and we developed a feature film: Balaton Submarine.

TALENT CAMPUS

Orsi Nagypál:
At the Talent Campus, you realise that you are not alone with your strange idea to become a filmmaker – there are a number of other weird people there, and this makes you feel better. There were a few hundred of us at the Berlinale Talent Campus, while in Sarajevo, there are only 50 participants. This makes the atmosphere more intimate and the lectures more interactive.

Pusztai Ferenc:
I hear from everybody what a useful experience it is, but for me things happened so quickly in the beginning. Even if I was still a new filmmaker, by the time I would have applied, I had already completed four feature films and I was over 39 years old, so I didn’t really count as an emerging filmmaker any more.

SARAJEVO CITY OF FILM

Orsi Nagypál:
I had a lovely coffee with Elizampetta Ilia, a Greek scriptwriter in Sarajevo. After the Talent Campus, we got together again and submitted a project to the Sarajevo City of Film. After having been selected, we worked on the script together with our consultant, Vanja Kaludjercic, sometimes on Skype, sometimes in person. Then, in March, we really got going: I went for a recce in Sarajevo in deep snow with my DoP Máté Herbai, and then in April, we prepared, shot and, finally, with Gábor Divinyi, edited the film within the course of a month. Roundabout will premiere in Sarajevo on July 8th, as a kind of opening screening of the Talent Campus. Before shooting Roundabout, I had been workshopping with my feature film around the clock, so it was a refreshing change to work with actors and a camera at last, and to direct instead of writing and re-writing dialogues.

Ferenc Pusztai:
I was really unhappy about it, but it had little to do with professional reasons: quite frankly, I was simply jealous that she was doing something else, with someone else. I have to work very hard to be able to tell a filmmaker that from now on, they are not allowed to take any other jobs and they have to work full time on realising our mutual project.

BALATON SUBMARINE

Orsi Nagypál:
I have been working on Balaton Submarine for a year and a half. Things got really serious for me when we got into the Berlin Co-Production Market; since then, I have participated in the SOS and Sources 2 workshops, and spent 5 months with scriptwriting in the framework of the Binger Writers Lab in Amsterdam, but  Roundabout has somewhat distracted me. We have now finished Roundabout and I can concentrate on Balaton Submarine again. It is a great achievement that it got selected for the Berlinale Co-Production Market as a project, and I hope that it will continue to draw interest, but there is still a lot do do with it.

Ferenc Pusztai:
Before there were any available grants at home in Hungary, we had concentrated on intensive participation in programmes abroad. This way, Balaton Submarine got into the international circuit at a very early stage, and even the film idea has raised a huge amount of interest since, as in the German market, audiences are on the lookout for the new Goodbye Lenin. We have just won 1,000,000 HUF from the Hungarian National Film Fund for developing the script, and I think we can finish shooting by the end of next summer. In a professional and well functioning studio, one can plan no longer than 3-5 years ahead. With Orsi, I have long-term plans.

text: Anita Libor, Zsuzsanna Deák
photo: Cristina Grosan