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Interview with Ana Maria Comanescu on everything about films

Fiesta del Cine, the event organised by ADFR is coming up this Friday, so we prepared an interview with Ana-Maria Comanescu, a young female director which will have her latest two films screened at the event!

I am very curious, how did you get to be a director?

I’ve wanted this since I was a little girl in primary school. In the beginning, I wanted to be a theatre director. I liked watching “making of’s” videos of movies; I guess that’s how my desire to be part of this world was born. I liked to draw, to paint, to write… Somehow, all those things met in a common point.

You first film which brought you into the public’s and festival’s spotlight was “In the House” which is also the most different from all of your work so far. Tell us more about it: where did the idea come from?

It was my BA graduation film in 2014. The script was based on a genuine experience that I heard about and impressed me. So I decided to integrate it in a context of a party. I am a little afraid to say more, I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t saw it yet.

How did you choose the actors?

It was a very pleasant process: my first casting. I wanted to be as professional I could so I put up posters in the entire school, I posted on Facebook and so on. I wasn’t expecting so many actors to show up. Besides Alexandru Sinca, the lead actor, whom I had seen before in school plays, I did not know any of the actors, I met them when we did the casting. They were all students at the National University of Theatre and Film “I.L. Caragiale” and were eager to be in the front of the camera, not only on stage.

Have you made the film exactly what you wanted or was it a university ‘assignment’?

I’ve made it exactly the way I wanted. The theme wasn’t imposed by the university. The only restrictions were the black and white format and the built set shootings, which I wouldn’t have chosen.

After that you’ve created your first comedy “Second look”, part of ADFR’s event, Fiesta del Cine. How did you decide do to a comedy, a genre not that popular in Romania?

I wouldn’t say it’s a comedy, it’s not built on jokes. I believe it’s a mix between a road movie with comic and dramatic moments. Again, this was a real story which I’ve developed  with Anca Istudor, the co-scriptwriter. I believe there’s a need of comic relief in any film, even if the public will not burst into laughter. I wanted the characters to pass through some ‘light’ moments so that the ‘serious’ ones would be more powerful.

Do you like comedy more than other genres?

Not necessarily. I don’t like defined ‘genres’ or ‘styles’, I like variety more. I’m at the beginning of my career and I prefer trying different things. What I do know is that I like to see honesty and candour in the directorial approach. And it’s the same with the actors, even if they are part of a comedy story or any other type of film. And yes, I like laughing at films, but it has to come in a natural way. I am really happy when people laugh at my movies, it’s a compliment, but I don’t think I’ve ever started a project having this in mind.

I’ve read that you and your team had some difficulties during production and that you don’t recommend shooting a road movie during school years. I’ll include my personal story here, my graduation film in London was also a road move and it was definitely an adventure, but also the most beautiful and rich experience I’ve had. Tell me your story: what were the obstacles?

I’m half-joking but I’ll still keep my recommendation. This is because we’ve thrown ourselves into something bigger and harder than expected. It’s difficult to remember now all the troubles, it’s been two years already. Most of them were logistics problems. A bigger budget would have saved us. But I am glad we managed to pull it through thanks to my crew, especially the DOP, Tudor Platon and the producers, Carla Fotea and Alex Zlavog. That was the project that made me realise that I want people who are always 100% involved, even if this sounds cheesy. That was the most important lesson and it became a personal motto.

Would you make a road movie again?

I hope so, I’m writing one now.

Your latest short is ‘Sex, Pipe and Omelette”. Another comedy but with a different directing style. Tell us more about it.

It’s based on one of my favourite novels, a short story called ‘The Great Switcheroo’. I wanted to be able to adapt it for the cinema and to keep the universality. I wanted it to be a convention, an anecdote, a story that could happen anytime and anywhere. I’ve worked with Andrei Hutuleac on the script and we were a great match. With Tudor, the DOP, we’ve tried to find an elegant and clean look for the story. The locations and the actors were chosen exactly to serve this idea and the shooting lasted 8 long and beautiful days.

Was there anything you wanted but couldn’t have for this film?

YES! I wanted snow for the outdoors scenes. It was a low-budget film and we needed a whole street, so we couldn’t afford artificial snow. During pre-production, before Christmas, it was snowing like in a fairytale. When we shot, in January, nothing. We’ve waited. February. Nothing. We’ve then decided to shoot all the indoors scenes and wait a bit more. March. NOTHING. The trees already started to blossom and we’ve already shot the indoors with Christmas decoration. We’ve shot the outdoors mid-March and I was really disappointed. Two days after we’ve finished we had the last snow of the year. That was probably the most ironic moment in my entire life.

I know you had several locations, even if  it seems to be only two homes in the final version. How was your collaboration with the production designer Adeline Badescu?

I would start by saying I would never make another film without her. I was lucky to meet her because she understands exactly what needs to be done and she’s fast in finding solutions. During pre-production I’ve sent her lots 70’s American interiors references, designer furniture pieces, abstract paintings, everything that was going through my head. We had such a low budget that was almost impossible to have what I wanted. But Adeline searched for each piece, worked on details, went to all the deposits and stores to make the place  look the way we wanted. I never thought we would succeed in creating this puzzle from six different locations. Adeline added chromatic pieces and different objects in all the key spots of the space, so that the public will subconsciously understand that it’s the same place.

Your last two shorts are audience films – the Audience Award at Next in 2017, for ‘Sex, Pipe and Omelette’ is definitely a confirmation. How much means to you the critics and public’s opinion?

Both mean something. It’s important to have some outside feedback. There are things you need to learn from but you shouldn’t let them define you. It’s good to have positive reviews and I am happy when this happens. It’s also nice to have an open and warm public, I think it’s a big lie not to admit this, but you can’t please everyone… which is OK.

How do you think women are perceived in Romanian’s film industry?

It’s a ‘man’s’ industry, indeed, where lots of people are sexist. I try not to think too much about it, it would discourage me. I hope that the people I’m coming in contact with are educated enough not to have preconceived notions about me based on my sex, or any other kind.

What are your thoughts on American movies? Usually, in Romania, there are not so appreciated

I like American films very much, I am an American pop-culture fan. This doesn’t mean that I like any American film, or that I dislike European or Asian ones. What I like about their films is the power of seduction. Perhaps the themes are sometimes treated superficially (the truth is that there are a lot of films and there is a higher chance to see a bad one rather than a good one), but when an American film is good, it has the power to completely seduce the viewer, using all the tools needed.

What kind of films you dislike?

Horror films, especially those with monsters or creatures. I can’t watch them and I can’t understand their point. I don’t want the zombie apocalypse to be added on my daily list of worries 🙂 

What’s the ‘thing’ that can transform a mediocre film into a special one?

I like to see that a movie is treated different than I expected. I like to see bravery and honesty in the movies. As a director, I don’t think you need to talk about immediate reality, if the reality you build is part of you one way or another. If the characters can express a real emotion and the movie is coherent in this emotion, I believe the film is a success. About being special, I never have such expectations. I am happy when I am surprised.

Tell me some movies you like

Some random titles: ‘Amour Fou’- recently seen and liked, ‘Harold and Maude’, Badlands’, ‘American Beauty’, ‘Happiness’, ‘The Ice Storm’ and almost anything from Antonioni.

And the last one, I feel I’ve exaggerated a bit with the questions. Do you work on something new?

I’m writing  a feature and a short film, when I have the time. I make the process pretty difficult for me, because I am very critical with my work. I hope both scripts will be ready soon.

 

PS: Tell us about Sarajevo. I can’t finish the interview without an opinion about this experience

One of the most beautiful and useful experiences in my life. I recommend every young director to apply for Talent Campus, especially for the Film Stage Studio workshop. I’ve learned a lot, made new friends and worked like everyone who wants to become a director should (hands-on experience, with actors,  a script, cameras). Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen too often in Romanian schools. Oh, and I had fun!

 

Interview by Laura Mușat
English translation by Andreea Andrei

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