#behindthescreen: Meda or The not so bright side of things

Meda or The not so bright side of things’ is the feature film debut of Emanuel Pârvu, which casts Șerban Pavlu, Florin Zamfirescu, Ana Radu and Adrian Titieni, among others. The film tells the story of Doru, a lumberjack whose wife just died, and we are curious to find out more about the film’s story and shooting experiences. We asked and Emanuel Pârvu answered for a new #behindthescreen article.

What are the story and the ‘route’ of this film? From the idea, to getting funds, to the shooting and to the final result, what we call today ‘Meda or The not so bright side of things’?

The film’s story starts four years ago. Perhaps as often as other people, I wondered what the differences in loving children are. In which way loving a child that is your own flesh and blood is different from loving one that you have adopted or one that has been taken into foster care. I chose to cover the last option. Finding out more about cases, events and stories about these children, I was interested in the subject and I started writing. I also had under observation a more personal case of a child in foster care and this is how I had access to more deep discussions, clearer feelings and concrete events. The film was funded by the producer Miruna Berescu, by my mother, by the co-producers Dan Chișu and Dorin Mirea, and by the co-financiers who wanted to be part of this project. Entirely self-financed. We did not have public funding. After I won the National Cinematographic Centre funding for a project and gave the money back because it probably was the smallest funding ever granted, I decided that maybe it was better to try this way. And I am glad that I had people next to me who have borne a hand to this project. It took 3 years and 28 days from the first script lines until I said ‘action’ for the very first time.

How would you describe the experience of working with the young actress Ana Radu, who plays Meda’s character?

Working with Ana was very beautiful. She is a good and very talented child. And besides this, her acting skills are not based on methods and mechanisms. So, the acting indication wasn’t filtered through rules and regulations. She is part of a complete family, so I relied only on her intuition in creating the silent scenes. Obviously, there were rehearsals and explanations. But, mainly, I think that the context was important. She was far from the world, technology, and modern society. 

‘Meda or The not so bright side of things’ is a 100% independent production. How long did the shooting last and how was it?

The film was made in 2016, the shooting lasted for 28 days. There were 28 days far from civilization, in a cold winter, in mud, sleet and moisture. The post-production took a lot. Firstly, the editing lasted for almost 6 months. Then, simultaneously the sound editing, colorization and graphics were made. Because of the countryside roads on which we were filming, the sound of the team’s footsteps (Silviu Stănilă, me, the focus-puller, sound, mixer, etc.) were heard besides the actors’ steps. All these scenes have been rebuilt from scratch. The entire post-production lasted for almost a year.

Was there a sequence so complex that it needed dozens of takes to achieve it? (If so, we would like to know which one and the number of takes, of course).

Obviously, working with children is always the hardest. Paradoxically, we shot between 20 and 25 takes for a sequence with children. Not because of acting problems or technical issues, but because most of them were looking straight into the camera.

What are the thinking process and the explanation behind the title?

The not so bright side of things is actually the father. The unhappiness is his. For him, things are not happy at all. And when you don’t know what to choose between Doru and Meda (not wanting to give a general title like ‘Doru and Meda’ or ‘Maddie and David’ or something made of two names), I wanted to give a clue. I know that usually, people don’t want clues. But people prefer lots of other things. I wanted to create a film for each and every one.

Was there something you really wished to do as a director for this film and weren’t able to achieve?

Not really. I had a great support from my friends and especially from God. The God of this film was Line Producer. I wanted fog, I had fog; I wanted sheep, they ‘visited’ the set; I wanted sun or clouds, I had them.

‘Meda or The not so bright side of things’ is your feature film debut, which won the Best Director and Best Leading Actor (Șerban Pavlu) awards at Sarajevo Film Festival, where it also was nominated for Best Film. But what was the feedback of the Romanian audience, since the premiere until now?

The feedback was as expected. I didn’t expect to be no. 1 in cinemas. I prefer the viewers who came at the cinema on a cold Sunday evening, and then discuss the film a long time after. In a society where everything is grey and sad, it’s difficult to come to the cinema to watch a story that also is grey and sad. But out of the total number of viewers, I think all of them left with many questions after seeing the film. This is what I wanted from the beginning.

What are your future plans?

I am working on the next feature film. It is also a family drama, but now the family also includes the mother.

an interview by Romina Banu

English translation by Andreea Andrei


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