Hello, Lucian! Thank you for granting me this interview, I noticed you do not give interviews very often. Is there a reason for that?
There are more. One is that I don’t have time. Second would be – without false modesty – I have no idea why someone would really be interested in what I have to say. I mean, in a deeper sense. I mean, why would someone read this text or anything else by me in a different way than superficial, like when reading a newspaper, a gossip or reading something just out of curiosity? Who really cares about me? Two or three people, at most. So why give interviews? To become well-known? I was once. And I gave dozens of interviews in that position. I have no interest in it anymore. And when someone comes along like you with such a proposition – an honest one, I think – I don’t know how to calibrate my speech. And then I get angry when I read what I said / wrote. I don’t want to spend myself anymore. Another very important reason is that I don’t like repeating myself. For example, having to explain every time why I write using the old script: I am a Letters graduate and I know that the natural linguistic principle of modernizing a language lies in simplification, not complication. When engineers in the Romanian Academy voted out of nostalgia the transition to the pre-war spelling, all the academic philologists were against it, with the – notably, but singular – exception of Matilda Caragiu Marioteanu.
Letters a long time ago. Then screenwriting at UNATC. You work in advertising and in film, you have a well-known agency – GAV, the one who launched the Cinepub platform (to which we will get a bit later) and you are also a professor at UNATC – and, if I am not mistaken, at other international universities, too . What does satisfy you most, from everything you do?
Nothing does. I like to be with my own, I like gardening, cooking and reading – but not necessarily the screenplays written by my students, although sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. So nothing I have to do constantly. Cinepub is an achievement I’m proud of, but there’s too much pain and torment in everything you do in this country to actually get to enjoy it. And not to forget, since everything I say seems cynical – in advertising and in film, I like working with friends: actors, editors, writers, cameramen, drivers. But I have fewer and fewer friends as time goes by. Actually, I never had many. That’s why I run in a very, very close circle.
Tell me your life story, in a few words – like a synopsis. I’m sure the readers of this article will not be happy only with the info found on Google ☺
Writing a synopsis is often harder than writing a script, so I’ll try a log line: He wanted to embrace life but it slipped right through his fingers. If you’re interested in this teaser, we’ll talk more on it on another occasion.
It seems you made the best of it in every field you have chosen to work. Did you always know where you’re going, make plans in advance?
I have no idea if I excelled or not. It depends on how you look at things. Or on what you wish for. I never really knew what I wanted. On the contrary, I got it all wrong and it took me about 50 years to figure that out.
Does it all seem easier with experience?
Practically, maybe. Existentially, no, because it can get frightening. But if you find the way, in the end it will get not just simple, but normal as well.
You have been at BBDO for a long time, then the idea of GAV, the advertising agency, came. How did you think the project through and when, in the process, did you come up with the idea of the online film platform, Cinepub?
Just as I did everything else in my life. By rule of thumb. I mean without thinking too much. I am an anti-Cartesian. Not a philosophical or a programmatic-declared one, but by genetics. I am the boy of an extremely talented theater director who read Sartre and Gramsci in the 1940s and who wasn’t a member of the party during the 50s-60s. And he died so. Some may call it failure. Others may not. I don’t know what to believe anymore. That’s why I went to the gendarmerie school called IATC, led or guided by party members, pre and post revolutionists. A mistake. But it wasn’t the only one in my life. I failed in Mathematics, but at least I find comfort in reading David Bohm – if a great physicist like him (actually Einstein’s descendant) says that knowledge is emotional and not rational, it means that I am not necessarily stupid or uneducated. Cinepub was born for The Phantom Father, I didn’t know what to do with that film, trampled on by some people and greatly loved by others. And I told myself perhaps this is the way to get it known, to be hated by many, but also loved by many others. And, out of a personal and selfish project came out Cinepub, a generous, altruistic, democratic, serene project. For everything and everyone. The idea came to me while talking to an old friend, a mentor of mine, Joachim von Vietinghoff. Joachim made an online platform (alleskino.de) a few years ago, where he recovered the films his generation – the Verlag der Autoren generation – had lost. At its launch, the platform had a slogan that I liked a lot, not just as a filmmaker, but also as an advertiser, for using the qui pro quo: And the beautiful ones. And the ugly ones. And the young ones. And the old ones. All Films. (Alles Kino)
Cinepub increases every year, getting bigger and bigger. It’s no longer just a platform where you can watch films for free, though this is its main focus. It also provides interviews, as Q & A sessions, and is present at LIVE debates and discussions in partner festivals. What’s next?
The novelty of the year is Cinepub Student – a start-up partnership with UNATC, which will gradually present the school productions of the last decade, at least for now. We are in talks with Babeş Bolyai University and we’re open to collaborate with any film school in our country, as well as from abroad. This will be the next step to Cinepub International, which is now represented on the website only by the productions offered by Filminute and Aristoteles Workshop. But the transition to international will be difficult, we will run into the ladies and gentlemen who make la grande bouffe, spend extravagant and uber-cool evenings in Berlin and walk on the Cannes Red Carpet, so in the end they can seal in safes the films from which they take out the protocol expenses; and since it had to have a name, they called it World Sales. So now, I hope, Cinepub will be what I really wanted to be. A museum where the independent filmmakers can show their work. This term is very difficult to define in the digital age, that’s true. It was easier in the early years of Jarmusch who slept with the negative under his pillow. So, in conclusion, I would like to have as many films as possible – good ones, which makes it even harder … – that don’t have official funding or any heavy names in the end credits, that don’t have behind a billionaire made of cardboard or concrete or a public institution to report to. And if possible, films made by filmmakers as those wanted by Pasolini – uncorrupted by any films school. I know it’s almost impossible. But this “almost” gives me hope. In the end, Cinepub will be what it actually was from the beginning: a bric-a-brac, a store of odd things, jewelry or dusty objects waiting for a passionate collector to discover them. And love them. Or leave them aside and scramble further.
The existence of a free distribution platform filled a hole in the local film industry, but there are many more to cover. What do you think there is still missing and is absolutely necessary?
I have no idea. I’m not good at analyzing the film industry in Romania, today there are important filmmakers – producers, directors – who can give their pertinent opinion. I look from outside. But the cinema that I love has nothing to do with the industry, even if many of those films are made by an industry. And let’s not forget that the new Romanian cinema wave was born out of shortcomings. Cristi Puiu’s stylistics, taken over by others after him, is out of poverty, not just about poverty. And statistics show that IQ is lower in those who are pumped up. Take a look at the DFFB graduation productions – there, a graduation film has a budget of half a million euros or even more. If I ask you now, you wouldn’t know, without searching on Google, any director names who have graduated that school in the last 10 years. So I have no idea if it’s good or not with more or less, with industry or without. But I’ll stop here, so my colleagues won’t feel insulted by my words, I still need films for Cinepub. But, in conclusion, I’m one for indie-stry, not for industry.
And last but not least, how do you think your life would have been today if you didn’t take that job offered by Alexander Maftei, at BBDO?
That’s like those jokes with Radio Erevan. In fact, it was not a job. Or an offer. And if I think well, it was not BBDO yet, just Graffiti … We were in the same year of college, we’ve been working together on a film, Maftei was making a couple of bucks on a job that at that time had no name and which we would later find out it was called “copy writing”. He seemed important for doing that thing, but that’s what Alexander seems like, a serious man, especially nowadays when his mustache and baldness grew. They paid us whenever, by the piece, like Pat Hobby. He told me that some people would do the crazy thing of paying some weirdos like us to do something he couldn’t explain very well to me and which, in fact, not even employers knew how to call it. I didn’t even understand what the term “agency” meant. It sounded so sophisticated. Anyway, I don’t think the readers nowadays can understand… I think I went there on a winter, because it was cold on the streets, I was eating at the Rosetti student cafeteria near Banat hotel, the Graffiti headquarters, my daughter was born, I had three jobs, two schools ongoing, and I was barely making it financially from Monday to Friday. I don’t think me or Alexander have thought at that moment we would continue to do that “job” when we are fifty. It seemed to last just for a winter. And that spring will come after. The rest is in the above log line.
Interview by: Laura Musat
Translated by: Andreea Toader