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An Interview with Eva Magdić Govedarica

Eva Magdić Govedarica (Form V) is an HMC Scholar from Croatia who began her studies at Dollar Academy in August of this year. She is also an accomplished filmmaker. She made her first film at age 14, which was accepted at Dubrovnik Film Festival.

At age 15, she made Jam, a comedy about a man who stays home alone and involves a jam thief. During winter and spring breaks, she attended workshops, learning how to watch and analyse films. She was moved by 12 Angry Men and its use of a single-room setting. Her film, Digital Heroin, focuses on three people who text one another before realising they were all in the same room the entire time. She has now made over thirty films and she has been delighted to have her films accepted (from amongst 1000s of entries) at both the Dubrovnik Film Festival and the Four River Film Festival (held in Karlovac).

How did you get started in filmmaking in Croatia?

It began when I was four. My father owned the Blu-ray edition of Peter Jackson’s The Two Towers, which included behind-the-scenes footage; this provided me with an inside look at what it means to make a film. It was not till I was 11 that this fascination with ‘the seventh art’ arose again. My form teacher asked the class what we wanted to be when we grew up. My classmates all answered, ‘I don’t know.’ I didn’t want to use that answer as my own, so I said: ‘I want to be a film director.’ At the time, I had no idea what a film director was or what it might take to become one, but it’s clear, that this reply counts for the present and the future.

Eva has made over 30 films to date

Could you describe your evolution into the film-maker you are today?

I decided to at least try to make a film, just to see what it is like. I gathered some friends from school and started producing short, silly, comedy-styled feature films. Everything I did in my first two years of experimenting on my own was just a starting point for what was to come. When I was 13 my mum sent me to my first film camp. Even though it was chaotic, the experience taught me something about the process of creating a film with a beginning and an end, as well everything in between. Thanks to that early experience, my first real, three-act film with purpose and meaning, was born. From that point on I started collecting film knowledge in different workshops, film classes and through undertaking research on my own. At the age of 14, I was accepted into my first film festival in the city of Dubrovnik. Once I started secondary school, I met people who were interested in working with me on future film projects, and we began producing films that got us into a series of film festivals. Most recently, we won first prize at the (English) Around Films festival with our film Not Enough.

What do you like about filmmaking?

I like the ability to combine different art forms into one. I’ve always been a creative kid, running around with scissors and paint in my hands. Film allows me to play with cinematography, sound design, mise en scene and editing—each one a blank canvas, unique and distinctive for itself, but part of a greater picture once complete.

Do you feel you have a clear style as a filmmaker and could you describe it?

My style is very much influenced by British sitcoms such as Only Fools and Horses and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Also, a big influence of mine is the previously mentioned director, Edgar Wright. He encourages me to take the most mundane scenes and sprinkle them with a dash of creativity to create something more pleasing to the eye and the mind. I am primarily interested in making comedies, but recently I have started playing around with the experimental genre. Using audio metaphors, different light and textures and testing various narrative methods are techniques I am keen to continue exploring in depth.

What are one or two of your favourite films and why?

My favourite kind of film is that which lies to the audience until very end—films like The Usual Suspects, Fight Club and Arrival. The one that rises above them all is Christopher Nolan’s 2000 masterpiece Memento. It is fascinating the way the film’s structure makes the audience identify with the protagonist who’s suffering from short-term memory loss. It is a prime example of how the vast sums of money that go into the production of most Hollywood blockbusters aren’t necessary to create a film worth watching twice; a well-developed and immersive screenplay is the key. Another one worth mentioning is Edgar Wright’s less-known cult classic Shaun of the Dead.

Comedy isn’t a lesser genre than drama; it’s just one that is not experimented enough with. What the director of this film does so brilliantly is avoid dialogue to deliver jokes. Instead, he uses editing, sound design and cinematography to carefully construct visually driven comedy that will make audience laugh and rewatch his work again and again.

Digital Heroin

Could you describe your involvement with Dubrovnik Film Festival?

Dubrovnik Film Festival was the one that first opened its arms to my work. My first year there was eye-opening, because I got to meet people who shared the same passion for filmmaking and were there to celebrate it. Next year, my film Digital Heroin was selected for the official competition, and this year that honour is given to my first experimental film Lada. Over the past couple of years I’ve been involved with other film festivals as well: the Four River Film Festival, the Around Films festival and some of the international ones, but none of them has quite the spirit and friendly character of Dubrovnik Film Festival.

Could you describe the world of filmmaking in Croatia and how you hope coming to Scotland will influence your work?

Croatian filmmaking industry is quite elitist. It is for people who already have some kind of connection to its inner circles. Formation of these elite groups begins as early as the start of secondary school. If you are a member of a high-profile film clubs, you are most likely to be accepted into any film festival you wish to attend because of the label you wear. But, in my view, these filmmakers are actually not working on improving themselves as filmmaker, but are instead taking a shortcut into this ‘high society’. I chose the hard way; try, fail and repeat until you get it right. It has taught me to be more independent and helped me work on my very low self-confidence. Half a year ago, my goal was to get into the Croatian Film Academy, which accepts only 3 people a year onto the directorial course. Usually, they are not interested in people who have just left secondary school. They are looking for more mature students (21-25 years old) who, ideally, have some connections in the film industry. In some ways, my HMC Scholarship is a double-edged sword: in Croatia, I had just started to infiltrate the industry’s inner circles; I was meeting people and having my name recognised. On the other hand, I wish to be accepted for who I am and what I am able to offer, regardless of my connection to the film festival’s jury members. This is exactly what Dollar encourages: your most true self.

What do you hope to gain from your time at Dollar Academy?

I hope that Dollar will help me form a firm critical opinion that is entirely my own. The Croatian school system encourages children to memorise pure facts and to never ask, ‘Why?’ It’s like a Communist system where equality is shown in the fact that we are all obligated to take the same subjects and possess the same knowledge. But in the process, we lose ourselves as individuals because we are not allowed to concentrate on the things that interest us the most. Most of our ‘critical opinion’ is just a reproduction of what social media feeds us; it is not about valuing our own thoughts and opinions. The Croatian education system, in my view, is producing young people who are unable to think for themselves. I know that Dollar will most certainly play a crucial role in defining me as an individual.

What are your career ambitions in film?

If you were to pose such a question to a basketball player, his answer would probably be the NBA. The Oscars would probably be the equivalent for a filmmaker. However, my goal as a filmmaker is not to impress the stuck-up heads of the Academy, but to create something impactful, something that will touch the hearts of those watching it. And when it comes to walking the red carpet, I would very much like to be invited to the Cannes Film Festival. If you want a reply that is leaning on the silly side, I would like to make a film such as Harry Potter, one that would make me and my country so rich that I wouldn't have to make any more films, and all of my income would be a result of over priced merchandise.