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I am flexible to change my road when I feel the direction is showed. You can never know who you will meet on your way, so do not stress yourself with the current situation. Enjoy what you can do in certain situations. Like now for example, when we should stay home. Let’s do something creative.
Asa part of my series pop culture stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Janja Glogovac.
Janja was born in Slovenia. She obtained a masters degree at FAMU academy in visual arts, specializing in film directing. She was chosen as a Kodak new talent that was presented at Cannes. For many years, she has worked for Czech national TV as well as Slovenian and Croatian TV. During her career, she has made different documentaries, a feature film with Rade Serbedzija, Lucija Serbedzija, Ksenija Misic, Labina Mitevska and many more Balkan stars. Her name is signed under commercials, music videos and quite few short narrative films. All of her films have been screened at the most prestige film festivals around in the world. From Cannes, Valencia, Rotterdam, Raindance, Karlovy Vary…She is a recipient of many recognitions and awards. Her movies were marked also by the critics in Czech Republic, Argentina, Netherlands, France and Balkan as a new breaking wave movies. She is not only exceptional in her work in films, but also in creating in new medias. She has developed Apps, social media platforms, transmedia projects that can make a difference in the world. She is very innovative in all the areas whatever she creates. Her biggest inspiration is Nikola Tesla. She has devoted 10 years of studying Tesla’s work. In November 2019, her documentary about Nikola Tesla called Teslafy Me was premiered in the US and is now being distributed in the US and Canada.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a country that does not exists any more. It was called Yugoslavia. We grew up with paroles like one for all and all for one. It means that you should be always ready to help another person. I had the most beautiful childhood one could ever ask for. I have a big family. And we were always there for each other. The most beautiful moments were family Sundays at my grandmother’s huge apartment. I called her Maka and she was a true loving person. She was always teaching us that all the people are good, so we must be respectful to everyone. She never said anything bad about anyone. She was an amazing person who kept us all connected. Until the war in Yugoslavia, I really thought that life is just a fun and joy, but then very quickly, when I was 14, my life turned upside down.. Overnight, the people of ex-Yugoslavia were converted into Slovenians, Serbs or Croatians… and they started hating each other.. I could not understand this. Especially, because I come from a mixed ethnic background.. Should I hate a part in me that is Serbian or Croatian? Is it so important what nationality our ancestors were? We grew up as one, remember? No one choose what nationality or country is born in. So, why would that even matter? Why would religion or the color of the skin be important at all?
At that time, I realized that the whole education system and the whole country of Yugoslavia was made up on lies, or..? I could not believe this, so I wanted to find out more who was that president Tito who made Yugoslavia happen and lead it for 40 years until his death? In every classroom, there were photos of Tito and then overnight all those pictures were thrown away.. At the same time, we were told to change the way of addressing the teachers. As I was a rebel at that point, I kept using the old way of addressing the teachers, just to remind them that they were the one teaching us wrong. After at the film Academy, I made a documentary film titled “Tito”. The film was about the ex-president of Yugoslavia. I just wanted to find out who that person really was and if he was really such a terrible person. I wanted to know if people were strong-armed into following him by force or they truly believed in all the paroles of brotherhood and unity?
So, I met people that worked for him for many years and what I found out was amazing. There was still a war going on in parts of ex-Yugoslavia. Therefore, just to say the name “Tito” was quite dangerous. I was very young and still a student at the time, so they let me be. At the end “Tito” film made a big impact. It opened a new era in all the ex-Yugoslavian countries. The artist finally started to connect over the borders and saying Tito’s name without fear. The film was premiered at IDFA film festival in Amsterdam and screened at the most important film festivals around the world and got many recognition and nominations. Today, it is available on Youtube — on Teslafy Me channel for free.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
My mother was always shooting on Super 8. She was making a short clips at different family events. She was the first film person in our family. I could not wait for the developed Super 8 films to came back by the post. The whole family came together at our house for this event and watched what my mother had shot. We had a projector and my mother would put a white sheet on the wall making us a little cinema room inside the living room. It was very cozy and for me this was the most amazing time. I just loved those moments so much. Not only me but two of my cousins became professional film makers in the end.
After that my cousin Ksenija Misic, who is an actress, took me to her rehearsals in the theatre. So, I grew up watching the most amazing shows of Tomaz Pandur being created with my cousin in the main roles. Tomaz Pandur was a real genius. He had different and very special esthetic and when seeing his shows you entered a new dimension. I was so fascinated by the lights, costumes and actors on the stage. It was just like a dream. It completely took me over and opened a big imaginative side in my mind and emotions. Even Pedro Almodovar, after seeing his show, said he had never experienced anything like that.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I wanted to make a feature film about people from ex-Yugoslavia living in Prague and Slovenian fund was not interested in supporting my film. So, one day I had enough of waiting when and if it will happen, so I wrote to the director of the Slovenian film found a letter. I wrote it on the 35 mm film stock with gold fluster. I wrote that I want to make this film more than anything and explained the way I see it being filmed. I also mentioned that no woman film director had ever been given a grant, but I knew I could do it. And that was why I needed the financial support otherwise I could only write and draw on the 35mm.
It was a long letter with a lot of stock, so I could imagine the director of film fund all wrapped up in it when he finally read it until the end. But it worked. I got the money so we shot the feature film “L…like love”. It premiered at the Rotterdam film festival. It was also at Raindance, Cannes, it also opened a new division — film made by woman at Valencia film festival. It was chosen as the opening film at Eurocine 27 and it was screened at all European countries and many more film festivals.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Well, I remember when I came to film academy FAMU in Prague, I couldn’t speak Czech. We have a lot of words that sound similar though the meaning is completely different. So, I do remember saying the word that means very beautiful in our language, but it means strange in Czech. So, I told my actors with a big enthusiasm how strange they were acting. And I do remember the strange look in their faces and I thought they do not like compliments in this country. However, the language barrier was soon gone as I picked up Czech fairly quickly.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am right now working on the feature film “Forgotten dream”. It is a SF action love story. More I can not reveal.
I am also creating an App — “Teslafy.Me”. It is an App with that I would like to trigger the inventive mind of users. I want people to think how we can create 0% emission world. This App was awarded at East doc platform winning DocTank prize in Prague, 2017. It was developed in Switzerland (Vision du Reel) and at iFlab in Belgium and France. And now we want to bring it a bit further..
Also, I believe the electrification of transportation is very important to solve the pollution in the world, right now. The situation with corona virus made us all think differently, so I want to use my expertises to support changing the world for better in reality.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
I think diversity is always very important because if the people come from different ethnic or social backgrounds, they have different mind sets. Connecting different mind sets of people open each other so they can change the point of view and that is how we wider our vision.
We are living in the middle of space on a rotating planet called the Earth, and we are traveling at high speeds speed and no one knows where? If you look from that perspective, does it really matter if you are from south, east, west or north? In the end, we are the same spices. But yes, mind set us apart. And it comes with culture, education or experiences in life. And if only this can be opened without fear we can create a great society that would be amazing. In the entertainment industry, the diversity is particularly important because we are working on conscience and sub-conscience level of people’s mind. Diversity makes you understand and reach people on a deeper level.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I was told not work with friends and family but I did not care for that.. In retrospect, I should have listed.
They also told me that it would be difficult for me to be a film director as a woman, but I did not listen. I said I was different. Maybe I am but now I know what they meant. Though I believe the times are now changing.
I was always shooting my films on 16mm or 35mm film but I wish someone would tell me when going to digital to think the same way as if I have film stock in the camera and it is expensive. That is preventing you to shoot too much material. And this is after making easier to work in the editing room.
To balance your time when making a film. Not work only but to have also some fun to go to cinema, gym or to do something that you like and that inspires you.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Make a good pre-production with all the details and do not go out making a film if you do not have full budget — investment in place or co-producers in material goods. Maybe you think you will make it faster like that, but at the end it usually takes it longer. Do not meet your actors on the shooting place, you should know how they breath and to rehires with them.
And if you are doing a documentary, make a script for yourself what you really need for the story and be selective. I know in documentaries you are always inspired on the shooting place and you do more than you need. Watch what you shot the same day or the next day. Be selective right away when you have all in your head. Not in the editing room because then you forget a lot what you meant or where did you wanted to place something and it takes a longer time to figure it out. And do not work more than 5 hours in editing room per day — that is advice that was given to me by my professor Otakar Vavra. I did not follow but in the next movie I will not edit more than 5 hours a day 🙂 My biggest advice for all film makers is: “Life is more important than film you should have one otherwise it is easy to burn out.”
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My movement has already started. Teslafy Me documentary is just the first part of it. I want artist and scientists to connect. Scientists are usually the one with knowledge about the way the things on this Earth works and artists are those with creative and opened minds that can come with impossible ideas to make them possible on the screen. But in reality, if those two professions can connect in making something good for our planet, I think we can come with quicker and better solutions for the whole world.
I am truly inspired by the work and mind of a scientist Nikola Tesla. He was an artist of science. Therefore, I made a documentary film Teslafy Me about his life and work. Today, the world is moving so fast and it is filled with information and there is no time for the true inspiration. But what would happen if we connect science with art? Just imagine…
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are many people who helped me and there are also a lot of those that I helped on their way. One goes with another. But, yes, my professor Otakar Vavra gave me really a lot in my life to be thankful for. He thought me from how to make films, to how to write scripts and how to work with actors and envision projects. How to reflect the reality on film and how to be honest to yourself and follow your heart. He was a man who created film academy — FAMU in Prague and wrote the first program for the students and that was the most successful program in the world. His wife Jitka Nemcova was also my professor. One day I find out that I must move from my apartment in Prague and by mere coincidence I got rent their apartment, where I was living for 5 years. In that time, they became like my parents away from home. I had the best conversations about film in my life with Otakar Vavra. I am happy also that last year Jitka Nemcova opened an Otakar Vavra’s foundation and I am also taking part in this foundation. A lot of things changed from when he left this world and now through this foundation, we want also to bring his lectures again to the reality.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There’s always sunshine after the rain. Sometimes, we are stressing about something that is not going your way. And usually you cannot even imagine something better that is coming your way. So, if you are stressing out about something you will not be able to see even better things coming. So, I am open for all good to come my way. I am flexible to change my road when I feel the direction is showed. You can never know who you will meet on your way, so do not stress yourself with the current situation. Enjoy what you can do in certain situations. Like now for example, when we should stay home. Let’s do something creative. Something that you did not have time before or just relax and enjoy doing nothing for a while. Meditate and think why are we on this planet. Maybe if you watch our documentary film about Nikola Tesla — Teslafy Me on Amazon Prime, iTunes, Apple TV or different VOD platforms or buy it on a DVD, it would bring you more ideas how to make this planet a better place. And who knows, maybe you are the one that this film is made for to intrigue your inventive mind and to become a new Nikola Tesla.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Yes, I would like to have a breakfast with Al Pacino. I met him once in a restaurant, but at first, I did not remember where I knew him from. It is just that I sensed he has the most powerful electromagnetic field. He is a true legend and I would love to talk with him about film and learn from him.
The lunch I would love to have is with Leonardo DiCaprio. He is an amazing actor and I adore his sensitivity for our planet. With him I would love to discuss the plan how we can finally save the world, together.
It would be fantastic to do a project with both.
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