Patrik Krivanek

Czech Republic

1. Your film Quiet Crossing won the award in category Best Student Film Film. How was the film inspired? 

Writer, Rik Hulme, came up with an idea after reading a book called ‘Stasiland: Stories From Behind The Berlin Wall,’ and was interested in trying to write a short story about the horrible, life changing choices people in Berlin had to make during
the communist era. After reading the script, me and my producer, Ella Eddy, found similarities between the present and the past. However, we decided to keep the story set in 1967 as East Germany in the ’60s represented a “wall” for us. Exactly the same type of wall which is sadly still being built between nations all around the world.

The film’s message also does link personally to me. I was born in Czechoslovakia in 1987, the country, at that time, was still heavily oppressed by the Communist regime in the same way the people in East Germany were. It was a very personal story for me. Stories like this were all around me during my childhood. At the time, I was very young and couldn’t fully understand the fear felt by the people, including my family, living behind the Iron Curtain.
I didn’t understand why there was no freedom of speech; why people couldn’t talk critically against the government without the risk of being imprisoned or even executed. I also didn’t understand why travel was forbidden. However, when I was growing up, I heard many stories of people who tried to escape and it has always been very interesting for me to research the reasons why people were risking their lives to do so.

Throughout my life and at school, I read many articles and books about this topic and started being interested in politics. I was well educated about it but wanted to know more, so I questioned my family and began to understand. I also always wanted to explore it myself, through the medium of film and try to present this topic through the story which carries an important educational purpose for others. I believe that stories like this need to be told over and over again. It’s more important now than ever because many young people take their lives for granted and ignore their history.

2. Your film was shot at 16mm. How did the filming process go? What was challenging during filming?

It was my first experience working with 16mm film. Respectively, it was my first time directing film shot on 16mm film. I always loved the idea of shooting film entirely captured on the film. “Sixteen” has a very unique texture and the film grain is adding a strong psychological effect to the story. It’s like adding your story another dimension. Shooting film requires even better planning in pre-production and better effectivity on set –
You don’t have enough material to allow many re-takes so you have to be very organized. We were also filming on old Arriflex 16SR using an old way of filmmaking. For instance, we didn't use any external monitors making the action in the small set almost impossible to see. Sometimes there wasn’t even space to fit all of the essential members of the crew in to oversee the action. For many shots we worked without the Script Supervisor. One of our biggest challenges was that we only had 800ft (2 roles) of the film stock available and to make everything even more difficult, we also only had eight hours of studio time available… which was split into two days...

3. Tell us about your background and when did you decide to become a filmmaker?

When I was 5 years old, she took me to the casting for a role in a student film filmed by the students of the Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts in Prague – FAMU. I was acting, but the smell of celluloid and watching a fast-paced film set full of creative people made me love filmmaking.
Apart from my child acting background, it’s one funny story when my mum took me and my older sister Kristyna to the cinema to see a family comedy about a dog called Beethoven. Luckily for my future love for the cinema, my mum entered the wrong screening room, where they were showing Dances with Wolves directed by Kevin Costner. It was screened in the cinema’s biggest screening room and, as I was very little, the projection screen was huge to me. Before my mum realized that we are watching the wrong film, I experienced a very powerful scene where the Indians kills a person with their bows and arrows. The whole cinema full of adults was sobbing. I was a little terrified boy who could feel a very wide range of emotions. This was the time when I started to love films! Since then, I started watching many films every week, spending all of my pocket money for VHS rental. There were weeks when I watched 10 different films in different genres, but I never really watched cartoons like my peers. Love for cinema has accompanied me all my life but it took me many years before I started making my films. Before going into the film industry I spent 6 years in a sales and operation positions in an international logistics company. The money I made there I spent on many different film courses, film equipment and traveling. The experiences, the skills I’ve gained there and the time I had to mature enough helped me to reach the first executive positions in the film industry later [in my life].

4. Films that inspired you to become a filmmaker?

There are many of them but to name a few: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Good Will Hunting, Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan – these are films that influenced me the most during my childhood.

5. Who is your biggest influence?

Milos Forman, Paul Greengrass, and Steven Spielberg.

6. Do you have a favorite genre to work in? Why is it your favorite?

I love to work in cross-genre - this allows me to establish the story and psychology of my characters better. It also helps me to reach a wider audience and to have a more complex story. The most, I love cross-genre of Drama and Thriller – sometimes even with elements of comedy. I love films which are authentic and believable but which also makes you laugh and cry at the same time.

7. What’s your all-time favorite movie and why?

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I sympathize with the main character Randle McMurphy as his infectious resistance to discipline is shattered by the routine of the institution – Very strong reference to communism. I also love the acting performances of the talented actors, which were achieved by a very good casting. I like how Milos Forman decided to choose real patients and film in a real working psychiatric hospital to maintain the authenticity of the story. I like how the real performances of real patients supported great performances of the main actors. In my opinion, it is also a very well written script and at the end of the film, I always felt many different emotions at the same time: anger and sorrow, but also great satisfaction. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is one of the most complex and the cleverest stories I have ever seen.

8. If you could work with anyone in the world, who would that person be?

If living, Milos Forman, and Robin Williams. I would like to also work with Steven Spielberg, and Tom Hanks.

9. The one person who has truly believed in you throughout your career.

My mum.

10. What was the most important lesson you had to learn as filmmaker?

Never give up on your dreams – there are many stories which needs to be told so fight for them and bring them to life!

11. What keeps you motivated?

Satisfaction of my audience.

12. How has your style evolved?

My films today are much more authentic and also have much deeper meanings. I am also more focused on the psychology of the characters their development and the drama in the story. I am also focused more on telling my stories universally so they can be understood all around the world. Visually, I am more working with cinematographers which are using more natural lighting and dynamic camera.

13. The project(s) you’re most proud of…

This will definitely be the above mentioned Quiet Crossing and also my Indian documentary Sunshine.

14. What are your short term and long term career goals? 

Short: Make more key contacts in the film industry (especially in the USA).
Long: Have my feature film distributed all around the world and one day to shoot on all continents.

15. Your next projects?

At the moment, I have around 6 different projects in progress. To name a few, the first is called ‘Muddy Shoes,’ which is a short 20-minute film written, directed, and produced by myself and a feature film called ‘Two Words as the Key,’ which I am executive producing. ‘Muddy Shoes’ is a powerful and personal story about an important time in history, told from a unique viewpoint. It is a psychological description that depicts the atrocities that were carried out on defenceless people during WWII. ‘Muddy Shoes’ will be shot in two different formats; 35mm digital and super 16mm film. Each section will be shot in an equally distinctive format to separate the two different time periods as the film’s story is based in 1943 and 2010. ‘Two Words as the Key’ is an independent feature film directed by the Czech Film Director, Dan Svatek, and with a production budget of under $2.5 million. It will be shot all around the world in 2020-2021. Together with Dan and Josef Formanek (the writer of the book ‘Two Words as the Key’), I promoted this film at The Marché du Film Producers Network in Cannes during the Cannes Film Festival 2019. If you were enthralled by the atmosphere of films such as Magnolia, Life of Pi, Baraka, or Babel, then you have something to really look forward to!