Reading all the articles that were published regarding your new position as the CEO of HAVC, it seems everyone has very big expectations of you. Why did you choose this country and this role to share your rich working experience?
I am a Croatian who spent much of his adult life in Brussels and Washington DC but always connected to Croatia. I see this as a homecoming.
Yes, indeed there are high expectations of me, which I share and will do my utmost to live up to! Our audiovisual center, HAVC, has gone through a rough period the last few years. My international and management experience in the sector position me well for the challenge. I accepted to take it on because I believe I can make a difference for the good of our sector and the country. Croatia has much going for it. It is a beautiful European country with talented, welcoming people. We have a tradition of story-telling through film. The skills of our crafts persons are widely appreciated. So I believe that we have a solid foundation to build on and that a bright future awaits.
What are your plans for the next 4 years as the CEO of HAVC? What will you focus on?
To begin with, I want to listen and learn from all segments of the sector: our directors, writers, actors, producers, distributors, exhibitors… This process has begun already and the initial reactions have been constructive and more realistic than what one might expect. There is a realization that we are all in this together at a crucial moment.
Our strategic and operational priorities have been defined and agreed for the period 2017-2021. The plan is ambitious, as one would hope, but resources are scarce and choices will have to be made as to what to focus on.
We have a dedicated team at HAVC. It will need to be beefed-up with experts from the legal and production fields. Some reorganisation can be expected to better match with our strategic priorities.
Already next year I am looking to secure additional resources from current revenue streams, primarily funding from the Ministry of Culture and from our public service broadcaster, HTV which should be doing more under their current legal and contractual obligations. More resources to continue supporting film makers, but in a more impactful way.
By the end of next year we should have implemented the package of EU measures known as the Digital Single Market. New rules will be put in place incorporating on-line services into a suitable framework wherein they take their place alongside traditional players in support of creators as entities that exploit and largely rely on the fruits of creation.
Also by the end of next year I hope we will have broken ground on the construction of a much needed studio complex in Croatia to support our creators, and to offer a full high quality service also to foreign productions.
In an interview you gave to 24express you mentioned that you want Croatian authors to consider placing their product on streaming services. Do you think Croatian filmmakers should maybe move away from movies and work on series instead?
It is not really a matter of moving away from movies. Our movie production levels are quite modest as it is, even including co-productions. It is about adding something. It is clear that demand, especially for younger audiences, has shifted towards the more convenient streaming offers. Convenient to watch quality series have played a big role. Series production used to be considered second tier by many creatives. Today no longer. Directors and writers find the challenge exciting. I believe our own creators will be increasingly blurring the lines between traditional films and other formats. Some are already doing so, others will too. HAVC can play a role in supporting this phenomenon with tailored financial incentives.
What do you expect from authors that will send their projects to HAVC?
I hope our authors will challenge us with promising projects and that we will have the resources to back them. We need to support art-house projects and first-time authors’ works. But I would also like to see projects with sufficient budgets aimed also at attracting audiences. I don’t think making movies with a message and getting that message across to more people are mutually exclusive, and we need high-end entertainment especially aimed at very young audiences. It is not enough to make it, a good project needs a good marketing and promotion plan. In case we needed to, we learned this again the hard way recently with what seemed a very promising and creative film for kids not meeting expectations. We fell short on promotion and distribution.
You mentioned that the most important thing for HAVC now is to get its finances in order. That plan includes reviving HAVC funds through investments from national and commercial televisions, and also from streaming services available in Croatia. Do you think they will oppose this effort?
I believe all platforms that are based on commercial exploitation of content need to contribute meaningfully to support European and national works. This includes all broadcasters of a certain size as well as cable, satellite and internet platforms. Implementation of the newly adopted EU legal instruments will be the opportunity to achieve a fair and balanced outcome for the decade to come. Will there be push-back? Sure – there are always Cassandras around who proclaim disaster scenarios to avoid change. But the evolution of the European rules over the past few decades have contributed mightily to a healthier environment, ultimately for all concerned. This is the case again today.
The true wider potential of our sector is under-appreciated here at home. There is a tendency to view film making through the narrow prism of a publicly financed “almost luxury” endeavor. Film as culture and as an important expression national identity is understood, but not as widely as one would hope. The pitch on the economic potential of our sector as a vector for growth and the creation of quality jobs is probably least understood. We aim to change that. We offer a great experience for those who want to shoot here – the Filming in Croatia program has been a success. It has stimulated tourism, filled hotel rooms off-season, and generated tax revenue. It has created jobs in various regions of the country, good attractive jobs and great experience. The investment is paying off in multiples. With this realization we need to come together, the authorities and private investors, to redouble the benefits by building a modern facility where creators, software engineers, carpenters, costume designers, production houses etc . Our creators need such an infrastructure as well, tailored to meet their needs.
In the National Programme for the Promotion of Audiovisual Creation, HAVC mentioned ways of fighting against piracy by the year 2021. Are we getting closer to solving this problem?
“Solving” the piracy problem is probably too strong a word. Containment is more realistic. Recent figures from many countries suggest that it is possible to contain piracy through a combination of anti-piracy tools including an effective and realistic legal framework , education, and a proper commercial offer.