Welcome to our new feature! We are excited to bring you the inaugural interview from our new content section, where we aim to introduce talented filmmakers who have submitted their work to the Bratislava Film Festival. Today, we have the privilege of welcoming an exceptional filmmaker Stefan Tomić who has impressed us with their remarkable film "Patrimony". We are thrilled to uncover the behind-the-scenes of their creative process, explore their inspirations, and delve into the fascinating journey they embarked on with their film.
Stefan Tomić (24) is a graduate film director from the Academy of Arts in Banja Luka, specializing in TV and Film Directing. So far, he has directed eight short fiction films and one short documentary film. He is the creative author of all his works, including scriptwriting, idea development, directing, editing, and working as a director of photography. He won the first prize in the competition for the best screenplay in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Culture of Republika Srpska and the Cinematheque of Republika Srpska for his film "The House Has Horns". His documentary film "The Roots" won the Special Jury Prize at the Sarajevo Film Festival in 2020 and was showcased at festivals in Europe, Asia, and South America.
In addition, he works as an independent author, writing creative concepts for promotional, documentary, and fiction formats in independent production.
What kind of school film is this - exercise or a graduation film? Did you had some creative limitations from school?
"Patrimony" is my graduating film, and with this film as my final exercise, I've completed my bachelor's degree. For our final, fourth year, the Academy of Arts of the University of Banja Luka gave us no limitations. We had an agreement that it should probably be a short film, but the topic, approach, style, and everything that comes directly to the creative process was left to us. The script for the film won an award from the Ministry of Education and Culture of Republika Srpska, and the film premiered at the Mlada kamera festival in the Czech Republic.
What was your budget and on what you spent money?
Our film was a low-budget student production supported by a grant from the Ministry of Culture and the Audiovisual Center of the Republic of Srpska. The total budget allocated for our project was 14,000 euros. Given the nature of a student film and the limited resources available, we carefully allocated the funds to essential expenses such as equipment rentals, production costs, and post-production for both the visuals and sound.
To maximize the impact of our film with the limited resources at hand, our talented team of student filmmakers graciously volunteered their time and expertise, forgoing any monetary compensation. This allowed us to focus our budget on the necessary technical aspects and ensure the best possible production value.
In the world of independent filmmaking, this approach is quite common, especially in our country and among student filmmakers who are passionate about their craft and dedicated to bringing their creative vision to life, despite the financial constraints.
How you assembled your team, have you used professionals or rather students?
The team consisted mainly of students, but we had professional help from local grip and light technicians. This film was also a graduating project for our producer, Monika Milanović, so it was essential for us to work with our colleagues and friends we met during our studies.
Let's get to the story - is this your personal experience, or experience of someone you know?
The idea for the story came from a close relative of mine. We talked about the past and about a time when her husband left her with their newborn son. Luckily, the father came back, realizing he needed to stand up with them and for them.
The story of a man leaving his family without saying anything touched me, especially because I know the man involved. I wanted to make a film about the "what if." What if he never returned to them? On one hand, we grow up wanting to become something, someone, and we want to differentiate ourselves from our parents. But somehow, always, we end up very much like them. Our ego blocks our emotions. What if I say sorry for something, even though I feel like I'm right? People put their egos in front of those emotions, and time flies by. Most of the time, we will lose our special moments just because we didn't let our guard down. I wanted to make a film about this tragedy that happens to most of us. If we don't act in time, we won't lose just special moments; we will lose special people around us. We are so used to blocking our emotions, we treat them like we are immortal, but the truth is, every second counts.
What fascinates you about your characters and conflict between them?
Twenty years is a long time. On one end, we have a man, the father, who lives in solitude for twenty years. That time will do a lot for a human being. This solitude is something he brought upon himself, and in solitude, a man can realize his mistakes because solitude forces him to think about the past. But, on the other hand, you have a son. He lived without a father for twenty years, and he can only hold a grudge for that. Where was he? Why didn't he call? The son only wanted a normal life and a father next to his mother. But the thing is, if one of them had lowered their guard in time, maybe it would have been enough for them to reconnect. The land the father wants to leave to his son is his way of apologizing, the best way he can. Where I come from, the land is cherished more than gold, and it symbolizes having a place in this big world. But the son doesn't care about the land; he just wanted a father to hug.
Why have you chosen nonlinear story structure? What have you wanted to acquire by this creative choice?
We chose a nonlinear structure in post-production. We felt like we were telling the wrong story in a linear form. Because we were talking about the past, time, and lost moments, we wanted the structure of the film to feel like it's made from moments that could be lost in space. Every memory counts, and everything leads to something, almost like our thoughts travel through memories when we think of one person. Even the song used in the film is called "Tren," meaning "Moment." So somehow, we knew we were on the right track, creating moments in the editing room, leading to the song and the powerful collision of multiple timelines and how it can impact a man and his emotions.
How you have chosen your actors, tell us more about your experience from working with these actors on this project?
I had the opportunity to work with the main actor, Danilo Kerkez, on a local theater play. I saw something in him, some shadow that can't be put into words. I felt like he was a volcano ready to erupt at any second. I knew that shadow in him would be perfect for the main role, and he felt it too. Radoje Čupić, the actor who played the father, had already worked with Danilo, and they became very good friends. I thought their friendship would be very useful for their relationship in the film, especially for Danilo, as he needed to confront something "inside." These two actors were a blessing for this film. They understood everything I wanted and gave even more. I didn't push; I let them reach the emotions I desired. They felt that this approach allowed them to delve even deeper into their roles, making everything they brought to the film feel authentic. My way of doing things is always about letting others play and enjoy because if I force something, it can only come across as fake. Every member of the team needs to invest a part of themselves into a film because we're not just working for one person; we're all working together.
What have you learned working on this project?
This film taught me that the best approach to creative work is to listen to it. After some time, the story almost feels alive, and everyone and everything are there to make it better. Some mistakes can help you and some unfortunate events are bound to happen, but the main thing is to not lose control when things get tough. Embracing mistakes and seeing how they can benefit the film, whether it's a shift in the story or capturing something different in the moment, is crucial. After all, you're trying to tell a story, but before all that, you need to listen to it.
Thank you, Stefan, for your participation in this interview and your valuable insights. We are proud to have your short film at the Bratislava Film Festival. Wishing you continued success in your future endeavors and looking forward to seeing more of your works.