Bogdan Ilie-Micu [Interview]

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Bogdan Ilie-Micu was born in Romania in 1983. While attending the Media University of Bucharest, where he studied directing, he wrote and directed two short films: Rafuiala (Mutiny, 2007) and 5 secunde (5 Seconds, 2008).
In 2012 he directed his first full feature film: Un gând, un vis, Doyle… şi-un pix (A Dream Merchant’s).

Un gând, un vis, Doyle… şi-un pix (A Dream’s Merchant).

Roberto Rippa: Your first full feature film, Un gând, un vis, Doyle… şi-un pix (A Dream’s Merchant) is a documentary, but before that, while you still were at the University, you made two fiction short movies. Let’s start with the first, Rafuiala. The story is written by you with Alexandru Molico. Where does the inspiration for the story come from?

Bogdan Ilie-Micu: The first film I ever made was a small documentary which is called “el Bus”, a 12 minute documentary about an interesting painter. Rafuiala was my second film, but my first ever fiction film. The script for Rafuiala was initially written by Alexandru, and was given to me. So, I don’t really know where the inspiration came from. I could just suppose Alexandru had some demons he needed to fight against. I read the script, I didn’t quite like the initial draft, it was a little too bloody for my taste, and I rewrote it. I gave it to Alex, he said he liked it, and I shot it.

Rafuiala is a mix between social satire and comedy. Your second film, 5 Secunde is a drama and you wrote it completely by yourself. It looks as a thriller, with a very well built tension. What inspired you this time?

5 secunde is more on my alley, let’s say. It was written in the summer before I entered film school. It just came to me. In the beginning there was the idea of time inside a dream, how seconds stretch themselves into minutes, maybe even hours, when we dream. The initial script even had a dream inside another dream. In the final draft though, which was finished in my third year of school, and was the basis for the film, I played with the idea of time stretching, and also with the fact that we, as human beings want to know everything, we search for what we think we need, without really asking ourselves if the found truth is worth all the pain we suffer throughout the journey to it.

These two films show a strong talent and an uncommon capacity of telling stories but they also appear as the results of the work of a very good crew. Who did you work with?

On both films I had great people who helped. 90% of the people from both crews were students, and we were just happy to make movies. They are too many, and it would take a lot of space to name them all, but I would like to thank them, if they ever read this, for helping me. Working with all of them was a great experience and I will never forget those moments because those films helped me get to the moment I am now. So… Thank you guys! I have a special thanks to Sergiu Pavel, who was also the DoP of the film, and to Adrian Nicolae, both of them helped me produce Rafuiala, a film, although made in school, it wasn’t produced by the school. It was my first independent attempt.

In both films the acting is very good. How did you chose the actors? I’ve seen that some of them are theatre actors.

In Rafuiala, besides Adrian Titieni, who was already, and still is, a renowned actor in Romania, and Ionut Ionescu, who is a theatre actor, the rest of them were students. I got to know them by participating in they’re acting classes. I was there mainly to know more about actor’s ways, to learn about the insides of an actor, and I also ended up with working relationships. To be honest, I think in Rafuiala, acting could have been a little better, but, like I said, it was a school film, a learning process.

In 5 secunde, the main actors were Liviu Lucaci, Medeea Marinescu and Ionut Kivu. All of them are great established actors and they made my life easier. I asked Liviu and Medeea to play the roles of the guy and the psychologist, because I simply knew they could do it, I just felt they would fit inside the character’s skin. And for the role of the brother, was initially cast somebody else. And one day before shooting, he told me he couldn’t do it anymore. So we brainstormed and, with Liviu’s help, we came up with Ionut’s name. He’s an actor who I didn’t know about, back then, but who came up the next day and helped me finish the film. Ionut is also the narrator of Mihai’s story in “A Dream’s Merchant”, so, if you ask me how I choose my actors, sometimes I do it from past collaborations.

What happened with those two films after you finished them? I was surprised when you told me that they didn’t get a good reception in Romania. Why, according to you?

Nothing much happened, beside “CineMAiubit” which is a student film festival. Something good though came in 2009,almost out of nowhere, I got invited to Go-East Film Festival in Wiesbaden, in the Project Market, after someone saw “5 seconds”. After that, nothing else happened, I just struggled, without too much success.

Four years after 5 secunde, you made your first full feature film: Un gând, un vis, Doyle… şi-un pix (A Dream’s Merchant). It’s a documentary about a man’s travel by motorbike from Romania to Mongolia. You said that you discovered the story when Mihai Barbu had already left Romania to go to Mongolia. What fascinated you in his story?

Yes, I discovered the story while he was already deep into his journey, somewhere in Russia, but, I didn’t give it too much thought. He left on the 10th of July 2009, and I started reading his stories at the end of October 2009, when he was almost home. And I said, what a beautiful, simple, moving story, sharing a journey, piece by piece, moment by moment, with a specific someone, and also with everybody else. I know it might sound a little cryptic what I just said, but who will see the film will understand.

Did you have to wait for him to come back to explain to him your project?

Yes, he came back, and two or three days later I asked him too meet me, and told him I want to try to make a film out of his story. He probably felt my passion and embarked right away on this new journey, of creating the film.

This is a very peculiar project for a newcomer: a documentary made of more or less 800 pictures taken by another person where the screenplay is maybe the most important part of the film. What motivated you to embark on this project?

You might say it’s peculiar. I say, I don’t really care about the form, if I have a story. I’m not afraid to try new things as long as I have a solid foundation. So, the story is what made me try to find a way to make the film. I agree with you the screenplay was important, but for me the toughest part was to create movement out of stills. I had the problem of editing them so the audience won’t get bored, while the pictures and the sound won’t get redundant.

How long did you work on the screenplay? And how did you work with Mihai Barbu?

We already had everything written down, all the letters Mihai sent home, so we just had to cut it into the “final draft”. I knew all the stories, I created a structure for the film and, I think, it took us two days for, let’s call it, a “middle draft”, while the “final draft”, was ready after six days of rehearsals with Ionut. We rehearsed for six days, because we just had two days of recordings, around eighteen hours.

Working with Mihai was simple. He understood that, from the moment he said “Yes”, to the idea of making a film, he should let himself into my hands. And he did. He supported me all the way, from that moment on.

When I saw the film at the Milano Film Festival it was impossible not to remark how the audience remained speechless at the end of the film, deeply moved by what they saw. Everybody was enthusiastic about your film. What was the reaction in other occasions?

I’m glad that happened. I was too nervous to realize that, and I didn’t believed it until some people of the MiFF crew told me that people really liked the film. The reactions elsewhere were very good everytime, and that puts a little smile on my face, that makes me feel that I haven’t worked two years in vain.

The screenplay has an important dose of irony and in the meantime it allows emotions to grow as long as the story proceeds. Was it hard to find the right mix between the emotions or did it come naturally?

The emotions, the irony, everything that comes out of the film already existed in the story. Of course, when we created the screenplay I opted for a balance. There is a mix of knowledge, hard work, engineering, talent and a little luck, when you are creating art. When all these come together you might have the chance to make something that really works as a whole.

Was it hard to find the money to work on it?

No, because my pockets sit right next to me. I don’t know how they do it, but everywhere I go, they just follow me.

Are you satisfied with the result?

I don’t really know how to answer your question. I’m very hard on myself, so, I’m not completely satisfied. When I see the film, there are always bits and pieces I think I could have done better. But, I watch the reactions of the audiences, and when they’re positive, I give myself a slap on the head and I say … “You did good… It wasn’t all for nothing!”

In Milano you said that you already know that it’s going to be difficult for your film to arrive in cinemas and that you plan to work on the DVD edition for 2013. Is it still so or the possibility to have a distribution changed in the meantime, after your film won the Romanian Days Award For Best Debut at the Transilvania Film Festival?

Since I got the prize at TIFF, I was contacted by two distribution companies from U.S. I told them both that my film is not sellers-material, but they insisted on seeing it. They saw it, and both companies told me that the film is not suited for distribution in the U.S., although they very much enjoyed the picture. But in Romania, no one contacted me. I still believe my film is hard to sell. Not impossible, just hard. I will make a DVD version, and I will launch it at the end of 2013, and somehow, I know I can sell it.

As I said before, your first 3 films are really different from one another. Are you currently working on a new project? If yes, can you tell us about it?

I think you can find pieces of me in all three films. More representative for who I am, as a person and a filmmaker, are ”5 seconds” and “A dream’s merchant”. I am working on a script right now, for a feature. I’m writing with Liviu Lucaci, the actor from “5 seconds”. It’s called “Reliquary”, and, I think it’s an interesting story about family, childhood, and how all those affect someone’s life. And about love, that kind of love that can happen in a specific place and at a specific time. I cannot give you more, because we are still polishing it.

I also have a short screenplay, it’s called Darkness, it’s also about love, about how a relationship ends, one and a half year after the official end, happened. This film, I’ll try to shoot in march 2013, I hope, I still need a little funding.

October 19, 2012

Un gând, un vis, Doyle… şi-un pix (A Dream’s Merchant)

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