European Genre Forum Takes Over Zagreb

'The Shining' (1980)

Stanley Kubrick made his last authentic masterpiece with this hallucinatory trip into the Twilight Zone, freely adapted from the Stephen King novel. Jack Nicholson gives a combustible performance as a mentally fragile writer slowly losing his mind in a remote, empty, haunted hotel over the snowbound winter season. Co-starring Shelley Duvall and Danny Lloyd, The Shining actually makes little narrative sense, but its strikingly surreal nightmare visuals are brilliantly orchestrated by Kubrick, who was partly inspired by David Lynch’s Eraserhead. King disowned the movie, directing his own inferior TV remake in 1997. -- SD

Panel discussions and pitches took place over two days in Croatia as the forum expands across the continent.

Having had its pilot in November at Estonia’s Black Nights Film Festival, the European Genre Forum descended upon the Croatian capital of Zagreb for the first time late last week, offering the continent’s growing number of genre industry professionals another support base and platform for discussion.

Tacked to the Fantastic Zagreb genre film festival, now in its fifth year, the two-day forum saw directors, producers, scriptwriters, sales agents and others come together for a series of meetings, workshops and panel discussions, as well as pitching sessions for 11 different projects. There was also plenty of opportunity for genre appreciation, with screenings of films including Ex Machina and The Wicker Man, while The Shining closed the festival with a special screening within a medieval Croatian fort.

“It’s not a traditional co-production market, where you go and sit down and say ‘give me money,’ because there is no money anywhere,” explained festival director and co-founder Stjepan Hundic, who said it’s more about getting everyone from producers to composers to VFX professionals to sit down together and meet. “We’re trying find ways how creative collaborations can yield results.”

Despite only starting last year, the EGF has already seen some success stories, with a handful of projects having emerged from the relationships it has helped create.

Hundic points to the Toronto-premiering U.S. horror film Spring, which was given a screening at Zagreb’s open-air woodland cinema just a short walk from the city center. During the Industry@Tallinn matching program at the Black Nights festival, the film’s directors Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson teamed with Estonian VFX company Frost FX for post-production, and Hundic says this is exactly the sort of alliance he wants to help forge.

At a panel entitled "Local Flavors, Global Taste," which discussed how regionally specific stories can find international audiences, Aleksander Radivokevic, screenwriter of 2010’s A Serbian Film that became hugely controversial for its graphic depictions of sexual abuse, said genre filmmakers should be “trolling today’s world” without hindrance by issues such as language.

“When you have an idea that’s going to blow people’s heads off, the language barrier isn’t important,” he said. “This world is crazy. Use the craziness of the world and make something that resonates.”

Julian Richards, founder of London-based genre specialist Jinga Films – which distributed A Serbian Film – said that it could often be a “blessing in disguise” to produce a film in a language other than English. “Even though it will limit the level of distribution you will get, if the story is universal there’s the good chance you can get a remake deal, and the remake deal will probably be worth more than the distribution rights of the film,” he said.

Richards said that he was currently working on securing the remake rights on a Jinga Films title with a budget that would be more than 10 times that of the original.

According to Richards, titles such as A Serbian Film were so sensational that they “basically sold themselves, because everyone was talking about them.”

Croatian screenwriter and producer Velimir Grgic said that it was sometimes necessary to “sacrifice money” to maintain that essential local flavor. His current project, Holidead, a teen comedy he describes as “Spring Breakers meets Shaun of the Dead” sees a group of British 20-something tourists land on a zombie-infested island in the Mediterranean.

“I got an offer from Pinewood Studios who said they’d fully finance [the film] but only if I shot it in Wales,” he said. “But it’s a film where the Croatian coast is actually one of the main characters, so I’m not sure if I could recreate the Croatian sea in Wales."

Grgic said that he’d had a similar offer from Canada for a TV series based on the idea, with a stipulation that it was all shot in the country.

Holidead was among the 11 titles in the two pitching sessions held in Zagreb’s Kino Europa 1920s-era theater. Others included Comrade Tito Superstar from Croatian filmmaker Vinko Grubisic, a musical about former Yugoslavian leader Josep Tito that promises an “all-singing, all-dancing cast featuring Hitler, Stalin, Churchill, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor,” and The Dreamlands from producer Andrea Staerke and director/writer Huan Vu, a dark fantasy based on H.P. Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle that has already raised just shy of $220,000 from a crowdfunding campaign and other investors.

In Private Number, A Serbian Film’s team of writer Radivojevic and producer Nika Pentelic are teaming with director Vladimir Mancic for a thriller about a pregnant woman “who receives a call from someone claiming to be God,” who later takes her unborn child hostage.

“You can tackle any subject through genre films and make it as interested as any serious film,” added Radivojevic, whose A Serbian Film was a gruesome satirical reaction to his country’s politically-correct film industry. “It shouldn’t be treated like the dirty filthy kid that everyone kicks about.”

With Hundric saying that Zagreb’s European Genre Forum pit-stop will become an annual affair, the platform will return to Tallinn in November and then looks also set to drop into the Nordic’s biggest horror celebration, Finland’s Night Visions in April. Coupled with Brussels’ new Frontieres co-production markets, a collaboration with Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival, and FrightFest, the almost veteran London event that has just announced a record lineup for its 16th edition this August, Europe’s once maligned “dirty filthy kids” are now finding a network that truly understands them.