A producer from MAUR film, Martin Vandas, explains how important mutual respect and trust are in the often complicated and uneasy coexistence of the person with the money and the one with the vision.
Martin Vandas is a producer at MAUR film (Czech Republic), a company that has just celebrated its 20th anniversary. His first work was Fimfárum, a stop motion anthology based on pseudo-folk stories by the popular and well respected Czech personality Jan Werich. Since then, MAUR film has produced 9 feature films, 7 of them animated. The company also stands behind a science series and a host of shorts, most noticeably Daughter by Daria Kashcheeva, which won a student Oscar and was also nominated for a full-fledged Academy Award. Currently, MAUR film is, among other things, getting ready to release another film by Kashcheeva named Electra.
Vandas spoke about what is, to him, the most crucial aspect of filmmaking: the relationship between the director and the producer. “The director has an artistic responsibility and the producer has an economic one,” says Vandas, agreeing with the well known general distinction. “Producers are responsible for the scheduling, the crew and all of the logistics. But they also offer creative supervision – they can help directors to shape their vision. In addition, they look at promotion, which is also a creative process.”
For Vandas, the ideal situation is a long-term relationship that brews over the years. As an example, he cites the director Lucie Sunková, with whom he has worked for over half of the lifetime of his company. He has joined her on several of her short films, and a commercial, and helped Sunková to become an international expert on a specific oil on glass technique. It all escalated in 2022 with the feature Suzie in the Garden that premiered at the Berlinale and won the national film prize The Czech Lion.
“Communication is the key,” explains Vandas. And the best method of finding a way for director and producer to communicate is to make a short film together. MAUR film even cooperates with the FAMU film school, so that the process can start as soon as possible.
“It is always good to know that the director will be able to adapt to people who hold other points of view, because that will inevitably have to happen” explains Vandas. “At the beginning of our cooperation, I asked Lucie to cut 1.5 minutes from her short. Everyone who knows anything about animation and animators knows how a demand like that is perceived. But later I did not have to make such drastic decisions as we got onto the same page and never put ourselves in a situation where that would be necessary.” For Vandas, it isn’t enough to get together when important decisions need to be made. At that moment, the stance of everyone should be more or less clear. “We strive for a close understanding of one another.”
“Especially when there are a lot of coproducers, there are deadlines. There are deliveries that cannot be avoided,” continues Vandas. “All things are negotiable but once something is promised it needs to be done. Since broken obligations stick to your name, it will be on your track record for quite some time. Of course, sometimes things don’t go according to plan, so it is necessary to come to me as soon as possible. The sooner, the easier it is to adapt the plan.”
“I aim for mutual respect and trust. Directors need to know that I have their success and artistic expression in mind and they can be sure of me in this regard,” claims Vandas. He speaks about the hard decisions he needed to make when some of his projects were not granted public funding and he needed to reduce salaries and the overall budget. In that situation, the whole crew needs to understand why those choices were necessary.
“I choose projects for their stories, for something in them that interests me,” says Vandas. “But to achieve long term cooperation and some greater goals, director and producer need to work together on both professional and personal levels. Only then, can something as logistically and artistically complicated as animation really work.”
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CEE Animation Experience is supported by Creative Europe MEDIA and the International Visegrad Fund.