How would you describe your job to an alien?
I take stories and try to tell them using a) words and b) a system of chronophotographic guns and zoopraxiscopial projections.
How did it all start, and how have you got to where you are today?
I moved to Romania in 2002 after finishing university, because I couldn’t imagine freelancing in London and had already decided I was fascinated by the country. I started out writing, and contributed to broadsheets and magazines, but figured there was no money in it, and moved into radio. There was no money in that either, and so started doing short films and documentaries. Unsurprisingly, the world of documentary film wasn’t exactly awash with cash, and so I started shooting commercials, music videos, that kind of thing. I now try to balance this with doing my own incredibly self-indulgent and commercially unviable film projects.
What makes Bucharest / Romania special?
An almost incestuously tight-knit creative scene. A huge pool of obscenely talented people. A wide-open creative marketplace, and a burning desire to play catch-up with what’s happening in ‘The West’. Sweltering summers. The seaside. Snowdrift winters. Huge mountains. Home distilled spirits. Bars that never close. Clubs that don’t get going until 06:00. Peasant markets. Enough organic artisan produce to completely bury the borough of Islington. Kafka-esque bureaucracy. Communist typography. The Dacia 1300. My girlfriend.
Which projects that you’ve been involved with, are you most proud of?
I guess my film ‘The Bucuresti Experiment’. It won Best Romanian Documentary in the 2014 Romanian National Film Awards – despite the fact that the film isn’t a documentary, and I’m not Romanian. It felt like a kind of official acceptance into the Romanian film community. It was made for €250, and without a production company, or any proper actors, or even a sound-guy, so it was a genuine experiment.
What are the biggest challenges you’re faced with in your work at the moment and how do you overcome them?
I think most people doing creative things struggle with ‘getting stuff done’, on a very basic level. The risk is you spend too much time fretting too much over whether or not your work lives up to your own impossible standards. To overcome this problem I look at myself in the mirror every morning and deliver a pep talk in an American accent like something out of Glengarry Glen Ross.
What’s been your biggest learning throughout your career so far?
Directing with a full crew was a big step, since I was used to doing everything on my own. I didn’t go to film school, and had to learn fast.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen recently?
On my way home I saw this guy carrying a tote bag with a piglet in the bottom, all wriggling and squealing and everything.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I think Alasdair Gray’s “Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation” is pretty good advice. Especially if you’ve got a soft-spot for the old-fashioned hair-shirted protestant work ethic.
Where do you do your best thinking?
Walking in circles round my flat, muttering, at 03:34 am.
If you could travel in time, where would you go and what would you do?
First to Weimar Germany to quickly assassinate Hitler, before a quick stop-over in October 1923 to stop Trotsky from going duck hunting, thus preventing the rise of Stalin. Finally I’d pop back to one million BC to perv at Raquel Welch getting chased by dinosaurs.
If you could work with anyone on a project, who would it be and what would you do?
I’d make a film-essay with Patrick Keiller and Adam Curtis. My mate Catalin Cristutiu can still edit it, though, because he’s brilliant.
If you could go back and do one thing differently, what would it be?
You know those guys who are all: “I’d never change anything, my mistakes made me who I am”? Well, I’m going to pretend to be one of those people. And more importantly, the things I’d actually want to change are so deeply embarrassing that I’ve managed to erase them from my memory completely.
Who or what inspires your creativity?
‘The Drunken Bakers’ and ‘8 Ace’ in Viz.
But generally, I think being slightly ill-at-ease with the world and its current state is essential if you want to create things. If you think that the world is running along just fine, then you’d probably be better off doing something else. However, having an ideological axe to grind means you risk turning into an insufferable tub-thumping prick. It’s a thin line. I sometimes stray.
I’m working on another film, but hate promising too much about projects in case they don’t actually happen. You know the guy who’s been working on The Great American Novel / screenplay / contemporary dance piece for the past 15 years? I lie awake at night worrying about being that person.
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