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SXSW '05 Interview: 'Mirage' Director Svetozar Ristovski
by Scott Weinberg

The 'Mirage' Pitch: Amidst Macedonia's tumultuous transition, a boy escapes into his world of hopes and dreams. Circumstances worsen and the boy takes matters into his own hands.

"A talented boy is betrayed by his self-serving and corrupted teacher. "

Will this be your first time at SXSW? Any other film festival experience?
Yes, This is the first time for me to
participate at the SXSW film festival. Previously I was at the Toronto IFF, Rotterdam IFF, Vancouver IFF, Thessalonikhi IFF, Tokyo IFF, Montreal Festival of New Cinema, etc.

When you were 14 years old, if someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, what would your answer have been?
An astronaut.

How did you get started in filmmaking?
I started as a storyboard artist and commercial director. After entering a film academy in Macedonia I had a chance to do some documentaries and a short film that helped me get funding for my first film.

How have things changed for you since your film was accepted into the festival?
At this point I am still trying to figure out how to cover my rent and continue making films so that I can live off this profession.

When you were shooting the film, did you have SXSW (or film festivals in general) in mind?
I was hoping that the film would be good enough to enter some important film festivals. For a film from a no-name director and cast that comes from a small and obscure country in the Balkans, it's only by chance that it will be seen by a broader international audience and hopefully get distributed through festival exposure. SXSW was one of the festivals that I have a great respect for and therefore I am happy to have our film in its selection.

How did you get your film started? How did you go from script to finished product?
Under great pressure. While being in pre-production of our film, the government in Macedonia changed and the new administration didn't want this film to be made. Although this was a very difficult situation for making the film, it was a great stimulus for me, and the people that believed in this film to make it at any cost. I gained so much respect and love for all the members of the cast and the crew during this process, that it seems to me almost like creating comradery in a battle.

What’s the one glaring lesson you learned while making this film?
To be sincere and to respect all my collaborators, actors and crew members. Each one of them invests a lot in the director's dream and that is something that should be highly appreciated.

When you were in pre-production, did you find yourself watching other great movies in preparation?
I watch one film everyday. I didn't specifically watch films as a preparation of our film, but I find myself learning from other filmmakers everyday.

If a studio said ‘we love this, we love you, you can remake anything in our back catalogue for $40m’ – what film, if any, would you want to remake?
I'd rather work on new stories, original or adaptations instead of re-making someone else's vision. For me it's like remaking an old car into a "new model". It seems odd. However if the film is based on a novel or a story that I find inspiring and a film was already being made upon it, I would consider making my personal film version. For example, I really like "The Outsider" by Camus and I know that Visconti made a film about it in the sixties (that I haven't seen), but if offered I would make this film (not even trying to see Visconti's version).

Two parter – name an actor you'd KILL to work with, and then name an actor in your own film that you really think is destined for great things.
The list of the great actors that I'd be thrilled to work with would be really long, but I also like to discover and work with talented actors that are not big stars. I believe that Marko Kovacevic, the boy that I was working with on "Mirage" could grow up into a really good actor. He is exceptionally talented and has a great cinematic face

The festival circuit: what could be improved? What's been your favorite part of the ride?
Meeting interesting and exceptional people.

Have you ‘made it’ yet? If not, at what point will you be able to say ‘yes’?
When you start feeling like you’ve "made it", you're done with filmmaking and you should try do something else.

A film is made by many people, including the director (of course), but you'll often see movies that open with a credit that says “a film by…” – Did you use that credit in your film? If so, defend yourself! If not, what do you think of those who do?
Yes I did use the convention "a film by..." but certainly not out of vanity. The Director is the person who brings the people together to work on a certain idea and vision from the very beginning to the very end of the process. He/she orchestrates the process to create a vision that is unique and it is his/her responsibility for balancing all the different talents and the chemistry to create the exact style or form.


Mirage, starring Mustafa Nadarevic, Vlado Jovanovski, Dejan Acimovic & Marko Kovachevic, will premiere at the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival. Click here for more information.

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