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Victoria Film Festival Interview: THE AMBASSADOR TO BERN director Attila Szasz

The Ambassdor to Bern - At VFF '15!
by Jason Whyte

"THE AMBASSADOR TO BERN is a fictional account of the 1958 attack against the Hungarian embassy in Bern, based on a true story about the aftermath of the 1956 Hungarian revolution." Director Attila Szasz on the film THE AMBASSADOR TO BERN which screens at the 2015 Victoria Film Festival.

Is this your first movie in the Victoria Film Festival, and are you coming to Victoria for the screening?

Yes, this is my first movie in the Victoria Film Festival but unfortunately I will not be able to attend as I am in the middle of editing my next movie.

Tell me a bit about your background and what led you into movies and film festivals.

I always wanted to be a filmmaker. I graduated at the film school in Budapest as a producer, spent a decade as a film critic then moved on to directing commercials. Ten years ago I wrote and directed my first short NOW YOU SEE ME, NOW YOU DON'T which was screened at over 100 film festivals and winning almost 20 awards. THE AMBASSADOR TO BERN is my first feature.

How did this whole project come together from your perspective?

I was trying to get my first feature projects off the ground for many years without any success. Then one day my screenwriter friend Norbert Kobli called me and said that he and his producer were looking for a director for a movie he wrote and were wondering if I might be interested. I told him I was interested in directing ANY movie at that point, so he sent me the script and even if the subject matter of the 1956 Hungarian revolution was as far from my field of interest as possible, I loved the script, because it was extremely tense and full of twists. So I said yes and they applied for production fund. The project won and that was it. We were making a movie!

What was the biggest challenge in making the film? And the most rewarding moment?

The fund which supported the film is backing mostly TV movies, short films, animation and documentaries so the amount we have received was quite limited. It was a period piece taking place in 1958 in Switzerland and the money was enough for only 17 days of shooting. We had to simplify the script, get rid of many amazing scenes and focus on the most important elements. Even doing so, the shooting was amazingly challenging, trying to shoot four to five pages of the script per day, we needed to work at a breakneck pace. At the same time, working with such a talented cast from a first-class material was a blast by all means.

What keeps you going while making a movie? How much coffee?

I never drink coffee. I do not know why but I just don't like it. I am a tea person. On the set I drink more Coke than I would like to, but it is usually the adrenaline that keeps me going. The drive to achieve something great that could entertain people; that's what keeps me going.

I would love to know about the technical side of the film, your relationship to the director of photography, what the movie was shot on and why it was decided to be filmed this way.

We shot on RED, partly because of budgetary reasons and also because my cinematographer Andras Nagy felt we can achieve a more raw and cinematic look with Red than with Arri Alexa. As the story was based on a true event we opted for a handheld, documentary feel for most of the film as opposed to a very polished look. I have been working with Andras for many years now on commercials, so I trust him absolutely. I bring my shot list, he adds his ideas, and the final result is a complete collaboration. He is one of the best cinematographers in Hungary and I am pretty lucky to be able to work with him. Without his approach and routine we would not have had the chance to finish in 17 days.

I would love to hear about the journey this movie has had on the fest circuit, and the plans you have for the movie after it plays in Victoria.

The film premiered internationally at the Montreal World Film Festival last August where we even won a Bronze Zenith Award in the First Fiction Feature competition. After that we have received invitations from another 15-20 festivals so far and won six awards, so it is going pretty well. We are waiting many more responses from different festivals, so hopefully the film will have a nice run this year as well.

The film came out on DVD in Hungary and we're curious to find out if it can be sold internationally. As the story deals with a little-known episode of the Hungarian history, it is not an easy sell in other countries, even if the audience responses were great all over the world from India to Alaska.

What would you say or do to someone who is talking or texting during a screening of your film in a cinema?

I am pretty much immersed in every movie I watch in a cinema, so I probably would not notice, but all I can say to anyone who does not pay full attention to a movie: it is totally their loss. Especially in case of my film, of course.

There are a lot filmmakers, especially up-and-comers, reading our site. I was curious if you had any advice to aspiring filmmakers?

An important bit of advice that I have learnt by making this mistake myself: don't wait for the perfect first movie. If a project doesn't want to happen, find another one. The most important thing is to get your first film done. If you are good enough, it will be noticed and you will have a chance to get back to those projects that did not happen before, or you will find better ones. Do not wait too long.

And finally, what would you say is your favorite movie?

The last movie I saw in a theatre was BIRDMAN. It blew my mind. Not just the technical wizardry, but the quality of the acting in that film that amazed me the most.From the last couple of years my favorite movie of the festival circuits was THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN. It made my cry, for which I'm always eternally grateful.

For additional information on the Victoria Film Festival including screening times, ticketing information and other events happening around the city in the next ten days, point your browser to www.victoriafilmfestival.com.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @jasonwhyte for live updates throughout the fest including Instagram updates, commentary and links to upcoming interviews and coverage. If you see me in line, please say hi!

Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com

link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=3738
originally posted: 02/08/15 11:44:28
last updated: 02/12/15 15:39:53
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