A person that makes books alive in its movies
Many screenwriters and producers want to know who can become a potential sponsor for their production, what the optimum cost of the movie is and what the peculiarities in the international coproduction are. Searching for the answers we interviewed a very interesting and multi-sided person Luca Amberg – film director, screenwriter and producer who also performs as Amberg Filmes – the company, which was founded to make multicultural feature films, that will reach the audiences all over the world. He agreed to tell us about the trends in the film industry, his experience, plans for future and gave also practical recommendations for the young talents.
1. Turning books into movies, what is so attractive about it for you? Why this and not something else?
A great novel with well-developed characters interacting in a compelling plot is tempting. If I get emotionally involved as I read, I better translate those emotions to the screen, because filmgoers reason about it through the show and after it’s over, usually in response to a variety of emotional reaction. I have made three feature films from book adaptations but I have also written two original screenplays. I feel confortable writing about anything that is moved by passion.
2. How difficult is it to write a screenplay based on a book? Is it mandatory to show the whole story from the book on the screen or is it enough just to take the main characters? How do you decide what works best in each case?
They’re two different trips, each with its own value. I prefer to write scripts considering film viewers in mind; it is pleasant to entertain an audience. The readers make their own film in their minds, I dictate a film direction as I option the events that I want to use in my narrative. Yes, I choose a different approach that fits better on a film narrative structure. In a picture, I usually develop two main characters or forces leading opposite sides of the plot plus a few supporting allies on each side promoting a main conflict. A reader develops her own image in her mind, which can be some kind different from others. I must re-create those pages into a broader sense of imagination if my film aims to involve also those that never read the book, and that’s the main challenge.
3. The “evil with a good heart” archetype has become very popular lately. In your opinion, what does the audience want to see today? To which problems and emotions do modern people relate the most readily?
Evil with a good heart has been around since always. If you read the Old Testament, The Ancient Greek Tragedies, Shakespeare or Joseph Campbell’s work, you’ll find those elements in every one of them. Modern audience is the one in vogue. Generations change through social cycles, some sooner than others. The dramatic elements just change their costumes but in their essence, they just revolve through time. I admire artists that have sensibility to catch the moment of transition before it becomes fashion. Movie audiences seek to see a good story on the screen, if it is told in a different manner and it is entertaining, bingo.
4. You are engaged in international co-production. Tell us, please, about the projects that have already been implemented at the international cooperation level.
I’ve been involved in international coproduction since my Super-8-shorts at USC Film School. I love to cross the borders and exchange creative ideas with other cultures. In my first feature film, through the influence of a Morocco-US-Israeli producer, I decided to cast Elliott Gould and Talia Shire and then shoot the entire film in Portuguese and English languages. My crew was a mixture of Professionals from Brazil, Argentina, United States, England and Israel. My newest film, in coproduction with FOX/WARNER/Brazil, is based on a Brazilian chick lit novel that has been published in Brazil, Portugal, Spain and soon it will be published in Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia through BOOK-CLUB (bookclub.ua). It is rare a Brazilian romance travel that far unless you read about capoeira, soccer or Paulo Coelho’s novels. The story is a romantic comedy via cell phone time travel, in which the whole second act happens in 1830’s. The protagonist is son of an English family and his friends and neighbors are also European immigrants to Brazil’s New Empire. I’m looking for international coproduction because the theme appeals to universal audience.
5. What basic terms are generally involved in international co-production? From the script writing to the product promotion and profit splitting.
Good business happens when all parties involved win. LOST SOFIA has almost half of the budget financed by Fox/Warner in Brazil, and I agreed to find completion funds through new partners. The fact that the novel is going to hit the market in Ukraine, Russia and Belorussia motivates an international coproduction with any of them. Mixed casting, co-financing, postproduction and territory rights can be part of the agreement. Profit splitting is negotiable usually based on the amount of budget financed.
6. What is the most difficult about international cooperation? What issues should future partners take into account in the first place?
In my opinion, most important is to clear all aspects of the coproduction relationship between the parties and then register them in an official agreement, in which all parts involved aim the best for the project.
7. Who can become a potential sponsor for movie production? Where do you think one should look for investors?
Film investors can be found anywhere; we have to keep searching for them and be ready to offer a picture that will attract their interest to invest and get some kind of a reasonable profit.
8. In your opinion, what optimum movie cost is justifiable in our days? As for movies for theatrical release (we are currently speaking about an average production studio, not Hollywood). Could you, perhaps, give some examples for different regions?
I think it depends mainly on your cast, crew and locations. An internationally known actor might cost almost half of a low budget film. A budget based on locations can be relative because its cost in Europe is different than shooting it in Brazil, for example. A three million dollars picture can be a low budget in France but a wealthy budget in Argentina. I think every region has a unique budget range limit to be considered by the producers.
9. Luca, could you please give some advice to young aspiring screenwriters? Which production companies should they address with their scripts? Is there any guarantee that their application will be reviewed? Also, what should they include into such application, and what set of documents is necessary? (screenwriters are usually private individuals)
Using common sense, beginners can write shorts and shop around in film schools, short film communities in the web, Fests, etc., and as they write their first feature try to participate in script contest through festivals, they can get a vast list of them at withoutabox.com; it’s a compelling quest because writing is one of the top positions in the film business so, it’s very competitive. But if the writer feels confident about her writing, just follow her instincts and try to meet producers, directors or an agent (signatory agency list wga.org), and keep writing, the more options a writer can offer, the better are the chances to get one produced and hopefully it’s her best one.
10. What are your plans for this year? With which countries would you like to cooperate and why?
My main goal at the moment is to make Lost Sofia reach the screen. It’s a universal themed picture that can conquer exceptional response in the market and become a profitable film. I’d love to work with any country that is interested in making this show happen, but the fact the novel will be published in Ukraine, Russian and Belorussian motivates a nice possibility of coproduction between our countries.