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Interview With Milan Todorovic Director Of Nymph
By James Whittington, Sunday 24th August 2014
There's a strong creature feature theme at FrightFest this year with plenty of beasts clambering out of the darkness to frighten the wits out of us.
One of the more original movie is Nymph which is showing tomorrow on the main screens. We've had a quick chat with the film's director Milan Todorovic to talk about this much talked about movie and his plans for the future film making.
HC: There’s a bit of a gap between your first feature Apocalypse Of The Dead and Nymph, why was that?
MT: It’s always hard to make an independent movie. But when you live in Serbia it’s like 100 times harder. No one believes in genre films, funds or state does not support it, and for a newcomer directors – it’s hard as hell, even if you are making social drama or comedy. I was developing a few projects, trying hard to make them, but had not enough luck with them. Eventually I made a teaser for sequel for Apocalypse of the Dead, and about the same time – Nymph happened!
HC: How did Nymph come about?
MT: Last year in Cannes I was with my producer Marko Jocic and we were trying to find investors for Apocalypse of the Dead sequel when we realized that the project is too complex, and by the time we make the teaser and raise enough funds – the year would pass and we won’t have a movie. So we agreed to make another movie in the meantime, like a really low budget, micro budget movie, for like a two weeks of shooting. Marko suggested we do a movie based on a synopsis he already got from fellow director Marko Backovic, about a mermaid trapped on Mamula island in Montenegro. I loved the idea. I loved that island, and always dreamt of using it as a location, and there are no many movies with mermaids. So I felt it may be an interesting project. We ended up shooting it 16 days on beautiful locations in Montenegro, and I am very happy with the final product. It looks good and it’s one entertaining flick!
HC: Why did you choose Barry Keating as co-writer?
MT: Barry and I met a few years ago on a festival in Orvieto, Italy. He liked Apocalypse of the Dead and pitched some ideas for the potential sequel. I liked his approach and style so I thought he could be the perfect choice to do the screenplay for Wrath of the Dead. And I was right! He made a fantastic script, and I since we are of the same age and like same stuff, comics and movies, we were on the same page throughout the whole process. So, when the time was to have someone to work on Nymph, he was the logical choice. He co-wrote it together with Milan Konjevic, who wrote and co-directed Apocalypse of the Dead.
HC: Did the script take long to put together?
MT: Since the moment we accepted the idea to do this movie, when we had only some short synopsis until actual filming – it was around three months. So the entire movie was developed, prepared and written in around three months.
HC: How did you go about casting the movie?
MT: Kristina Klebe was first to be approached. She was lead actress in Apocalypse of the Dead, and I really love her work. Since Apocalypse she made some fantastic roles. Also, she’s a good friend of mine. So we asked her to be in a movie, and we didn’t even had a script at the moment. But she liked the idea and said –Yes! (also – the beautiful location helped her decide) After she said yes – the lead character was written with her in mind.
Similar thing was with Natalie Burn, who I have met a few weeks before in Cannes. I saw some of her previous work and thought she would be great for the role. Also, I came to her birthday party in Cannes, and didn’t have any gift for her, so I told her she would be in my next movie. It sounded like a joke, but in the end – it wasn’t. We also had made a character for some special guest star. Since I was invited to Grossmann festival to be in the jury and Franco Nero was getting a life achievement award there, I told writers to make the character especially for him. He was a little bit skeptical about the role and he thought it would be just a meaningless cameo, but I have explained him that his character IS the leading role. He’s not on the screen all the time, but it’s the most important character in the movie. He eventually suggested a lot of changes to his character but it was all better than we originally imagined. And he insisted to be involved in the action finale with more things to do. Which was great. He did more than asked for and helped us a lot. Working with Franco Nero was one of the best things ever. He is a great man and an amazing actor. I hope we’ll do more movies together.
HC: How did you choose the locations and was it a tough shoot?
MT: The location choose us! As I said, the screenplay was written based on the locations. It is an unique fortress in the world, with that circle shape on such a small island. There was a concentration camp on the island, and there is a movie from 50s called Mamula Camp that is about that period. And it was really a tough shoot. Locations were dangerous, remoted... Weather was not always nice. We had storms, winds, rain, power failure, a lot of injuries... even our boat got on fire one night while we were returning from the island. It was an adventure!
HC: Did your budget restrict you at all?
MT: Well, yes. A lot of things had to be cut out or changed in order to make everything. The movie was conceived for the small budget, but filming on sea is not something you can predict easily. But everybody gave their heart into making it, both cast and crew, so I think the budget restriction is not something that damaged the movie in the end.
HC: Nymph is billed as the first Serbian creature feature, do you think it will open the gates for more?
MT: I hope so. But I am not sure. I thought Apocalypse of the Dead, as first Serbian zombie movie, would open gates for more horror movie, but it didn’t happen. Although, Nymph was eventually supported by the Serbian Film Center (Government Fund), which is a next step in recognition genre films as part of national cinema and maybe pushing them more. As genre films get to wider audience and more people will start paying attention to films that come from Serbia. A lot of talent in Serbia that loves genre movies. I hope examples of Nymph and Apocalypse of the Dead will give them courage to try to make them.
HC: Are you nervous that Nymph is playing at FrightFest?
MT: Of course. They were the first ones to see finished film. I have sent it to them as soon as I had the screener. And I was so nervous. But I got reply like two hours later from them saying they liked it and it’s in! Hope the audience will like it too. It is a movie made from a film fan to film fans. And the main goal is to get audience entertained for 90mins. Hope they will enjoy it.
HC: How hard is it for a film director in Serbia and what did you think of the controversial movie A Serbian Film?
MT: It is very hard for film directors in Serbia, especially the younger ones. Movies depend a lot on Government fund help so it is a war in trenches to get some funds. If you make genre film – it’s much much harder. But, my producer Marko Jocic and I made Nymph under concept we believe it can work. We are hoping to produce another movie by the end of the year under the same concept. Also, with the support we got for Nymph, there is a chance that Serbia is opening for genre films. Everywhere I went – from USA to Korea – people usually know about three movies from Serbia (not only genre geeks, but common people in general) – Apocalypse of the Dead and A Serbian Film. It says a lot, I think. As for A Serbian Film – I think it is a well done thriller, and I just didn’t like too explicit ending. I believe it would be even more frightening if it had left us imagining details.
HC: So what are you working on next?
MT: A lot of things. Some projects only as a producer. As for my next director’s thing, it would be either Wrath of the Dead (finally), or some other project I am talking to Franco Nero to do it together. It would be like a Death Wish meets Taken crime action flick. Also, a lot of people is talking and asking about Nymph 2. Kristina Klebe is interested in doing it. Franco too. So if it goes well on the market I see no reason not to do it. I already have some great ideas for that.
HC: Milan Todorovic, thank you very much
MT: Thank you!!
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