As the 3rd edition of Papaya Films Original Series approaches, we interview Mario Mlakar – the director of "The Call From Tomorrow". His film was featured in the 2nd season of Papaya Films Original Series.
How did your cooperation with Papaya Original Series start? How did you find out about this project?
Mario Mlakar: Original Series' creative producer, Maruška, just out of nowhere surprised me with an offer to make a film on the topic of curiosity – and it just seemed like a really nice concept to explore. It was also an interesting period in my life after I just turned down three music videos for pretty big local musicians because of inadequate budgets. After waking up one day I told myself “What the hell man, are you waiting for a miracle?”. And then the news of joining the project came. Good times!
You graduated with a degree from electrical engineering. Why did you decide to become a filmmaker? Does this domain have anything to do with making films?
A filmmaker is an engineer of time and light, he uses bits of information to construct a bigger system of meaning. I grew up loving the technology from the youngest age – from Gameboy to Siri. This fascination took me to study at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing in Zagreb. Now I'm trying to incorporate even more of my forgotten engineering brain skills to my films. Thinking analytically and knowing how to organise information helps a lot in the creative process. You know what they say about engineers: they’re problem-solvers. And solving the problems is an immanent aspect of film production. So I never felt that the switch from engineering to filmmaking was abrupt in any way.
Tension is one of the most important aspects of "The Call from Tomorrow". How did you manage to build it in a convincing manner?
I’m glad you feel like that! It was never a conscious intention to have a tense film. I just had a story I really wanted to explore. Projecting my inner feelings, casting the main actor and working with him on his character just naturally created this unnerving feeling that you can experience while watching the film. I think that Mark Mrakovčić, the music composer, also contributed significantly – as well as Tihomir Vrbanec with his astounding sound work. The sound in this film is very important.
Who inspires you? Do you have any movie idols?
I just finished Our Mathematical Universe from Max Tegmark. That stuff blew my mind. But in general, I’m finally diving into ancient philosophy – Greek and Roman. It's wisdom in form of text, meant to equip people with knowledge on how to live a good life. So that's a really good reference for thinking about the film. If the film doesn’t fulfil the above-mentioned task, I’m having trouble perceiving it as something worth pursuing.
I'm a big fan of the directing duo Daniels that I discovered quite early in their career. Also Hiro Murai, Martin de Thurah, Romain Gavras – too many great filmmakers currently in the game to mention all of them. From the industry leaders – Nolan, Aronofsky, Fincher.
What did you learn from Original Series experience?
First movie experience stays with you forever. It's such an intense process, but I really loved it. Working with Papaya Films, Karola (Creative Producer – ed.) and the whole team, it was really nice to be a part of that big family that supports you.
Do you have any advice for young filmmakers?
All these very old pieces of advice actually work! So work hard, learn as much as you can, take care of your health and write a dream journal. Don't think too much about how to imitate someone else’s success. In the end, you’re always carving your own path, so focus on the present tasks as much as possible. And, of course, never give up.
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