THIS WEEK IN NYC 
 
 

 MANHATTAN CHRONICLES INTERVIEW
AN INDIE FILM MAKING SUCCESS STORY: DARKO LUNGUNOV
 
MC:       What happened to your movie, "Here and There" after you won the Tribeca Film Festival Award?
 
After wining the Tribeca Festival Here and There won a total of 16 international awards, most notably: the Award for Best Directing at Geneva Cinéma Tout Ecran; Best Director of Foreign Film Award at Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival; SONY-D award at Skip City festival, Japan,*Best Foreign Film Award at Orlando International Festival, USA, Variety Critics Choice Karlovy Vary 2009  and many others.

Film Critics International Federation in Serbia (FIPRESCI) elected me for Best Director in 2009 and HERE AND THERE was voted by Serbian Film Academy for the Oscar candidate from Serbia for Foreign language film.

Here andThere is currently in theaters in Switzerland and Hungary.  It is also picked up for distribution in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Turkey, South Korea, Bosnia and Macedonia  -  a total of 15 territories sold, so far.
 
MC: How did the US distribution go? 
 
USA theatrical distribution went extremely well, especially after great reviews form Holywood Reporter, LA Times, Village Voice and NY Times.  From mid-May until September, Here&There played in 24 US cities, playing for week or 2 weeks in each theater. Later on, Here and There came out on DVD in the USA  and on February 25th comes out on on Blue Ray & DVD in GERMANY!

Most recently Here  and There was picked up by the ShowTime - USA film channel and it will air on June 30th.  In the USA Lightyear and E1 are doing our DVD and TV rights distribution and the theatrical distribution was done throughout art-house distributor Cinema Purgatorio.  Producer George Lekovic and myself together with Balkan Brass band form NY - “Zlatne uste” we guerilla-promoted our NYC theatrical premiere. (See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNhclZTVal4) with the help of David Thornton and Cyndy Lauper.

I also used a “crowd-funding” platform RocketHub, to raise the funds for the US release. I launched Bring Here and There to American art-house theaters Campaign. It went spectacular! In return for rewards such as tickets for the premiere or T-shirts and signed posters or even trip to Belgrade with me as tour guide, funs were contributing money. It funded some of the PR expenses and made a huge difference, and at the same time I sold some tickets in advance.  And after this experience I even become involved with RocketHub as Director of development!

MC:      How can an independent filmmaker secure wide release today?

DL: I think the key is involving the producers and distributers early on in the development stage, so they have vested interest in distributing the film and seeing it perform to the optimum. Participation and getting awards in the festivals helps. Finding a good distributor who believes in your film is crucial. One can go about it by attending A-list festivals, preferably Cannes, Tribeca , Toronto, Sundance, which are also great film markets and expose yourself and your film or your project in development to the industry. It may not work right away, but it’s worth it in a long run.

MC:     What advice do you have for any young filmmaker trying his or her first film?

Story, story, story. That is the most important ingredient that will drive you through the  hell called “Making the Film”. If you have the passion for that particular story you will find the strength to tell it and come throughout anything.

MC:        Tell us about your next film, "Monument to Michael Jackson"?

Marko, a middle-aged optimistic daydreamer, has a simple plan - to breathe life back into his dying Serbian hometown by building a monument to Michael Jackson. This film will be a dark comedy with characteristically Balkan humor -- sarcastic, sharp, at times dry and at the other times outrageous and hilarious. This will be balanced with warm, human story elements, such as the need for heroes and the ability to dream the craziest dreams and make them come true at any cost.

Inspired by Michael Jackson’s comeback tour, Marko gets the idea to erect a monument to the pop idol in a bid to draw media attention to his dying town. The idea attracts both enthusiastic support and violent opposition.  A group of colorful outsiders gather to help Marko build his monument. They are Jelena, a terminally ill girl in a wheelchair and huge Michael Jackson fan; her father conservative sebum orthodox priest is reluctantly following her; Doki, a Gypsy, who makes his living recycling scrap metal and who wants to contribute to the monument of his “Gypsy” Michael;  Goran, an aspiring amateur-sculptor in his fifties, and Dusan, a military pilot on the brink of losing his job due to the army’s transition into professionalization. Against all odds, the group successfully completes the sculpture, working secretly in a hangar of Dusan’s semi-abandoned military airport. However, under the pressure from the right-wing group “Clean Serbia”, Dragan, the major of the town, suddenly revokes the monument’s permit...

“Monument to Michael Jackson” was awarded project-development funding under the MEDIA (EU) program and a production grant from the City of Belgrade Film Fund. It was nominated for Balkan Fund Script development Award at 50th International Thesaloniki Film Festival in Greece and selected to CineLink program of Sarajevo Film Festival. This project will be developed during year-long EAVE 2011 (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs) program for talented European producers. It was awarded a development grant from SEE Cinema Network from Greece.

MC:  Thank you Darko and good luck with your next project. 
 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Watch Here and There on SHOWTIME Women on June 30th at 4 PM.