The secret to success is being simple

Ivo Felt.


Yesterday, producer Ivo Felt of movies «Tangerines» and «The Fencer» was proclaimed Person of the Year by Postimees.

- You’ve said you just accidentally happened to enter the world of movies. Over these past few years, you have turned into a best presenter of Estonian in the world. See yourself as Estonia’s salesman?

Estonia’s salesman? Not really. But if is so happened, it has been as much an accident as me becoming a filmmaker.

When about to make a movie, one does not think about stuff like that, see. One wants to make a good movie. Sometimes it comes out good, sometimes it doesn’t. And when one then finds that what seems impossible must not necessarily be, it’s nice. But not the engine, primarily.

- Are the Oscar and Golden Globe nominations of «Tangerines» and «The Fencer» a reality because these two are very good movies, or because you are very good?

These are good movies. But it all takes some work...

- You believe a nation can be sold thru the movie screen?

Well it does look like it can a bit, so it seems. Depends, of course, to where and to whom to sell oneself. If the ground is fertile like the West Coast of USA where people watch a lot of movies and know them well, if there you sow this little seed for a moment with some movies which seem to fit there, the question arises: and who are you anyway? And the opportunity to explain who we are anyway!

Again, this is again half-happenstance, as we had no pre-planned Estonia marketing campaign though we might have. But I do not believe in such mathematical calculation in the movie world. I like to come from the artists’ side, not the businessmen side.

- When entrepreneur Peeter Rebane brought Robbie Williams to Estonia and the concert in Tallinn was made into a DVD, he thinks this goes well to sell Estonia. Should we invest more in this?

Sure. Though I question whether we ought to intentionally go the way of entertainment. The Robbie Williams concert was surely a good example and of course it lifted us. With filmmaking, this is a slippery slope.

One cannot just make a product and then go about promoting oneself. There’s too many variables involved. May work, or not. No overall scheme for success in movies.

- But could we make ourselves more attractive as a nation by financially supporting international authors to come film their works here in Estonia?

We can do that and this very year we have come to have some little supportive measure from state budget for foreign films shot in Estonia. So those who come here to spend their money, who use all our services, will afterwards get part of their money back. This is a widely spread scheme in other nations. We are terribly late but at least it gets going gradually.

Meanwhile, our own state financing for movies continues to be small and after the recent successes we might think about it some more.

- Actually the state might get a financial and attention boost by a simple step as has already been discussed: give the next James Bond movie the chance to shoot its opening minutes during Estonia’s Song and Dance Celebration with lots of people gathered for a dramatic opening and the world would see our wealth of traditions.

Jap, this might work. Not a new idea, but quite a costly one as we hear the Bond movie budgets are made up by nations paying for Mr Bond to do his adventures on their soil and they ask a lot of money.

- Which is more Hollywood-like, «Tangerines» or «The Fencer»?

(Laughs.) Both fit rather well. In a way, «The Fencer» is even clearer cut. Can’t tell it it’s good or bad. Sports competitions and economic results are easier to assess than art.   

That our movies have made it thus far in an important spot in global moviemaking does not necessarily mean they are very good. Thus, again – no success formula to make Estonia known with a movie.

- Increasingly, movies are born out of international cooperation. Detect a danger here, a loss of identity?  

Sure there is the danger and at times we have lost the identity, but at times these co-productions do succeed. If the cooperation is purely for technical or financial reasons, I do not believe in them. With «Tangerines» and «The Fencer» as well, there were reasons to cooperate. Not to make money. With both we had a Georgian and a Finn as directors who have actually been talking about Estonians and I do not think our identity is about to get lost here at all.

- When for the first time you were taken to a movie being shot, you were one year old, at it just had to be the local legend «The Last Relic» being born.  Over the years, which Estonian films do you think would be Oscar material?

(Laughs.) Well we see some now! But «The Last Relic» too – why not! Hard to tell. Films do change in time.

- Perhaps some universal one is here to stay? Like «The Spring» by Oskar Luts, say?

Thinking about films which open hearts and win awards, it is actually simple stories that make it. Thus «The Spring» and «The Last Relic» are none the worse indeed. But I really cannot point at any. And the whole Oscar thing should not be overemphasised anyway. But it was really nice to be the Person of the Year by Postimees. That’s to be recognised.

- What would your movie be about, if you had all options and liberties?

I do have all options and liberties! The one big advantage we have is being free as long as we can keep the independence. And while that lasts we are free to do what we wish to do. Just look around – ideas are in the air!