top 10 2022

In a world devastated by war, Peter finds a long-forgotten sense of happiness in form of an unexpected friendship with damaged robot named Neven

As a result of the War, Peter lost everything he loved at very young age. In a world devastated by war, there is little hope left for him. The world is very dangerous place, full of out-of-control war machines. In all this darkness, Peter finds a long-forgotten sense of happiness in form of an unexpected friendship with damaged robot named Neven (Croatian name meaning ‘everlasting’. Story chronologically starts and ends at the same place / with shot of the tree, hence the palindrome name/title). At the end of the story, Peter comes to terms with loss of his family and hopes for better future.

However hard times you are going through, just hold up and never give up.

One of main themes of the film is exploration of what it means to go on living when there seems to be no road ahead. Its about our relationship with nature and technology, as well as human inability to learn from its history. Film tells story about things that do not exist but illuminate things that are. Story, about characters overcoming demons, leaving all bad experiences of life behind and trying to find new light in the darkness.

Can you tell us what inspired you to bring this story to life?

When I write I usually write about my own emotions. Emotions are real, the world and setting are fictional. I was going through tough times in my life and was in need of hope so I decided to create a story about a boy that loses everything and finds light in darkest times.

The film has a particular slower-paced tone for the most part, atypical from Sci-Fi films. Did you have any doubts or fears in creating such a narrative?

Definitely. We were lucky to travel and be able to have the film in some movie theatres, I think audiences there are more patient. Since we always planned it for online release, I was worried if it was too long or slow for audiences. Also if we will be able to catch their interest. At the end of the day it felt right for the story we were telling. Try to immerse the audience into this world this way.

How did you find your cast for ‘Neven’, particularly in your lead Peter?

I discovered Peter when I was looking for actors for my previous project. I was amazed by him when I saw their play (City theatre – Theater from Passage). Actors with down syndrome do art with pure love. They don’t plan to be famous, this artform is everything for them. I really wanted to do a project with him and that’s how Neven started. Not with script or idea but with this actor. I really wanted Peter to see himself on a big screen with audiences. I’m not sure if he will ever get more opportunities to act in films like this, so I’m really happy that we could pull this project off. Memories from this production will last.

Tell us about your process with such a highly graphical film. Did you stick to your storyboard frame to frame? Did you leave any room to improvisation?

Yes, I storyboarded and did previz for every scene myself. You need to be prepared 100% to be able to improvise. Also with actors like Peter, you can be sure there will be a lot of improvisations. Its good that I could be writer/director/vfx supervisor at the same time, so I could change things quickly and be sure that they will still work. Hardest was the action scene towards the end of the film. That was the first thing we filmed, I always like to start with the hardest scenes. When we started filming I was really afraid, because I still didn’t know if it would work with Peter. If he is going to be able to film action scenes like this and if we could film such heavy vfx scenes with him. He had years of theater experiences but none with fiction films. I was so happy when I saw that Peter was able to do all the acting and action needed.

What has this film taught you about filmmaking?

Especially working with Peter taught me problem solving on another level. We needed to change the way production will go, because you have only 4 hours with Peter – he will run out of energy. Also, since we didn’t have a budget some of the scenes needed to be shot in less than 6 hours. We had a lot of restrictions and that will make you think and change a lot of things. One of the jobs of a director is to solve a lot of problems on set and after this I feel more confident at that.

Do you have any tips or advice to offer fellow filmmakers?

I always tell to myself – films that are easy to make are hard to watch. In order to grow and learn, we (filmmakers) need to make every new project more and more challenging and scary to pull off. With this one, it was no budget film made during covid with an actor with down syndrome and 200+ vfx shots done by one person – I was sh*tting my pants. It might take a long time, might be scary and hard, but it will be worth it. Believe me. So never stop pushing yourself.

What do you hope people will take away from Neven?

I hope I will give them an exciting movie experience, make them think about relationships between us/technology and nature, and most importantly inspire them to create. Look how much we can do with no resources. It’s no longer “how” to make a film, but about “what” to make a film. And we can all do that now, it’s very exciting.

What are your favorite films?

One of my favorites that I watched lately over and over again is Dr. Strangelove. There is a big list of course, but if I could recommend one this is it.

What are your favorite short films?

Visually I absolutely love the realism of Neill Blomkamp films. I was so inspired to see an A-list director to go and make a series of short films. I watched them over and over again. My favorite one out of OATS series is Firebase (Watch on FS).

Which films you can say directly inspired this film?

I would say works of Guillermo del Toro, Gareth Edwards and Neill Blomkamps. With this one I didn’t get inspired by specific films honestly, like I did in the past. I feel like this one was the first one I did that is purely my “vision”. All the inspirations were subconscious. Story popped in my head with visuals and I just tried to capture them the best way I could. But of course we get inspired by all art we consume throughout our lives.