Coke. Champagne. and Cigarettes. is the first feature film of the award winning and promising international director Mariana Jukica. EWA was able to interview the inspiring director on her projects, philosophies on youth, and take on Berlin. By Sarah Hurtes
“At age 27, MIA is forced to abandon her hopes and dreams at a dance career, as well as her toxic relationship while alone in a foreign city. KEKS, 29, is a German local DJ who is afraid to settle down with her boyfriend, finally getting closer to realizing her dream. IAN, 30, a narcissistic ‘video-performance-artist’ is for the first time in his life being turned down, and he doesn’t know how to deal with it. Over the course of one long Berlin night, these three storylines weave into one another, unfolding veil after veil the complex personalities of a generation each seeking their own happiness while at the same time pushing that very thing away.”
You just finished shooting “Coke. Champagne. and Cigarettes”. How did that go?
The shooting was great! Although we still have a couple scenes left to shoot in spring, we are now 99.5% shot! It’s obviously a big project and at times quite difficult to direct and produce. There’s about 30 something cast, a ridiculous amount of extras, I don’t know how many locations all in Berlin with over 50 team members. It started out as two blocks but it now became a five blocks project where we need to keep the momentum for everybody for over a year with pre-production, production and post-production cycles. It’s one of those things, where two years ago we thought - we can just run around and do this. But obviously that’s not the case at all because the script is so detailed and intricate. I don’t want to just take a camera run around and shoot it. It naturally became much more complicated, and also much more fun.
How did you select the cast? I saw you have some pretty big names playing the lead characters!
I had an amazing casting director, her name is Lisa Stutzky. The casting selection took over a year due to the cast being so huge, and us having the time to do so. When it’s an international ensemble cast, it makes sense to build it one by one. The “Ian” character was the last casted of the three main characters. He was the most difficult to cast since he’s such a special character in a way that if you had to choose a ‘bad guy’ in the movie, it would be him. He is played by Russian actor Vladimir Burlakov, who transformed the character into something even more amazing then how I had imagined Ian to be. But, this happened with all of the cast. They all brought such passion and life to their roles, and fit to them perfectly. Actually, the casting process also seemed to almost happen in order of character creation. Keks, was the first, and also she was cast first, played by Henrike von Kuick. However, with all three main actors, Vladimir, Henrike, and Lucie Aron who plays Mia, I knew upon the first meeting, that they were perfect for the part. It’s an unexplainable feeling when you see one of your babies come to life that way, and just know, yes, it’s this person. You are it. It’s amazing.
The feature seems to focus on three characters whose life unravels not as they planned it. Do you feel like Berlin’s youth is part of a lost generation?
Definitely. At least, a portion of it. The story started evolving as I moved to Berlin, observing the people here and building one character at a time, and then it made sense to combine them all in one story. To a certain extent, I am inspired by everyone that I meet, and there is also a lot of me in the characters. It becomes quite personal. It’s also a story that characterises Berlin in itself, Berlin is another character of its own in the movie. But at the same time, anyone in their twenties, thirties, as well as early fourties, can relate to what the characters are going through because it touches on various existential problems we all go through at a certain time in our lives: “What am I doing with my life? Am I doing the right thing? Why am I here? Is this person right for me?”
Did you ever feel like you were close to losing yourself in Berlin?
Not really, but I’ve seen a lot of people do it. I am too much of a structured workaholic for that.
When do you think we’ll be able to watch the movie?
It should be finished in a year. We still have to get the money to finish shooting Block 5 and for the post production. I don’t know maybe I can pick it off the trees. Money grows on trees right? Anyway that’s what I believe!
Any favourites between coke, champagne, or cigarettes?
You were awarded best short in Sydney for your film “Bruises. Cake. & Cigarettes” which I found very hypnotic and striking, as well as very grim. What is your take on the story?
It actually started as a Facebook status from the lead actress in the movie. She’s a Canadian dancer who moved to Berlin some time ago. When I saw what she wrote on her wall, it somehow inspired me, I thought it was a very cool association of random words, and this whole visual narrative came to my mind. I wanted to make a visual excerpt of someone’s life. I was also really new to Berlin back then and was inspired by my strange walks home. Inspired by the quiet of the night, the sounds, and the atmosphere. It’s funny because having recently been to Amsterdam for EWA’s workshop, the one thing that I take from that city are the sounds heard in the train stations. Sounds definitely influence my work to a big extent. For “Bruises, Cake & Cigarettes” because it’s really heavy on sound design, I just remember sitting in my room during the night time in Berlin and hearing some strange noises outside, and then just these calming sounds of the night.
What about the bruises in the movie, where do they come from?
It’s up to you to create your own story of where you think they came from, and what they mean. The main character is supposed to be a theatre actress who had an opening night that didn’t go so well. Something went wrong…
It seems like your movies have generally quite a dark look to them, what attracts you to that style?
I love dark movies, my favourite film being “Irréversible” by Gaspar Noé. I also love “Requiem for a Dream” and “Black Swan” by Darren Aronofsky – these two are amongst my favourite directors. I just love dark movies. People sometimes ask me why can’t I write something funny but that’s not what I am interested in, or what inspires me to work. I am very much interested in writing about real life and all of the small things and moments within it. I can’t foresee in my near future writing something like a period film, or sci-fi. I basically write what I know.
Any ideas for your next movie?
You were born near Toronto but your parents are from Croatia and you’ve now lived in Germany for some time. Do you consider yourself Canadian or do you also see certain elements of your personality that are Croatian and even German?
Here I always introduce myself as Canadian. Though when I was in Canada I always introduced myself as Croatian! In Berlin I feel strange doing that because English is my first language. So I introduce myself as Canadian. But now, there are definitely parts of me that I identify with as German. With Croatia, maybe that’s where the dark stories comes from because Balkan history and stories are quite dark. As for Canada, I lived there for 27 years so I definitely identify with it and yet when I went back for Christmas last year I felt like a stranger. It felt like another world. I love Berlin for now and want to stay there.
You talked of attending EWA trainings. You’ve been an EWA member since quite some time now. Do you feel like it helps in your work?
Absolutely. With EWA it feels like there is a much tailored personal approach toward helping you in moving forward with your projects and ideas. I am not really a part of other networks. I feel like with EWA, you get to know each other through the workshops. I wish I did that Glasgow workshop, Multiple Revenue Stream Training For Future Films sooner, because I learned a lot about audience building, online marketing and crowdfunding. I realized how much is possible, but also how much time is required in advance of crowdfunding. I will definitely take that knowledge with me further along on this project as well as future projects.