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Movie Artisans Share Insights at Variety Event in Karlovy Vary

Panel included d.p. Matthias Grunsky, editor Jana Vlckova, sound mixer Jonas Maksvytis

Treating digital media like film and loving the movie more than the director were just two of the insights offered by three creative professionals interviewed Tuesday at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival as part of Variety’s Artisans in Focus series.

Led by Peter Caranicas, Variety’s managing editor, features, the panel’s second edition expanded its survey of below-the-line film professionals, exploring the processes and approaches of three in-demand technicians from Central and Eastern Europe: cinematographer Matthias Grunsky, who lensed Karlovy Vary movie “Support the Girls” (pictured), editor Jana Vlckova, who has “Bear with Us” and “Winter Flies” in the festival, and sound designer Jonas Maksvytis, who worked on Karlovy Vary’s “Jumpman.”

The event, run in partnership with Barrandov Studio and Czech Anglo Productions, drew an audience of film veterans to the balcony terrace at the Hotel Thermal, where talks kicked off with a screening of Grunsky’s work on films including Andrew Bujalski’s “Computer Chess,” “Results” and “Support the Girls.”

Asked about their working relationships with directors, Vlckova said the long hours sitting beside the filmmaker in the editing suite involve intensive input from both sides. “I have to feel like a partner,” adding, “That’s why we become friends or we don’t work.”

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Maksvytis agreed, though noted that sound designers generally enter the film process only in the latter stages, while cinematographers and editors usually read the scripts early on.

On the subject of contact and communication with actors, Grunsky pointed out that cinematographers are often the first person a performer looks to after “cut” is called. “They are showing their inner soul,” he said, noting that he feels obliged to offer encouragement, especially when cranes or other heavy equipment are invading the intimacy of a scene. “I think they need that,” he said.

During post production editors are so immersed in the nuances of actors’ faces, voices and gestures, said Vlckova, that she feels she knows them intimately – although the actors never seem to feel the same way. It is not necessary to like the director but you do need to “fall in love with the picture,” she said.

The session also surveyed the three on the future of filmmaking as the digital revolution and advent of streaming transform the industry. “I hate to think of shooting for an iPhone,” Grunsky confessed, though all readily admitted filmmakers must expect their work to be seen or heard on whatever device or screen is most convenient to viewers. Vlckova said an editor must consider the size of the screen where a film will be viewed, noting that quick cuts and movements may look fine on a tablet but not in a cinema hall.

Nor should filmmakers become too enamored with the highest resolution or newest camera technology, Grunsky said, pointing out that a good cinematographer will never ask first what gear is being rented. Instead they’ll want to hear what the film is about, then base the camera choice on what will best tell that story.

“There’s too much talk about technology,” he posited. Vlckova said she feels gratified that films she works on are seen, whatever the medium the viewer prefers.

The panel series sets out to spotlight “the brilliant individuals who create the images and sounds that form the magic of movies,” featuring insights from internationally recognized creatives fields including cinematography, production and costume design and editing – and exploring how artisans work with directors, producers and actors.

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