FNE Interview with North Macedonia Film Agency Managing Director Bojan Lazarevski


    SKOPJE: FNE spoke with the new Managing Director of the North Macedonia Film Agency on his appointment and his priorities for the Macedonian film industry.

    Bojan LazarevskiFNE: You`ve been recently appointed as managing director of the North Macedonia Film Agency. What will your main focus/priorities be in the upcoming period? 

    Bojan Lazarevski: Fortunately, I was already familiar with the work of the Film Agency as a member of the Management Board in the last three years. So, I am aware of the circumstances brought upon filmmaking in one of the hardest and most challenging years that we faced both as an industry and as humanity.

    The cancellation of film festivals and cinema screenings, the difficulties and challenges in filming are all a huge handicap for the film industry. However, Macedonian film, which everyone should be proud of, was regularly present at the largest and most prestigious film festivals (Macedonian films were present at over 220 festivals) and won numerous awards and prizes (59 international awards).

    Maintaining and encouraging this productive and quality run of Macedonian film is a priority in my mandate along with establishing and assuring the standard of the Macedonian new film wave, which consists of debuts and young filmmakers, who are well-educated and are becoming very distinctive. I also want to raise the question of the status of a film worker, which is very weak. 

    FNE: It was announced that the 2021 budget for the film industry will be cut by 30% compared to 2020. What kind of economic savings will you have to make regarding production/coproduction funding?

    Bojan Lazarevski: When Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding in favour of the war effort, he simply replied, “Then what are we fighting for?” Film is our best cultural ambassador, and it is a complex art, which remains a national landmark of the time and circumstances in which we live. The budget of the Agency has been seriously reduced on two occasions, but despite the difficulties we face, the primary activities of the Agency are running smoothly, aimed at providing continuous support to the production of films of national interest in the film industry, international coproductions, care for the promotion of professional staff, etc.

    What I will advocate for, first and foremost, is to increase the budget of the Film Agency, as the only institution of its kind in the country, for support and development of the film industry, and in the meantime, I will make an effort to bring out the best possible economical outcome, so that the 2021 calls for applications run without disruptions.

    FNE: Three domestic feature films were already shot under the safety guidelines for filming during the pandemic in the past year. How many films are planning to go into production in the upcoming period and how much are the protocols affecting the schedule of the production?

    Bojan Lazarevski: Last year, the Film Agency, in co-operation with the Macedonian Film Professionals' Association, drafted a protocol for filming during COVID-19. This followed after months of film inactivity caused by the pandemic, which affected the film industry globally.

    Regarding the majority productions, the first film shot under the new protocol was Eleonora Veninova`s debut feature Sabattier Effect produced by DNF Films, followed by Goce Cvetanovski's debut feature The Day of the Woman produced by Makedonska Krepost, and Darijan Pejovski's feature Mimi produced by Skopje Film Studio.

    At the moment there is an ongoing shooting of the short film North Pole written and directed by Marija Apchevska, produced by Kino Oko, as well as an announcement for the shooting of Maybe directed by Kastriot Abdyli, produced by Dardania Film.

    The far-reaching effects of the lockdown and inactivity are difficult to predict, and the production disruption has obviously affected both the art and technical teams involved in the projects as well as the service providers. Therefore, the Film Agency, following the example of other European countries and film institutions, decided to provide security, technical and organisational measures that would allow producers to restart productions. As each project and each shooting is different, although the safety regulations listed in the protocols are very detailed and vary in different European countries, it is necessary to establish specific measures based on risk assessment before the start of activities. 

    FNE: Do you already have any announcements for foreign film productions to shoot in North Macedonia in 2021, given the fact that the North Macedonia Film Agency was focused on boosting the country’s film production tax incentive, increasing it from 20% to 30%, as an effective measure to bring about significant benefits to the national film industry and the economy?

    Bojan Lazarevski: We offer favourable conditions for attracting foreign productions, among other things by encouraging investments in film or TV projects by applying the measure of cash rebate, which is currently 20% of the gross costs incurred in the Republic of North Macedonia for the realisation of a film or TV project. We are negotiating to increase this amount to 30% in order to attract a larger number of foreign productions into the country.

    Studies show that the benefits of these measures have a multifaceted effect and massive impact, by stimulating the state economy and creating new jobs.

    The film industry is still in the process of revitalisation, and I believe that soon things will fall into place and again we can expect announcements for filming in our country.

    FNE: Concerning the Covid-19 crisis, so far several aid measures for filmmakers and projects were put in place. Is a new set of measures planned by the government?

    Bojan Lazarevski: At the very beginning of the declaration of state of emergency in the Republic of North Macedonia, the Agency completed several activities to support the film industry. In order to overcome the new situation, the measures primarily taken by the Film Agency were aimed at providing assistance to the vulnerable categories of film workers, low-income earners particularly affected by the inactivity period. The situation required an immediate response and as a result, in the first phase the Agency made payments to projects to help the most vulnerable film workers. Priority was given to feature films and minority coproductions that were completed or in the final stages of realisation, and that have submitted a financial report and usually work with a larger group of hired filmmakers.

    Then, together with the Association of Film Professionals of Macedonia (DFRM), the Agency submitted an initiative to support film workers who didn`t get hired due to film inactivity in the given period. Next, the Government, after a previous Public Call conducted through the Film Agency, granted one-time support in the amount of one minimum wage for the months of April and May 2020. The second batch of support for filmmakers was provided in late 2020. In addition to the above, the Film Agency was one of the proponents and together with DFRM prepared the Protocol for filming in conditions of the pandemic, which recommends measures to protect all individuals working on set.

    FNE: Is there anything you would like to add?

    Bojan Lazarevski: Regularly attend screenings of Macedonian films in cinemas and take every opportunity to watch one of our films! We are very proud of the development of Macedonian film, and we should take care to always go upward.