Twenty people are already sitting in a small grey room with a screen and reading booklets. Those people in front are nervously trying to organize preparations at the last moment, answering phone calls and rehearsing the presentation, while an old lady eats free cookies from the bar. The lights go down, and the screen shows the name “East Doc Platform.”

The woman in the front stands up and starts talking confidently. She tells the audience how important this event is for her, and how influential this is for the documentary film industry. This is Pavlína Kalandrová, a former film producer and the creative director of Institute of Documentary Films, who was a Czech representative for the Creative European media from 2014 to 2017 which supports the audiovisual industry in Europe.

Photo by David Kumermann

Kalandrová was born in Prostějov, a medium-sized city with 50,000 citizens in the Eastern part of the Czech Republic in Moravia. She was a typical child in 80’s in the Czechoslovakia, who was not raised in a culturally inculcated family. The only approach to the audiovisual world was through the classical socialist TV which meant there were not many interesting things to watch on broadcasting.

Kalandrová said: “At weekend at 3 o’clock in the local cinema there were screenings of kids’ animations from socialist countries, such as Poland or Hungary. I went there alone with 1 Czech crown to pay for the ticket and I liked feeling that I was independently leaving home and going to the cinema myself.”

At 12 she went to the local theater group and studied dramatic arts, so she decided to become an actor. She did not pass the exams but still continued to play in amateur theatre groups. “After that I just gave up and decided that was not my path.” She got to Palackého University in Olomouc, where she studied theater and dramatic theory. Also, she was working with students from Berlin on a documentary film about the traditional Czech amateur theater group “White theater” from Ostrava. This is how Kalandrová came to film making. She and her two other colleagues shot the ten minutes long experimental original fiction and poetic film “The Letter”, where Kalandrová was responsible for the organization and film production. After that, Kalandrová decided to study film production in FAMU. Kalandrová is proud of her work with Andrea Slováková on her poetic art house documentary “Clouds.” This project was done during her studies at FAMU and  was screened at different film festivals.

In 2003 Kalandrová established a  film production company “Duracfilm” which was mostly responsible for the production of creative documentary movies. During her career she produced  10 movies.

Kalandrová always preferred documentaries to other film genres. “I am attracted to documentary films because they are more exciting, more flexible to be done; for example, in a smaller group of people.” She believes that these films are more personal and have a more human approach to the film itself and a team. “I always felt that the fiction films have a bigger production with hundreds of people. The preparation there is much bigger and more mechanical.”

Kalandrová feels that in film production there are many different ways  to get money. “Europe is able to finance art house movies. The first way is the distribution through public broadcast, television or the network of festivals.” Also, the producer needs to know the topic of the future movie and the style. Kalandrová adds: “Television channels are the good case for animation series or documentary films. They can buy the rights for the movie, so it will be broadcasted there.”

Another significant work was a documentary film “Children” with Slovak and Czech international co-production by documentary filmmaker Jaro Vojtek. “This is a story about children in all generations with a well-written script and sensitive direction. The approach to the shooting was very natural and very human,” says Kalandrová. It won 3 awards at Beijing Film Festival in 2014.

Her last work for “Duracfilm” was another experimental documentary “Heart-On” directed by Czech documentary film director and scriptwriter Andrea Culková. She started the production in 2011 but  had to leave the project in 2014. “She came to me with an original and very artistic idea of the film,” says Kalandrová. Right now “Heart-On” is screened at different international film festivals.

Kalandrová says that being a film producer is a creative profession, though it may not sound like that. She says: “The producer deals with money, which means being responsible.” In Europe, film production is mostly based on public funding or grant system where the producer can apply for money. “You need to decide which idea is worth shooting. Producer and director become long-term partners. Usually, the director comes with an idea and the producer needs to be oriented well in the local or international  market. And the producer at his or her own risk tries to find the money.”

Filmmaking can take years. “Shooting itself can take 8 weeks but the preparation, development and post-production will take a long time,” says Kalandrová. Also, not every project will even get to the final stage. “It might happen that after two-three years of work, even after the development of the idea, the producer decides not to produce the film and closes the project because it doesn’t make sense or at that period another movie was shot with the same topic and same style.”

Despite the fact that film production is interesting, Kalandrová left this career in 2014. “This is a very risky profession and I did not feel safe enough as a woman at that age.” After that, she was working in Creative Europe Media as a Czech representative. Since last November she has worked for the Institute of Documentary Film, which helps eastern European filmmakers to shoot their films. “This profession maybe is less exciting, but I can see the other side of filmmaking. For example, how other producers do their work.”

Well-done and high-quality movies became a part of her everyday life even in the leisure time. “The last Czech movie I watched was ‘President Blanik’”. It was based on an online series about the Czech political situation. “President Blanik” is well-balanced and has a specific film language. It has a satiric approach to politics in this country.” As for foreign film, she watched a Romanian documentary film at Berlinale which is called “Football Infinity” about a man who wanted to change the rules of football to less violent ones. “I think it has a philosophical approach,” says Kalandrová.

Kalandrová has always loved films connected to history and big events. Her personal favorite is “Andrey Rublev” by the famous Soviet director Andrey Tarkovsky. “In this movie, I can always go back and always go deeper into the film story and stay excited about it.” Also, she is in love with “Wings of Desire” by German filmmaker Wim Wenders. “I have seen this film for 11 times. Every time when I come to Berlin I watch this movie in the cinema. This film is about a love relationship and it has a great historical context of time before the fall of the Berlin wall.”

Kalandrová is always ready to help young filmmakers in their future work. “First of all, go to the film academy, because this is the place where you can become a part of the filmmaking community. Also, participate in different film events, such as East Doc Platform, for example. There is a program called Ex Oriente Film, where the best 12 projects are presented and young directors meet their future producers.”

In the near future, Kalandrová is planning to have a big family and stop her career for a time. “Right now I’m pregnant and I even plan to have more kids. This is why I will leave my job for half of a year or maybe more. Anyway, I will help filmmakers to shoot their movies and to find producers for their projects.” She smiles, and leaves for another presentation at East Doc Platform.