Jan Wolf on ‘Siciliana’ and Czech film

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Jan’s cozy and stylish flat sports a lot of film and art memorabilia setting a nice vintage feel and atmosphere for our interview about the Czech film industry, and of course the release of his new film Siciliana, which was rendering as we spoke.

Read on for an inside look at this neo-noir film and for a look into the workings of the Czech film industry.

Thanks for having us today Honza. Are you from Prague originally?

Yes, I was born in the 80s.

An 80s baby, like myself! Where did you grow up?

In Dejvice. I had my elementary school around the corner from our house and spent a lot of my childhood running around outside with my friends and riding a bike. I also loved visiting my grandma and taking long walks around Baba looking at the beautiful old buildings. I also travelled the world a lot because my parents both worked in aviation.

Excellent and did you study film at university?

No, I actually studied graphic design in Žižkov, back then it was called advertising graphics. I also worked in television for a while and then a production company in 2007. I spent two years there and learnt everything about film.

Have you always been interested in film and art?

Since I was a kid – I was always drawing posters for non-existent films and I got my first video camera for my 18th birthday.

What was the first thing that you filmed with that camera?

My first film! It was called 1976. The movie was so shitty and it was filmed in 14 days with my schoolmates in our cottage. It was supposed to be a drama, but it was terrible.

Well it mustn’t have been too bad if you’re still making films now. Tell us about your new film Siciliana

It’s a short film, 26 minutes long and the reason why it is short is because of the rejection of the previous script for a feature film by the Czech Ministry of Culture. We had already casted it and everything so I said to myself we have plenty of time, let’s make a zero budget film with the same crew. I wrote the script, which is only 9 pages, in 14 days. It is basically a simpler version of the feature with zero budget of course (laughs).

14 days? That’s quite a short time.

Yes! So, it’s set in the early 60s in Sicily in a sleepy little town by the sea shore. The main character Maddalena (Petra Nesvačilová), who is in love with a travel agent that is married of course. The agent’s wife is very jealous and begins to make plans for revenge… It may sound cheesy, I did get some inspiration from cheesy TV movies, but it’s still a thriller.

I believe you also helped with the costumes? It looks very vintage.

I asked for help from ‘Lazy-eye’ who designs remakes of original 1950s dresses. I think it’s called neo-vintage. She is one of the partners of the film and without her we would never have made it.

I see. And what will happen after this film? What’s your next project?

I’m still developing some scripts, one main script in particular which took me over two years to write and rewrite. We always ask for some financial support from the Ministry of Culture… but they always want rewrites.

What do they want you to change?

Well the jury once said, “You know in this country we don’t shoot movies like this…” It was like going back to the stone age.

I see, and have your parents always supported you in terms of your art and film?

Not really. Mum was an air hostess and my father was a navigator. But my Mumis quite supportive now.

If you could choose an actor to play you in a movie about your life, who would it be?

I want somebody cool, of course! Hmmm.. Let’s say Ewan McGregor or Jude Law.

Good choices. What do you want people to get out of this film?

I suppose that life can be unfair sometimes.

Is this film based on true events? Maybe events in your own life?

No and I’ve actually never been to the Sicily either!

No? Would you like to go there?

Of course, maybe this Summer.

What’s your favourite part of the movie?

The climax or generally the whole second part which is at night, but shooting at night was terrible. We were all tired and wanted to go home.

What kind of movies do YOU like watching?

All types of movies, from the cheesy stupid comedies to cabaret.

What do you need to have to break in to the Czech film industry?

A good project. It’s hard to have one though, there are a lot of films that are the same, nothing is special that you remember. It’s all the same actors and stories every year.

What do you think the industry needs to fix that?

Something special. They shouldn’t be afraid during the development of the script and shooting. Be original. Of course, it’s much harder to have success with a non typical Czech movie. The audience always wants that nice little film.

Nice. Change of pace now..Who could you not live without in Prague?

My friends and my mother of course.

Where do you hang out in Prague?

I like Bukanýr, Le Clan and Pioneer of course, it’s one of the best parties. Also, Groove bar, Q cafe and in the summer I like to be outside in Riegrovy Sady, for example. Basement Bar is good as well.

Describe Prague in adjectives..

Quiet but loud. Fast but slow. Prague is not black and not white, you can just find whatever you want here. I like the quiet little pubs with my friends and I also like loud parties..

Very ambiguous, sounds like the way Charles Dickens would describe a city! If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

Maybe the Roman empire.

Cool. Also, your surname is ‘Wolf.’ Have you ever been compared to the animal?

Not really. It’s a German surname originally. It used to be spelt with a ‘v’.

What animal would you compare yourself to then?

Something lazy, not a wolf (laughs). A fish I guess, something slow..

Thanks a lot for your time and the best of luck with the film!

Be sure book tickets to the premiere of Siciliana this Friday the 23rd of May at 8pm in Lucerna. For more details, go to their Facebook page.

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Written and transcribed by Ryan Keating. Photography by Petr Kurečka.

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