Someday Productions LLC and Pillow Talking are pleased to present the following interview with film director JASMIN DIZDAR
Jasmin Dizdar is a British-Bosnian film director, screenwriter, and author. His 1999 feature film, BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival to worldwide acclaim. It won an award for best film in the Un Certain Regard category. The late, great film critic Roger Ebert selected BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE among the films in the book The New York Times Guide to the 1,000 Best Movies Ever Made.
Pillow Talking was fortunate to have Mr. Dizdar take time out of his busy schedule to talk art, the biz, directing, and his latest film, CHOSEN, starring Harvey Keitel, Luke Mably, and Ana Ularu.
PT: Thank you so much for granting us this interview. First, tell us about your background. How did you get into the filmmaking business?
JD: I shall never forget the day my dad came from work late with these two beer-bellied men who were helping him carry in a huge cardboard box. Three of them together pulled out a huge TV set like they were pulling out huge fat pig. This was the mid-sixties and in those days those big, bulky TV sets resembled a mini-tank. I was four or five at the time and dwarfed by it. My mum would complain ironically (my parents often argued using self-deprecating irony), “Are you sure they didn’t have a bigger one? This one looks too small to me.” And my dad would wave dismissively as if trying to catch a mosquito. He believed (he still believes this) – if something is big, it must be good quality.
Every evening after dinner, my dad would open the newspaper and pretentiously read aloud the TV program listings like the Pope reading from a Bible in the Vatican. Then he would turn all the lights off and sit us in the pitch darkness for dozen minutes while he kept checking his wristwatch. Exactly at 9 p.m. he would ceremoniously push the “switch on” button; we would hear a loud “click” and then springs squeaking tightly inside the huge wooden box but the large oval screen would stay black for another 10 or 20 seconds. Dad would reassuringly whisper: “Shh, shush! Don’t move! HE needs to warm up! HE is still new, straight from the factory!” Then suddenly the words “Bonanza” appeared springing toward us followed by “Shadows” – like a catchy electric guitar tune. The black-and-white opening credits of the TV Western series Bonanza appeared on Dad’s big TV screen. I still can sing the opening music theme. Four cowboys on horses were riding toward us, then close ups of each actor and their name would appear under their perfect faces, grinning with bleach-white teeth. It was heaven on earth.
PT: Wow. That’s quite an image.
JD: And after five minutes I would hear muffled breathing behind me. About ten or more casual passersby would have stopped by our open ground-floor window and would be watching with us. Dad would throw them his matches so they could light their cigarettes and in return they would throw a new cigarette to him as a sign of gratitude whilst never taking their eyes off the TV screen.
When Bonanza would end, Dad would switch off TV, say goodnight to the total strangers, close the window, and draw the blinds. I could hear the people outside excitedly chatting behind the closed window, reflecting on what they saw and predicting certain characters’ outcome in next week episodes. This was my first cinema audience.
In those days only few people in our part of the town could afford a TV set (unless you were as mad as my dad) and a cinema ticket was too expensive for working class folk. As the word spread around that there was a “free movie show” in the neighborhood, people would [continue to] gather by our ground-floor window fifteen minutes before 9 p.m., jostling for position. Some had little stools and gardening chairs, working to get themselves the best spot so that they could see more of our TV screen; some were holding folded umbrellas in case it started raining. Then at exactly 9 p.m. my dad would ceremoniously part the curtains, open the window and without saying anything, start another screening.
My mum, who had a far more business-oriented brain than my father, would say, “You could start charging a nickel per view. That would pay for Jasmin’s new shoes.” And Dad would again wave dismissively and say, “Let people have good time, huh?” He would nudge at me and I would smile and nod.
I would sit between the TV screen and the “audience” and watch [the same shows], then turn to look the many hungry eyes behind me, silently united. I felt so important, as if it was me who had made the Bonanza episode and then was screening it for them. Then the next week I would have the new episode ready.
Maybe it was because of this early childhood experience that as an adult I always feel at home when I am in a cinema surrounded by people eagerly awaiting a screening to start. Maybe this is where it all started, at home, giving me comfort, warmth, and freedom to share emotions, stories, and ideas with others.
PT: That’s really a fantastic story. What or who were your earliest influences?
JD: It was this little home-cinema “gig” that would lead to bigger things. I had a curious inner urge to understand how this all worked, which then led me to local short-film festival. When my name and picture started appearing in local press, I started thinking.
The filmmakers who were my earliest influences from the age of 16 until 19 were Brian De Palma, Sergio Leone, and Arthur Penn. At the time I was watching only American films in our local [Bosnian] cinemas. This was the heyday of late-seventies, American cinema and our local theaters were constantly showing very worn-out copies of films such as Carrie, The Fury, and Dressed to Kill (by Brian De Palma); spaghetti Westerns like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars, Once Upon a Time in the West (by Sergio Leone). This was my only film diet at the time and which nourished me as a young teenager.
You can clearly see in my films a direct influence: the use of music and visuals, Brian De Palma’s use of slow-motion; striking editing from Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde which I have seen so many times; and prolonged musical-visual-action choreography and sequencing from Sergio Leone’s films, etc. As a teenager I even made a short horror film called Midnight Shadows where I was trying to emulate De Palma’s Dressed to Kill. This is how I learned, not just by watching and talking about movies I saw, but by instantly trying to re-make them with my own standard 8-millimeter film camera and my little Russian cutting device with sticky tape.
PT: You said these greats were your early influences as a teenager. Were there others later?
JD: Yes. When I hit twenty my new heroes became Bob Fosse with Cabaret and All That Jazz and Sam Peckinpah. I became obsessed with their unique ability to tell stories and using visual communication via jazz-like montage. I became fanatically obsessed with Sergei Eisenstein. I studied anything I could find on Eisenstein’s theory of montage and soon became expert on him. I was so influenced by his theories and his notion of trying to merge science and cinema. That is when I started writing my first little pieces of film theory in my notebooks.
Then when I started my film directing studies at FAMU in Prague, a new category of filmmakers became my heroes, taking me in a new direction by influencing my thinking about filmmaking further. Rather than changing anything I learned before FAMU, I used new knowledge and new discoveries to enrich and strengthen the already fragile basis of my personal film language.
I believe that a genuine auteur always has his own individual style and approach to filmmaking and can be recognized in the world only by watching the first five minutes of his films. His films must be signature to him. No one else is able to make films like him. Others can watch it, judge it, like or hate it, but no one can clone it because they do not have his personal touch; his personal secret code. A style evolves just as a person evolves from cradle to grave, from film to film, and early influences certainly play important roles in determining, discovering and defining that style. The earlier you recognize [those influences] the better.
PT: Well said. We know you have a very distinctive style of shooting with rapid cuts and frenetic movement on screen. Once you began your career, who or what were your later influences for both film and writing?
JD: I believe that the story and film should be fluid, like water with strong currents underneath. Film should flow like a mountain river falling, rising and cascading, flowing freely in all directions. I am not great fan of classical dramatic structures where you can easily predict the outcome and see exactly where the story leads, and disaster is constantly looming. I’ve seen so many war movies, some with higher artistic standards than others, where you are subjected for two hours to only one feeling – disgust! I have never been in a real war but I’ve been in the army and I have seen many different sides to it. Making your audience disgusted is only one, very obvious way, of approaching war as a subject.
In Chosen, no one will have a clue where the main character is going, what he is doing, who these new people are that he meets, or what will happen next…absolutely no clue! Nothing is there to indicate that he may survive or be killed. One moment he appears an ordinary humble man; the next, he does something extraordinary. Usually when people lose loved ones, they enter the so-called “no turning back point” state of mind when they don’t care anymore whether they live or die and they don’t continue to see death as a threat or something to fear. They embrace it and that enables them to achieve mad things, such as confronting a German tank.
After [the protagonist] loses his wife and unborn child, Sonson has not a clue what is happening to him, he loses the ground under his feet; he just wants to die, too. He becomes emotionally and psychologically deformed, damaged by that sudden shocking experience and he simply doesn’t care anymore what happens to him. I was always very interested in that sort of character who has that “on the edge” mindset like De Niro in Taxi Driver or DiCaprio in The Revenant who also tragically loses his wife and young son; something “clicks” in his head and he becomes a mad and enraged wounded animal who will go to any extraordinary length, survive any pain, cross any mountains just to avenge his loved ones (i.e. CHOSEN was shot and made before The Revenant’s release). Such a character is Sonson – a badly wounded “raging bull” on a personal mission. If you get in his way, anything might happen.
PT: Beautiful People is a highly acclaimed film you directed. Can you tell us how you got involved and what it has done for your career?
JD: I met the head of production for BFI [British Film Institute] after he saw my shorts and liked them. He told me I was ready to make my first feature and I immediately handed him an extended synopsis for the feature film Beautiful People. A few months later they commissioned me to write the script. A year later they agreed to give me £250 000 to trigger a money-raising process. They helped me find a suitable producer and a year later we were in production. Beautiful People had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival the following year where it received a 10-minute standing ovation and won in the category of Prix Un Certain Regard. The film was a Cannes’ hit and was sold to all territories. After the Cannes premiere I traveled around the world with the film – I did two weeks in the USA, two weeks in Japan, Russia, Italy, etc.
Apart from putting my name on the world’s map, the film did not manage to automatically enable me second feature film financing. Virtually overnight, new government changed the entire financing landscape in the UK just after Beautiful People’s Cannes premier. BFI was replaced with a single, very centralized, and very bureaucratic Soviet-style financing body, the UK Film Council. I could not go back to small and independent financing institutions like BFI and British Screen as they ceased to exist, and with them so called “authors” and writers-directors who wrote original scripts were replaced by the directors with a “safer” record.
All my next projects based on my original stories collapsed almost overnight as now the UKFC did not show much interest in “foreign filmmakers with original stories” like me but found their main source of interest in financing “domestic names” mainly for adaptations of books and plays. Having only one feature, although it was a Cannes winner, it was not enough for them. Plus, as I said, I am not born British, which make their investment into my projects more of a risk. Can we really trust a foreigner who only made one award-winning film? That was the tough question for them, to which they could never find clear answer.
PT: We can imagine this must have been so frustrating for you.
JD: The UK had a small “New Wave” in 1999 with so much promise; three first-time filmmakers’ films premiering at Cannes including Beautiful People. This was unheard of in the history of British cinema. We all were convinced that the British film funding bodies would reward our success by helping us with our next projects. It is only now that I managed to make my second feature. [Among the others] Tim Roth still has not managed to make his second feature. Only Lynne Ramsay somehow made her second and then third feature film – over the last 17 years. After 1999, the UK would not again have three first-feature filmmakers premiering their films in Cannes. I think that sums it up.
So, my answer to the [original] question is – bizarrely, Beautiful People’s success did not help me in my film career at all. In hindsight, I believe that as a UK filmmaker with a foreign background, if I had made a much less successful film as my first feature that would actually more easily have helped me get financing for my second feature, as many would feel more sympathy for me. Sudden success achieved by an unknown foreigner was something very new in UK at the time, as no other unknown foreign filmmaker had done it before me, and many did not know what to do [about it]. There was no established formula or trend to follow which British often find very confusing.
PT: You have shot in many different locations and countries. Can you tell us how it is to shoot in different places and how it compares with shooting in the US?
JD: Film crews around the world instantly understand what you want from them just by looking at you. Actors are the same. In fact, when everyone communicates smoothly and easily and everyone is English, it soon becomes monotone and people quickly adopt a laid-back attitude. I always laugh when I see film teachers telling students about directing – “You have to speak clearly!” they say. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know many TV and film directors in the UK who pride themselves on posturing and speaking like Cambridge graduates. And they often get the jobs because the executives and producers believe their posh English vocabulary and impeccable spelling will do wonders on the set and make all actors melt like honey.
Filmmaking has nothing to do with such false conceptions but rather is [more about whether a director has] anything new and inspiring to say. There are so many of us who read hundreds of books and can speak and write with a rich vocabulary, but only a few become novelists or screenwriters. It’s all about [having] original ideas and how good they are. I find it much more beneficial, particularly when directing actors, to speak to them in such a way where they wouldn’t understand entirely straightaway. I love when they ask me, “What do you mean?” Or, “Do you mean…?” And then they work it out for themselves. I would sometimes accidentally mispronounce words, which would instantly prompt them to ask questions and listen to me more carefully, etc. Each time I express myself clearly, they just nod and execute it. And I watch them sadly and wish I made them pause and think, maybe come up with a better idea before rushing to execute it. We are not working with horses trained only to obey clear directions. We are working with fellow artists who have equally original and rich imaginations.
PT: Tell us about working with the great Harvey Keitel.
JD: Working with Harvey was just fantastic. I could not imagine in a million years that I would make Harvey Keitel cry, but I did. It happened at the end when he was about to say “goodbye” to Max. Funny thing is I never mentioned the word “cry” or anything alluding to crying and yet just by looking at each other and feeling a certain synergy [it happened]. I remember I called “Cut!”, thanked him, and being a “greedy” director, like most of us, I asked for one more take then asked the crew to be quick so we didn’t to lose the moment. Everyone quickly got back to their start positions, I called “Action!” and the camera started rolling; Max said his first lines but Harvey remained silent. After few seconds of silence Harvey turned to me and said, “Jasmin? I am sorry, I can’t do this again!” I rushed to see if he was okay and as I looked at his face I realized what sort of emotional inner effort and energy actors like him put in anything they do in front of the camera. After the previous perfect take he was so emotionally drained and exhausted that there was simply nothing left in him. He could say the lines again but without that sort of genuine emotion that actors like him make us cry with them in the cinema; the words alone would be worthless. I always had a problem with film gurus who claim that certain actors could do certain things again and again and again, and that makes them great because they can cry twenty times in a row. If you are doing it for real, you feel it for real, and you can do it only once. And Harvey reminded me of this.
Harvey played a Holocaust survivor who is more than twenty years older than [his actual age]. He had a lot of make up on his face; it was very complex role to play and yet he had to engage in a playful way and a harrowing way simultaneously with his 13-year-old great-grandchild. It was not easy to do but he did it with such ease. And the other thing I discovered working with him, which is very strange, and I’ve heard this from other European directors directing in America –somehow, as an Eastern European, you feel much closer and much more at home with Americans whose ancestors were Eastern Europeans than with real Eastern Europeans in Europe. It has something to do with old DNA, which still lives and seems to communicate subconsciously. America is very much different from Europe but playing basketball with my actors and crew, cracking jokes, talking about next shot, etc., I personally just felt like I was at my own home, back in my little Eastern European town directing a movie and not in Long Island, New York.
PT: What attracted you to Chosen?
JD: When I began reading it and realized it was about the Holocaust, my heart sunk and I [initially] felt I’d better send it back and say, “Thank you, not for me.” After Beautiful People (which was a highly-praised, satirical comedy, with some of the most respected film critics in USA, Australia, and Europe selecting it as one of their films of the year), I never quite understood why everyone kept sending me to direct the scripts about most gruesome and most sickening stories you can ever imagine. The scripts were so grim, so disgusting, I felt dizzy just reading them. I could not imagine how anyone could take any creative delight in writing about so much blood, suffering, torture, humiliation, rape of women and children; just disgusting stuff.
When Chosen arrived and I started reading it I said to myself, “Oh no, another Edge of Darkness.” As with any such script with a Holocaust theme, I was expecting a cheaper version of Schindler’s List; Jews standing like statues as Nazi children spat on them, shot them in the head, completely at the mercy of the psychopathic Nazis and their shepherd dogs. But as I continued reading, with one eye shut, I suddenly realized I was rushing to premature judgments. Halfway through the script I began to decipher a distinct reminiscence with The Deer Hunter in it. An intimate love story and personal journey set against an epic canvas of World War 2. Sonson appeared similar to Michael who was played by Robert De Niro; both are Eastern European characters, both go through similar adversities, are hunters, born leaders, and fiercely independent men, yet very romantic, sensual, and in love. I got on the phone to the producer and told him that although the narrative was fractured and reminded me of several sixties Czech New Wave films of the same theme, Sonson’s personal journey had a momentum, unpredictability, an explosive action and emotional sensuality and sensibility which are story elements that are hard to find in many war films. Usually, you have only predominant war-zone battles which drive the main action; or a love story where the war serves as a backstage; but rarely all-in-one like say in The Deer Hunter, The Thin Red Line, etc.
Another thing is, I always have had soft spot for films where the story is narrated by a main character, usually an elderly person remembering the past, in films such as Amadeus, Little Big Man, and to certain extent Raging Bull, etc. Some of my favorite books have the same sort of story narration by the main protagonist. So I felt having [something] personal, private, and sensual set against a large, epic-scale war canvas; and going from the past and back to the present throughout the film is something that would be quite cinematically rich and fun to do.
PT: How difficult was it to get Chosen made? And tell us how it was directing your cast
JD: Well, for a start, Chosen is on a war-epic scale movie: a large ensemble cast, battles, tanks, infantry, big and small guns firing at all times, complicated stunt choreography in many battle scenes, large-scale explosions, tons of uniforms, make-up, prosthetics, etc. Thankfully no one was injured except me. I fell into a ditch and ended up with a heavily bandaged leg. I remember the actors jokingly acting like soldiers as they reported to the producer, “We have a casualty, it’s the director. What do we do?” And the producer returned the joke with, “Nothing. Injured director is not collateral damage.”
There are lots of different nationalities, languages, and it’s very diverse; just the way I like it. I wish we had had more time during pre-production and during the shoot but there is never enough time with such ensemble cast in movies of this scale. We had a very good crew and cast and all was shot and delivered on schedule. We all [worked on] little sleep and had no time to think things through properly or go back and fix mistakes. If you made a mistake that was it, too bad, there was no going back; not like in some films where directors stop and start shooting several times because they are unhappy with an actor’s performance on a particular day. We could not afford such royal behavior on such a demanding project with limited funds. But when you have such great people, you embrace difficulties because you know, no matter what, you’ll overcome them one or the other way. Sometimes we had excellent results; sometimes less so but we all pulled together, faced challenging circumstances, and we not only survived them but we came through unscratched (except me) and we can all be proud of what we accomplished.
Overall it was frenetic and hard work, but the more demanding and challenging, the more you have to raise your game. At the end, every creative and financial challenge has its rewards and benefits. You learn to become wiser, tougher, more efficient. Despite all odds and obstacles everything went smoothly. There were no major incidents or injuries which usually occur with such large casts where there are lots of stunts and extras who handle all kinds of weaponry and ammunition; and when there are 30 or so people running in all directions through dangerous pyrotechnical “mine-fields,” trenches, and demolished houses. Now that the film is awaiting its USA release, it is quite reassuring and pleasing to see that all was not in vain.
PT: Can you tell us about the distribution plans for Chosen?
JD: The film will definitely be released all around the world in every major language. The good thing is that Beautiful People did exceptionally well around the world, it was bought by all major territories, it was dubbed in Italian, German, and Russian, and it’s still showing on major TV networks across the world. This is a huge success for such little low-budget film. There is a healthy dose of interest out there and I cannot ask for more.
PT: Excellent. What do you hope audiences take away from Chosen?
JD: Everyone should see it: adults, children, the elderly, and families. [Eventually] in community centers, clubs, and schools. The film is not only of artistic, entertainment, educational, and historical value but it holds a strong moral and ethical message as well as raising awareness about prejudice and racism – something we are becoming more and more worried about, especially in today’s stormy world where voting someone into government who clearly holds extreme political views seems to be becoming normal. It appears we have learned little from the Nazi and communist ideology, which only recently ceased to exist.
I was raised in a communist country and I studied film under a totalitarian communist regime. My grandparents were wealthy people before WW2. Nazis killed them in WW2 and after WW2 communists confiscated all wealth from my father. He grew up as totally impoverished war orphan. Because of what Nazis and communists did to his family, he could not get educated and could not [afford to] give me high education. He became steel worker – but what he could not achieve in his lifetime, I managed to achieve in my lifetime. And now that I have had the chance to direct a film about Nazism, I want everyone to understand what we as humans can do to each other and what human stupidity that encompasses racism and prejudice is capable of.
Movies like Chosen remind us all of our stupid mistakes of the past. The film leaves you rattled and makes you realize that we should be more tolerant and compassionate towards one another. This is why I kept telling the actor who plays Sonson (as we shot the last scene of the end battle), “This Nazi is a symbol of the worst of humanity. Punch him as hard as you can and keep punching until you spill his brains out and until all prejudice festering inside his head is eradicated forever from Earth!” And when the Nazi’s head is literally cracked open and the beast is killed, this is where peace and love return to Earth. It’s all a bit heightened by me on purpose and my message to the world is – our grandfathers gave their lives to eradicate this monster, please let’s not allow it back to fester within us.
PT: Our readership is made up of many artists, writers, actors, and directors and they are always interested in process. What is your process, if you have one, in approaching a creative project?
JD: In my opinion, you are either a cineaste or [you] a filmmaker who just makes movie after movie after movie. The more movies one makes the more one thinks he is successful.
A filmmaker has his craft and he can be more or less an expert of his craft. But a cineaste has a craft and style that best suits his personality. This is why you must watch so many movies, study them, go to film school – to learn the craft and become a filmmaker and then discover your own unique individual voice which makes you you; and only you know how to make films that way and nobody else.
PT: What advice would you give to young filmmakers?
JD: Film is always bigger than you. It will always surprise you. Film has its own life destiny and will always go where it wants to go. Good directors can foresee where it is all going and know how to take advantage of circumstances. Bad directors are too busy directing, posturing, and eager to show off through their socializing with actors – then they are always surprised with the outcome.
As a 27-year-old graduate I went to Paris to a film set on which an Oscar-winning director was working. I was making a documentary about his costume designer. I thought, “I am going to see this all-important God of a director shouting orders and acting like a Napoleon with his army generals.” Instead, I saw him laying with his two famous actors in the bed and reading the papers with them whilst the rest of the crew was running around preparing for the next shot. Then he got up, stood behind the camera and said, “Action!” A minute later he said, “Cut!” and then, “That’s it, move on to the next set up.” I was baffled. I asked a friend of mine, could he ask him [for me], “Why didn’t he direct them a bit? Is he angry with them? I mean, all this money, sets, cameras, people and they were just laying there like seals and reading the papers.” My friend went to ask him then returned and said, “He said, he said nothing to them because there was nothing to say. They were good as they are.” I was then even more baffled. It hit me that evening as I was preparing for bed, he was not just lying there and reading the papers with his actors, this was the way he was directing them. I have no idea how he did it, but that was his way, his personal style, code, trick, process, call if what you like. I was not supposed to understand his method. Even if I understood it, what would I do with it, because I am not him? But I could use it as an inspiration to find my own way, which is what I did. Some directors get the best performances from their actors by shouting orders like a football coach, by acting difficult and irritating everyone. Others by saying little or nothing like Krzysztof Kieślowski, or by playing chess or ping-pong with the cast like Stanley Kubrick. Whatever it is that works for you is your way.
PT: What a great story. Can you tell us what is on your future agenda?
JD: I am currently working on a satirical comedy, a follow-up to Beautiful People.
PT: We can’t wait to hear more about that. Can you name three of your favorite films and why are they your favorites?
1. Amadeus directed by Miloš Forman – back in the late eighties I wrote a small book about Forman and the Amadeus chapter is one of the best chapters in the book. The film (or rather Peter Shaffer’s play) deals with issues I feel strongly about such as institutional prejudice, moral and ethical corruption of an establishment, creative jealousy, music as a storyteller, self-deprecating irony, human malice masking as friendship, etc. Anyone who experienced this in any form can relate and must feel strongly about this film.
2. The Shop on Main Street directed by Elmar Klos and Jan Kádár – I was awarded the best director prize in a student festival by Elmar Klos for my film After Silence. These two filmmakers are unknown outside of the Czech Republic but are of huge importance for world cinema. Again, it deals with issues I feel personally strongly about – anti-hero as a main hero, Chaplinesque irony, prejudice, deception, moral and ethical corruption, narrow-mindedness turning honest people into animals, etc. This film is a perfect example of how story, its dialogue, and characters should be developed. This film was a trusty companion during my film studies and I was so lucky to meet and be recognized by its filmmakers whilst they were still alive. I treasure it as one of my closest and dearest films.
3. Amarcord directed by Federico Fellini – another idol, another film that brings my formative years back to me. I was raised in the same little provincial Mediterranean town with all of its provincials and provincial mentality but on the other side of Adriatic Sea (from Rimini). Still, the same faces, characters, promenades, rituals, jokes, rude gestures, games, and dreams. Amarcord is one of those films that you can watch 300 times and on the 301st viewing, you still will be smiling at the same scenes as if for the first time. It is such a shame that commercialization of the 21st century film industry has destroyed the once much-loved genre of autobiographical films whose main representatives were Fellini, Bergman, and Tarkovsky. Amarcord is a crown jewel in this genre and in my life.
PT: Incredible films and filmmakers! We love to ask this question. If your career path had taken a different turn and you weren’t creating films, what do you imagine you might be doing today?
JD: I would try to join a film editing team, work my way up as an editor, like say Robert Wise, the director of West Side Story. That was my B plan back in 1984, which I did not dare to mention to my mum and dad. I promised them I would go back to machine engineering studies. But fortunately I was accepted into film school that year and that changed everything. I would also try my luck as a painter, a novelist, or a composer, which are my three hobbies also.
PT: Sounds like it would have been impossible to keep you from the arts and entertainment! What do you do when you are not working on a film project?
JD: Watch movies, try to catch up with literature waiting to be read. I play my instruments and listen to my music; I play tennis and basketball. Actually, the producer of Chosen and I are the worst of enemies when it comes to tennis and used to play a lot of fiercely competitive tennis matches. The other game we can play all day, rain or shine, is ping-pong.
PT: That’s great! If you were to sum up your life to date in just one word what would it be?
PT: Great answer! Thank you so much for this incredibly enlightening interview!