Jelena Markovic is a film director from Belgrade, schooled in Moscow (VGIK) and Belgrade (Belgrade Academy of Dramatic Arts). Ms. Markovic has worked as a freelance director, for more than eighteen years, both in film and television. Ms. Markovic directed three feature films and also writes, acts and produces. As an artist, Jelena works in other art forms as well: performance, collage, installation and photography. Jelena is a feminist as well as a peace activist, she speaks Serbo-Croatian, French, Russian and English.
Where were you born? Where do you live/work?
I was born in Belgrade, in Serbia, where I currently live and work.
What fuels your desire to act/create?
There is a profound feeling I have remembered since Kindergarten, I couldn’t say if I had it earlier: whenever I would see another person, a child or an adult, and they would move or say something, anything, or just have a facial expression – I would be deeply touched and astonished. They were kind of like me, but I was not them. They wanted something, thought or felt something, but I was not them. I have always wanted to connect with others. As a part of that memory, there is also a feeling that I might spook others out, if I state plainly my own bare existence. This feeling/ this experience is what I have been carrying around with me all my life and that is, honestly, what fuels me to make films and engage in art. Today, I may translate that into: I want to celebrate human capacity to feel, think and connect.
How do you work with overcoming fear/doubt?
I had a strong sense of fear when my country, Yugoslavia, stopped existing and Civil War broke out. War ended, but fear was still there. I am a peace activist, so I took actions publicly and on every possible level. But the fear was still there, such boring and depressing fear. The thing is, I was never actually afraid of confronting regime. My deep fear was that I didn’t exist anymore. My fear was that I stopped existing because my integrity was torn when my way of life, my Yugoslav culture, was interrupted and it seemed like it was violently erased. It took me a long time to understand what was going on. I guess I learned to acknowledge fear and doubt. They always do the same, so they are boring. Then the self-preservation process works something out. Sometimes I act, but more often, it is enough to just acknowledge, think a little, recognize the boring and painful scenario and then dismiss it or let it go.
What is your greatest obstacle in working with self?
Well, I try to employ reason to search for sense. And I don’t exactly know the limits of reason, nor where sense resides.
How do you heal from rejection?
I have gotten so used to rejections, I don’t think I need to heal from them anymore. They come as state of affairs. Keep asking the “why” question, but don’t bother much with “how," - you can pick that up as you go along, because it is not essential. Reject nonsense even more fiercely. Skip the hysteria and imperative of projecting. Projects evolve around measuring and lying, that’s for managers. You are an artist.
What are you inspired by now?
By science. Physics and neurology are now asking questions far more exciting than film and art are. The way I see it, there is a consensus today that film and art ought to be servants to fallen ideologies and political agendas. I find that sickening. I refuse to be in the business of cementing peoples’ minds. I think film can open an imagery of free thinking and compassion among people. And, while science has its ways of bravely exploring reality and humans, it is still the business of film and art to nurture and widen human spirit. Without that, nothing new will come, apart from new weapons and wars.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Do what you do, it’s good. You are not delusional and your feeling that people mainly put you down, try to belittle you because you are a woman is right.
Who has had a powerful influence on your work?
I was a kid when a thought came: “I want to be like this man when I grow up." That was when I met Purisa Djordjevic, the father of my sister’s friend. Not that he engaged with us kids playing at all…it’s just that at their place, I felt somehow equal, like my child’s integrity was not being doubted or ridiculed by presence of an adult. Well, Purisa is a famous film director. Even though at the time I had no idea what that meant, it stuck to me that I might become one. When I think of influences, I think of people who influenced my personal development, which eventually shows in my work.
What is your next project or a recent project?
I want my next film to be science fiction and to be about and look like the life we live today. I have started writing the script. I also want to do some theatre. Nevertheless, guaranteed production in this year goes to one radio drama (“Penelope," by Russian writer Zanar Kusainova) and one installation (“I made a phone call home”). “Penelope” is produced by the national radio and television and I will direct it. “I called home” is my installation as part of an exhibition and a larger project called Testimony – truth or politics? -run by Center for Cultural Decontamination, Museum of Contemporary Art and other organizations from here and three other countries in Europe. The project works with artists and participants in Yugoslav wars in the 90's.
How do you reward yourself for a job well done?
I guess the reward is in a feeling that I gave something good of myself to others.
What are your hopes and dreams?
Scientist Julia Mossbridge suggests that schools have been teaching us wrong and that we humans each have a unique ability to find our purpose, to connect through it and be at peace – all that by getting to know our inner selves. Now, Julia laughs a little when she talks about that as the next step in evolution for humans, but who wouldn’t, given what our world looks like. I hope that Julia is right. I hope for peaceful civilizations to come. Even though such human ability has been systematically suppressed, it may get realized, it is not evolutionary costly, it could come out cheap. And I dream about knowing why we are. It’s exciting.
What is your advice for self in pursuing the business side of work? Do you have advice for making/producing your own work?
The business side of work is not something I should give advice on, given that I live and work in Serbia. Like most countries in Europe, the state here sponsors and regulates film production and distribution. The problem is that there is almost no state. There is no rule of Law in my country and institutions are ran like private households of families of rogues. My experience is that such state safeguards film production from people like me. As for private investment into film business in Serbia, it doesn’t work out, because private business is overwhelmed with usurpation, looting, robbing, intimidation, racketeering and bribing. In good conscience, where there is no free market and no rule of Law, there cannot be any good advice for business.
I explored crowd funding and Internet distribution options, but I am not sure if that could work out. To launch a crowd funding campaign successfully, it requires is a strong network of people willing to contribute some money, which one needs to negotiate in advance. Serbian culture is not one of developing communities, let alone of individuals investing into film or art. Also, there are not many people in Serbia who can afford more than basic groceries. And, last but not least, films here come out in Serbian language. From a global perspective, even though the Internet enables the access, there is no interest in Serbian culture or language. So Serbian films remain a local thing.
Instead of sharing advice, it seems I have just told you a story about a dying culture. Still, humans learn to be resilient, and that is what we did. One aspect of it is that there are still films and various forms of art that come out freely. Only they remain “under the radar." If someone, including me, decides to produce their own feature film, I would say: work with reliable people. Use all resources available to each of you. Be prepared, fast, and efficient when filming. Remember: you are making your own special position, no one owns nor controls you, you can think freely! It is only worth it if you love and enjoy the process, there is no financial gain in it. When you are done, show your film and share it when you can and how it suits you. Miracles like distributors and broadcasters wanting your film don’t happen in Serbia.
What advice do you have for auditioning?
No advice. I can say to actors, from my perspective as a director: when I chose actors, I have in mind my film and characters. For me, your sensibility and the way you think are at play as much as how you appear and sound. However, my choices tell more about my films then about your abilities.
10 things that make you happy are…
In random order:
-Happiness of people around me
-Watching goodness of life in Silver (he’s a cat)
-Making and watching good films
-Good books, art and music
-A shot of good rakia (Serbian alcohol drink)
-Good lectures in quantum mechanics, cosmology, neurology, philosophy…
In 2017, SUPER SPACE is serving as a vehicle to facilitate Created to Create Project.
CREATED TO CREATE
INTRODUCING ONE ARTIST PER WEEK, FOR 52 WEEKS IN 2017.
Beginning, January, 1st, 2017
ACTORS, ARTISTS, THEATRE MAKERS, FILM MAKERS, DESIGNERS, TEACHING ARTISTS, STUDENTS all chosen because they spend a part each day creating. Artists will be chosen in no particular order.
Introduce artists from different parts of the world. People who use different mediums and whose practice is at a different skill level. A thing they all have in common is unique sense of style and self-expression.