Czech screenwriters meet at Berlin International Film Festival


Lights, camera, action! The 55th Berlinale, Berlin's International Film Festival, is underway this week. It's running until Saturday, and is based at the ultra-modern, brightly lit Potzdamer Platz. Besides screening films, the festival also provides opportunities for people in the film industry to come together and exchange ideas. And on Monday night, several important screenwriters working in the Czech Republic, did just that. Kate Barrette has more.

"Cesky Sen," a documentary film made by two Czech film students last year, is just one of several Czech films being promoted at the Berlinale this week - Berlin's International Film Festival.

Eminent contemporary Czech screenwriters were on hand at the Czech Center in Berlin Monday night, to talk about life as screenwriters in the Czech Republic.

Martin Blaney, the German correspondent for "Screen International" who chaired the discussion, said Czech screenwriters are looking beyond literature to the world around for inspiration these days.

"I know Sasa Gedeon tends to look for very psychological, literary source material, with Dostoyevsky for 'Return of the Idiot', but the others are mainly looking around at what happens amongst themselves, their friends, and society."

Alice Nellis, known for her films, "Vylet" and "Ene Bene", agreed, and said even writers like Gedeon are looking to the real world to tell their stories.

"Again if you look at Sasa's films, the first inspiration comes from the book, but then he doesn't adapt the book or rewrite the book into a film, he draws an inspiration and then it goes on. What you see is his own experience with life, with the environment he lives in, so I think it always mingles. It's what Andy Warhol was also talking about in a sense - that you basically steal. Sometimes you steal from life, sometimes you steal from yourself, and sometimes you even steal from art."

There's inspiration - but there's also the bottom line - screenwriters too have to eat. Blaney says part of the problem is that the integral role of writers is often overlooked.

"There's still the problem that screen writers don't necessarily get the attention, respect and status that they should really have. I mean they don't have the funding possibilities that we have here in Germany, where you can get screenplay funding to help develop a project, that helps you pay the rent at home, while you're working on a script over some months. That's a thing which I think is missing at the moment in the Czech Republic."

Nellis also says that some of the biggest challenges Czech screenwriters face are financial ones. She says financial support is really uncommon here in the Czech Republic - for making and for writing films.

"It's awful - the answer is very simple - it's awful. As a scriptwriter, you usually don't have any money that would support you throughout the period of writing, and you have no idea if you will ever get any money for what you've written. And I think basically the profession of scriptwriter is underestimated. I wouldn't say just in Czech Republic, but all over. How many directors do you know? And how many scriptwriters? Think about that and it will give you the answer."