Filmmaker Andy Fehu on feature debut Greedy Tiffany

'Greedy Tiffany'

In this week’s Arts, our guest is young up-and-coming filmmaker Andy Fehu, whose feature debut Greedy Tiffany will be shown in a midnight screening at the 50th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. The film follows the story of a no-good lout who learns about lost treasure.

Andy Fehu,  photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary
I began our interview by asking about the descriptor comedy-horror.

“It’s a little complicated when it comes to genre in my movies because I don’t set out to try and make a particular style. I don’t tell myself I want to make a comedy or a horror but rather classify it after the story is complete. I try to make movies which interest me and to make them as well as I can.”

So you can have a core idea which you build on…

“That’s right. Greedy Tiffany is like that. I sort of classified it afterwards.”

Generally-speaking, are we in a period when the mixing of genres has become more and more commonplace? You don’t have just classic drama or comedy anymore?

“Yeah. Certainly putting elements together when you combine genres or elements which were already used is a way to try and do something new.”

Your story follows a character played by Leoš Noha: how would you describe the protagonist?

“Pepa is a man who ‘survives’ but doesn’t ‘live’. He drinks a lot, he makes a living by breaking into country cottages and stealing and then selling what he steals. He is not really interested in anything but selling stuff in the pawn shop. He isn’t homeless but he is not far better off.”

“I wanted the film to be set in a ‘real’ place. A friend of mine suggested I could shoot in Horní Jiřetín [at the edge of a huge open pit mine] and I realised it was perfect.”

The film is set in a curious location: a town on the edge of a huge mining area whose existence is threatened by brown coal mining…

“I wanted the film to be set in a ‘real’ place. A friend of mine suggested I could shoot in Horní Jiřetín and I realised it was perfect. There are lots of dark forests, there are the excavated plains, so it fit really well with the story I wanted to tell.”

Was it clear to you, when you planned filming with your cameraman, that you would go for a partly documentary style?

“I always use partially documentary style or hand-held camera, or less scripted situations. That is one of the ways I shoot movies to try and achieve greater authenticity. I like using small crews, little equipment, and this was something I explained. But the cameraman, on the other hand, had the freedom to frame things as he wanted, so long as it was well done and he captured the feeling we were going for. I wasn’t there telling him every camera move or pan.”

I imagine it must be kind of liberating to work in that fashion, quick and lean…

'Greedy Tiffany'
“Yeah. That is true. And once I knew I could count on the cameraman I could focus fully on the scene. We both knew what was important in each scene but his hands were free.”

Had you worked with him before?

“I hadn’t worked with the cameraman – Jakub Ševčík – before but it was a small miracle how well we understood each other and could get points across. Before that, I always did most camerawork by myself, so it was great that we were able to work so well together.”

How did your collaboration begin?

“He studied film in Písek and it was through friends that we met.”

One of the things which I read – confirm if this true – is that you sometimes give you actors ‘secret’ goals within a scene… is that the case?

“That is true although I won’t do that in every scene. Sometimes I give them secret goals at other times I call cut but the camera is left running and so on. Sometimes an actor will have more information. There are different go0als in different scenes.”

'Greedy Tiffany',  photo: James Anderle
To come back to Greedy Tiffany: one of the first key turning points is the discovery of a video camera and found footage about a lost treasure… Finding lost footage is a fairly well-known motif in horrors – The Blair Witch Project comes to mind and many others – was that element used just to push the story forward or is it to a degree self-referential within the horror genre?

“It is true that found footage is well-known as a device. In our film, however, it forms a plot-twist and to add authenticity and to unsettle the viewers. Unlike Blair Witch, the found footage is not the film itself.”

Tell us a little about what the characters discover…

“Lost treasure is something with roots in Bohemia: people occasionally find lost treasure from earlier times. But the film is based more on the recent phenomenon of treasure hunting using metal detectors. This is more and more popular as a hobby in the Czech Republic and that served as an inspiration. The film is not about a concrete treasure however. It can be anything.”

“The theme of digging too deep can be seen as a metaphor for humanity. I think that people have ‘dug too deep’ and too much here… and everywhere.”

In Bohemia, you have occasional finds of medieval coins or earlier troves of weapons or there are legends of hidden Nazi treasure. Very careful viewers going to see your film may notice the Latin words used in the logo in the trailer: Nostris ex ossibus ultor suget aliquado, suggesting Virgil, The Aeneid – May you arise as an avenger from our bones. That suggests that your treasure hunters “dig too deep”…

“It can be seen as a metaphor for humanity. I think that people have ‘dug too deep’ and too much here and everywhere. That is not only about treasure hunters but all people. Insatiable lust and desire are driving forces.”

The film is going to have a midnight showing at the 50th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival – you must be very excited.

'Greedy Tiffany',  photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary
“Yes. KVIFF is the king of the hill among Czech film festivals and there are so many fans who visit. So I am very happy it will get a screening. It is certainly rewarding considering this was a film which was produced without any money at the beginning! At the start there was almost no money and we put in our own funds, and we only got some financing later. The first half of the film was made only with ‘love’ with people whom wanted nothing more than for the film to be made. Only love.”

That is very nicely-said and I am glad that you mention that. I guess you get a quality there which might otherwise lose if it was a slick production form the very beginning. That said, would you be happier if your second film receives more funds in advance?

“Yeah, well I am not against money – you need money to make movies. At the same time, you don’t have to have huge, huge amounts. I like working with small crews and not huge budgets, there is less stress if you are not spending untold millions. And it forces you to be creative if you have less.”