Live Films – Czech project born in lockdown adapts theatre plays for cinema audiences

Necessity is the mother of invention, as the old adage goes. When theatres and cinemas were obliged to close to help slow the spread of Covid-19, director, screenwriter and playwright Viktor Tauš started looking for a new way to bring his art to audiences. The result is Filmy Naživo (Live Films), a new theatrical film summer project staged outdoors.

The first Live Films broadcast took place in a meadow near Karlštejn Castle – and featured a live-streamed performance of Kaleidoscope by the prestigious La Putyka Circus acrobatic ensemble, now set to screen in dozens of cinemas throughout the Czech Republic.

Viktor Tauš told Czech Radio the original concept was to give viewers an opportunity to watch a theatre play captured on film and adapted to suit the eye of the camera.

“It’s a format that was born during the time of the coronavirus, beginning an adaptation of my play Amerikánka, which couldn’t be performed in the theatre due to the restrictions.

Viktor Tauš,  photo: Kristýna Hladíková / Czech Radio

“Along with the actresses Tereza Ramba and Eliška Křenková, I started thinking about how we could stage it in a new context, or even shift to a new theme.

“We performed Amerikánka outdoors in ‘the desert’, as we call this giant sandpit, and filmed it in one live scene, capturing the intimate space of the actors or the world around them.

“At the same time, we live-streamed it to support the charity Medics in the Streets. And so, the format was born which I started calling Live Films because the audience’s experience is surprisingly far more cinematic than theatrical.”

As creator Viktor Tauš notes, each Live Film arises from a single live shot, as one would experience a work of theatre. The action is staged with a different kind of audience in mind and – now that anti-coronavirus restrictions have been lifted – live streamed in movie houses.

“In this period after [the worst of] the coronavirus crisis, the cinema distribution network is nonetheless still paralysed. So, in cooperation with the CinemArt distributor, we decided to further adapt the format along with five theatrical and performance groups.”

Apart from Kaleidoscope, the other real-time performance captured in this way so far is Through the Air, a dance-acrobatic performance by the Losers’ Cirque Company, based on the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

In the coming days, Viktor Tauš’s play Amerikánka – a drama in fact set in Czechoslovakia during the 1980s and 1990s; and Pérák, about a spring-heeled WWII-era Czech superhero, will also screen.

In September, Divadlo Na Zábradlí’s production of Secret Agent by David Jařab rounds out the series. At the same time, some live audiences watching the Live Films are also being recorded – so later viewers can enjoy a similar experience.