Mastercard Off Camera 2022. David Parfitt on Collaboration with Harvey Weinstein – Interview

After I finished my week with Marilyn, we decided to stop working with The Weinstein Company. Time has shown that I made the right decision – British film producer David Parfitt confirms in an interview with tvn24.pl. The Academy Award winner – for “Shakespeare in Love”, which was recognized as the best film in 1999 – was one of the jury members during the fifteenth edition of the Mastercard Off Camera in Krakow.

The 15th edition of the Mastercard Off Camera ends in Krakow on Sunday. One of the most famous and largest independent film festivals in this part of Europe, it attracts filmmakers from all over the world. The most important part of the program is the main competition “Making the Road”, where the authors of their first or second full-length films compete for the Krakow Film Prize, which has been named after Andrzej Waeda since this year. It is a tradition that 10 films are judged by an international jury headed by the representative or representatives of Polish cinema. This year, along with Wojciech Smarzowski, the jury included British interior designer Anna Pinnock and British film producer David Parfitt.

Parfitt began his career as a film and theater actor, but in the 1980s focused on production. Together with Kenneth Branagh, he founded Renaissance Theater and later became a producer of his friend’s films, including “Henry V”, “Peter’s Friends” and “Much Ado About Nothing”. “Shakespeare in Love” brought Parfitt an Academy Award for Best Picture. British drama “Father” (directed by Florian Zeller) with Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman in the main roles brought the British second nomination in this category. Parfitt’s production also includes “My Week with Marilyn”, “Joan’s Secrets” and the Polish-British animation “Toge Vincent”.

David ParfittMasterCard outside the camera

Tomasz-Marcin Wrona, tvn24.pl: In your career you produced 26 titles, mostly fashion or historical films. Is it a deliberate choice? Kind of specialty?

David Parfitt: It is true that most of them are historical films. On the one hand, it happened because many of them have theatrical roots. On the other hand, a sort of specialization is determined along with my professional reputation, and I’m starting to get very good scenarios related to historical events.

But in the face of climate catastrophe, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine, do we need more historical films?

I think this question applies to all kinds of films, because whatever crisis we are affected by, we need cinema. In the case of historical films or fashion films, we reach those that resonate with the present and can have an impact on contemporary audiences. Otherwise they are not worth the sacrifice and the work – this is my style. I focus on films that will be a source of happiness for viewers and that people will want to come to.

It’s not like I’m deliberately looking for fashion designs, but rather interesting stories to tell. In any case, my last film – “The Father” by Florian Zeller – deviated from this trend, because it is a contemporary film.

From what you’ve learned, your next movie is going to be set in the post-apocalyptic reality of the United States, right?

Well, my name comes up in the context of some projects that I may, and may not, be doing. But most likely, the next film will deal with the protests of the feminist movements in Britain in the eighties. It is about women’s vociferous protests against the placement of American nuclear weapons at Greenham Air Force Base. This is a completely new project for me, but I think it is an important topic in contemporary Europe.

Do you think we learn from our history?

Of course, we learn, but we don’t always do our part in history. Although when I look around, I get the impression that many people are deliberately unwilling to learn from the past.

“Shakespeare in Love” dir. John MaddenUnited International Pictures Poland

One of your most famous films is Shakespeare in Love, for which it won an Oscar in the Best Picture category of 1999. It’s no secret that Harvey Weinstein won an Academy Award for this film among others. After the scandal he was involved in broke out, did you have any problems in the industry?

Weinstein’s secrets surfaced six or seven years after we decided to stop working with him. My company and I severed all ties with The Weinstein Company after completing my week with Marilyn, as we had at least a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein. When we closed this project, I said we wouldn’t work with him anymore and we stopped sharing scripts we got with him.

Weinstein’s misconduct was not related to sexual violence, but it did involve the use of force on filmmakers. For example, he tried to make a movie that he wasn’t making at all. In general, there was a creative difference between us. Time has shown that I made the right decision based on my creative experience.

You said in one of the documentaries about this scandal that she used physical violence against you. His spokeswoman issued a statement on his behalf contradicting your statement, describing it as “proof of lies and disgraceful imagination.” How do you comment on that?

I am honored that Harvey Weinstein called me a liar.

The COVID-19 pandemic has overshadowed the past two years. Have you noticed any major changes in independent cinema so far?

During the festival, I participated in one of the sessions and learned that the number of tickets sold in Poland has returned to the pre-pandemic level. And that’s a great omen, even if a lot of them have to do with movies.

It seems to me that the pandemic has shown that people love cinema as group entertainment. Watching a movie together in a movie theater is an unquestionable source of pleasure that cannot be replaced by any other form of movie watching. In fact, I am optimistic about the future of this industry. The question arises about which films will be produced. Certainly, there will be some that will illustrate the times we live in. However, I get the impression that producers tend to use comedies more than tragedies in order to provide movie audiences with the opportunity to break away from everyday life.

How has the pandemic affected your career plans?

With the rest of our business partners, we’ve decided not to film anything during this time. We focused on researching new projects and new scenarios. The decision was made because, even without a pandemic, getting funding for independent films is very difficult. During the pandemic, the costs of regulating safety measures increased spending by more than 20 percent. We assumed that rather than spend a lot of money on masks, tests, and personal protective equipment, we’d rather customize it to make the film ultimately the best it can be.

My company is also involved in theatrical productions and just before the first closing we were starting rehearsals for a new performance. We will return to this project in September of this year.

The only thing we produced at the end of the restrictions in Great Britain was the short opera La Voix Humaine. It had its first show recently on BBC. One heroine, one place, six shooting days. So it was a small, intimate project that symbolically celebrated the lifting of restrictions on the pandemic, and it brought us so much joy.

“Father” of Florian Zeller is the great comeback of Anthony HopkinUIP

You were nominated for a second Academy Award in the Best Picture category in 2021 for “The Father,” directed by Florian Zeller. Anthony Hopkins, who plays the main role, won an Oscar. How did you find Florian and his influential project?

This is a great story, because in this case the movie found me. Florian, along with the French producers of the film: Philippe Carcassonne and Jean-Louis Levy, worked on this project and had already received the approval of Anthony Hopkins to participate in the film. They wondered where to shoot and decided to go to London. Then they called me. I was very happy because the script is so beautiful. I was pretty sure Florian – despite being a first time director – had a clear vision of what he wanted to do. My job was to provide the right conditions and the right people so that he could achieve what he had dreamed of. The director of photography was Ben Smithard, and she worked with him on “My Week with Marilyn.”

I came to Krakow as a jury member for the main “Making Way” contest. How do you rate the quality of these films?

They are wonderful in my opinion. It’s an interesting and unusual selection of what, in general, reflects what is best in independent cinema at the moment. That’s why they gave me so much fun. I’m about to argue with the other jurors, but the title rivalry is really huge.

Based on your own experience, do you have any tips for people making their first or second feature films?

Not right. As for the filmmakers whose films are in competition, they know exactly what they are doing. They’ve already done some great things, so they have to stick with the way they chose. Whatever they’ve done so far, the effect is awesome, and let them stick with it.

I suppose Mastercard Off Camera is your first film festival in pre-pandemic conditions. Do you have any expectations for this festival?

Basically no. I came to Krakow for the first time, and it turned out to be an amazingly beautiful city. It is a real treasure. That’s why I tried to spend as much time as possible exploring the city. I participated in one of the foreign shows. It was a beautiful evening with a large crowd. I had the pleasure of watching the spectators sitting on the blankets enjoying a lovely evening.

The festival itself has made a huge impression on me as a very popular and well-liked event. You can see that people miss him in this formula. Originally, we spoke to the organizers before the pandemic and I was supposed to bring the version that was canceled due to the pandemic. I am very happy that we were able to get along so quickly and I can participate in this year’s edition.

“Miss Viborg” is the best film in the 15th Mastercard Off Camera FestivalTVN24

author:Tomas Marcin and Rona

Main image source: Poland Film Forum

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