"Love and other crimes" by Stefan Arsenijevic


Love and Other Crimes is a German-Serbian-Austrian-Slovenian co-production and the result of seven months of financing. The film is Stefan Arsenijevic’s feature debut and was selected for Berlinale Panorama Special 2008. Love and Other Crimes is supported by three Cine-Regio members: Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Vienna Film Fund and City of Belgrade Film Fund.

Synopsis: Anica lives in New Belgrade, a miserable district of tower blocks. She is the mistress of Milutin, a wealthy local criminal who owns a solarium and runs a protection racket. Anica is determined not to grow old in this dump, where neither love nor life seem to offer her a decent future. One grey winter’s day Anica has an idea to steal money from Milutin’s safe, get on a plane and leave the country forever.

Director Stefan Arsenijevic started out his career with making a number of short films which worked well at festivals. In 2003 he received a Golden Bear for the Oscar-nominated short Torsion.

Love and Other Crimes brings together 15 financing partners. It started out with development funding from the South-East Cinema Network in 2004 and Hubert Bals Fund in Rotterdam in January 2006. “We pitched the project without a script, presenting the emotional aspects of the project. In 2006 we presented the project at the Berlinale Co-production Market. It was at that time producer Herbert Schwering from Coin Film, Germany, decided to get on board and produce Stefan’s first feature film. He and other financiers trusted us and asked Stefan to deliver the first draft of the script at Cannes 2006”, explains producer Misa Mogorovic, Art & Popcorn, Serbia.

At a very early stage of the project, producer Herbert Schwering contacted the sales agent. He met with Tobias Pausinger from Match Factory, whom he had met at ACE training, the Ateliers du Cinéma Européen. The project quickly took form. Co-production partners in the respective co-production countries got attached to the project. The financing plan ended up with 40% of the financing coming from the Germany co-producer, of which one-third from NRW. Austrian and Slovenian contributed 20% of the budget and here Vienna Film supported the project with € 77.000. Peter Zawrel from the Vienna Film Fund says: “we decided to back the film as we were convinced by the subject. Post-production and music was successfully done in Vienna”. Slovenia contributed with the technical part of the crew and with the director of photography, Simon Tansek. Serbia’s Art & PopCorn got the City of Belgrade Film Fund involved. The sales agent Match Factory decided to put up a high amount of minimum guarantee, which is indeed not normal for first features. However, the sales agent felt very safe with the team working on the film. Later on, Eurimages joined in with 16% of the budget. The co- production was now worth €1.4m.

Love and Other Crimes is set in Belgrade. However, despite the fact, that most of the shooting took place in Belgrade, it was difficult to obtain funding from Serbia. Producer Misa Mogorovic informs: “there is a fund for first feature filmmakers from the City of Belgrade. We applied twice and were rejected. Nobody understood why the project from the Oscar-nominated filmmaker Stefan Arsenijevic was not selected. We did a massive press campaign and we finally got €50.000 from City of Belgrade for post-production. This money was really important in obtaining support from Eurimages.

In terms of selling strategy for Love and Other Crimes, Tobias Pausinger from Match Factory explains: “The film came at the right time. We saw a lot of films from the Balkans, but this film is different because it is made with humour. There is a very good atmosphere and tone I have not seen in other films. From a marketing point of view, we travelled together to different festivals to market the project. We started creating awareness around the project at last year’s Cannes, with pictures, stills and rushes from the film. It’s difficult to pre-sell a film these days, especially if it is a first feature film from Serbia. We prepared an upcoming folder just to raise awareness and be able to talk with people at markets and festivals. We at least succeeded in having good exposure in Berlin and there was a lot of anticipation because the team was around quite a lot”.

Director Stefan Arsenijevic wrote 20 versions of the treatment and he comments: “It is a mosaic of small stories and I was improving the construction of the dramaturgy all the time. After this long process, it took me only a few days to write the final script. This was my first time working on a script for a feature-length film, and I found it very complex. So I asked Srdjan Koljevic and Bojan Vuletic to join me, two friends from the Academy. This movie is, as I said, very complex; it follows the life of a woman from dawn till dusk, who says goodbye to past life. At the end of the story she steals money and leaves the country.
What was most exciting for me was working with the actors. I’m lucky because I had the opportunity to work with such remarkable actors, like Milena Dravic – for the third time – and Fedja Stojanovic.
As it is a Serbian/German/Austrian/Slovenian co-production we had a crew with people representing all these countries. The fact that this is a co-production gave me an opportunity to make a universal film. The creative part of the crew that came in helped me see Belgrade from a different perspective. Together we made it more poetic. I had very good artistic influences. Despite 15 partners and co-producers, I was able to make the film I wanted to make.”

Source: Cine-Regio & Cineuropa.org, 2008