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Genevieve Anderson: There is something very tactile about puppets and Hrabal’s literature

Interview with film director Genevieve Anderson about her project – adaptation of Hrabal’s novel Too loud a solitude.

What made you choose Hrabal’s novel Too loud a solitude as your film’s subject? What captured your attention?

A friend who was traveling in Prague found this book at Shakespeare and Sons and thought it was perfect material for one of my films. I was sold on the first page: For thirty-five years now I’ve been in wastepaper, and it’s my love story…I am a jug filled with water both magic and plain…when I read I don’t really read; I pop a beautiful sentence in my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop… and on and on. It’s some of the most sensual language I have ever encountered in literarture, and there is something very tactile about it. Puppets for me are very tactile as well, so the book, in my opinion, really lends itseld to the medium.

When did it occur to you it would be a good topic to film?

Hrabal’s story takes place largely in the mind of it’s protagonist, Hanta. Much of it is memory, some hallucination, and visions. The book is framed within the idea that books and the ideas contained within them are precious, but also vulnerable. Progress threatens to destroy the world of ’small pleasures’, like the feel of pages in a book and delight of a gorgeous sentence. I felt so much resonance with how progress and technology, as integral as they are to our evolution, also compromise the simple aspects of being human. We relinquish much of our agency to progress, and Hrabla’s book is an unsentimental testament not only to what is lost, but also contains an acceptance of what is inevitable. It’s a timeless and timely book, which must be why there are so many people all over the world who love it. That’s the long, round about answer; the short answer is in the first question.

Will your adaptation follow the book quite closely or rather be loosely based on it?

We have been working with a wonderful screenwriter, Alex MacInnis, on the adaptation from the beginning. The ideas about how closely we should cleave to the book have shifted over time. Adaptation from literature to cinema is super tricky, and, in my opinion, rarely is there ever a perfect translation from book to screen – the mediums are intrinsically different and access different parts of our perceptive faculties, so they should never attempt to mirror each other. What I aim to do with the feature is to create, with images and technique, the sensation of reading the book. I believe this is achievable, but I have to be very careful about tracking the emotional path of the book in the film, if that makes sense…

You took a trip to Prague in preparations for the film. Was your visit inspirational?

It was truly incredible. Back in 2004 one of the project’s producers, Kelly Miller, and I made a side trip to Prague as I was already on the ground with business at the Berlin Film Festival. We had made some contacts in the puppet/animation world with direct connections to friends in Hrabal’s immediate circle. We were so inspired, not only by the studio/facility and crew resources on the ground, but it was immediately clear that those who knew Hrabal’s personally want to see his work find its way to a broader audience. Their acceptance of our approach was immediate. Oh, if only we spoke Czech!! We should have been using these last years to learn!

A feature film was made from the novel in 1994. Are there going to be any similarities between this adaptation and your puppet version?

We were in contact with Vera Kais early in the project’s development regarding the rights to the underlying material. That’s a story in itself, but suffice to say, our gateway into Hrabal’s text is his book, not Ms. Kais’ interpretation of the material.

How many puppets will feature in the film, and what are they made of?

We have about a dozen puppets as principal characters, and then several background puppets. We will be making the new puppets at a larger scale (18“ as opposed to the 12” puppets we used for the 17 minute version), and out of the same material we used in that version: silicone. The difference will be that we will be building armature to increase subtle movements of the hands and mouths. The puppets will be built according to what they need to do in the film – obviosuly Hanta will be the most complex and the background puppets will be less so.

At what stage is the production now?

We are firmly in the development stage of production: assembling our resources and expanding on the groundwork that has already been laid due to the generous support of the Rockefeller Media Arts Foundation (now the Tribeca Film Institute), Heather Henson and Handmade Puppet Dreams, and the Jane Henson Foundation. We are launching a KickStarter campaign in mid September that will run for 30 days, and depending on the visibility and finances secured with that effort, our real goal would be to go into pre-production for our shoot in Spring/Summer of 2017.

Which production companies have taken part?

So far this has been a purely independent effort. But that’s going to change. We are currently flushing out an ideal budget level which would bring the project into completion for festival purposes/delivery for theatrical distribution: part of the puzzle is to determine how much work should and can be done outside of Los Angeles, CA where most of our contacts for puppet fabrication and post production (CG work and animation) are located. Obviously European and specifically Czech partners are ideal on so many levels – but exactly how to bridge LA and Europe is to be determined. At a very basic level we will want to do some location shooting in/around Prague for background plates and green screen.

Can you tell us what the budget is?

That is still be worked out, but the beg/borrow/steal approach has us under US$ 2 Million.

Can the cinemagoers help in any way?

Yes, of course. The best way is to join our mailing list here

friends on Facebook

and follow our KickStarter campaign both directly and on Twitter and Instagram.

Malvína Balvínová, 14. 9. 2016

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