Director Bobby Garabedian comes from Hollywood but it was a short film he made in the Czech Republic, in the Czech language, which got him nominated for an Oscar this year. The film's Czech title is Most (rhymes with cost), meaning 'bridge', though the English title is Most (rhymes with toast). It is a moving film about a man, brilliantly played by Vladimir Javorsky, who is forced to choose between saving his son and saving a train full of strangers, when an accident occurs at the rail bridge he operates. Bobby Garabedian visited many European countries before deciding to make Most here - I asked him why the Czech Republic.
"Several reasons - one is in all the other countries that we travelled there was something visually, or something just...something missing. It maybe had one element that we needed but nothing else, but when we came to Prague it had everything, it had locations. And once I saw some theatre and saw the actors, I was like 'everything is here, these actors are unbelievable'. And we built from that."
Was cost a factor, because I presume it would be cheaper to make it here than say in France, or somewhere like that?
"Sure, sure, although we even went to Budapest, which is relatively similar in cost, but that did play into it, yes. And the crews are excellent here, the camera crews, it's all really, really top professionals. It's interesting because most of the time Hollywood comes and makes their big movies here; and what was different about us is that we came and we made a movie with your actors, in your language. And that's something I'll never forget and I want to do much more of."
That leads me to my next question, which I don't mean negatively, but I'm curious if that fact it was made here in the Czech language, with Czech actors...was the Czech Republic 'exotic' for you? Or did it give your film some element of exoticism, for Americans say?
"It definitely did. I think if I'd tried to tell this story in the US it would have been melodramatic, it would have been melodrama, because there the subject matter...the actors probably would tend to read into it too much, whereas here they were able to experience it more, somehow."
Was it enjoyable filming here in Prague, and I know you also did a bit in Poland, or when you're filming is there so much stress that you can't enjoy the experience of being where you are, so to speak?
"It was amazing filming here, I enjoyed it very much. The one challenge that was really stressful was it got dark really early. We had very short days. And I was challenged because, for example, the character that Linda Rybova played, we had train scenes, we had many, many scenes, and she's such a popular actress that she was doing many projects at the same time. So we had no light and we had her for one hour, two hours, three hours."
"Just the experience of working with the actors while we were shooting...oh, yes: the fact that I could not speak Czech - and they couldn't speak English that well, they did a little bit - it helped us to work on a whole other level, that we could communicate without words, and I think it made everything so much more powerful."
But how did you direct in Czech? Did you have some interpreters standing by all the time, or how did it work?
"Yes, it started with interpreters but when we were shooting the translation would take too much time, plus it would change a little, so it would throw the actors off. So I stopped doing that and we started working almost intuitively, just looking at each other and just connecting on this sort of bizarre level."
How was it for you as a director filming people speaking a language which you couldn't understand anything of, I presume?
"Honestly, I have to tell you, we would get into such a sort of zone when we were working that if one of my people would come up and speak English to me it would throw me off, I'd need five minutes to digest what they'd said, because I was in this sort of place with the actors."
Did it demand more trust from you in the actors, give that you couldn't understand what they were saying?
"Yes, of course, yes."
The film has English subtitles. Were those titles your original screenplay?
"Yes, yes. What we did was when we settled here we wrote the script, translated it, had it interpreted back to us, retranslated it, then met with the actors, read with the actors and translated it one more time."
How was the editing process? Again, given that you were editing what you couldn't understand.
"That was very difficult at first, until we got the subtitles up and we sort of built the scenes. Then I could tap into and understand more. Once we were doing the framework of the movie we would put the subtitles on the bottom, and then we got really familiar with it and we were able to know 'OK, this is where it's at'."
Tell me about the title, because I know in Czech it's called Most (rhymes with cost), which means 'bridge', but in English it's called Most (rhymes with toast). Is that right?
"Ehm...[laughs]..ehm, Most, but it's spelt m-o-s-t..."
It's the same word.
"Yes, it's just the enunciation. Here it's Most [rhymes with cost], and over there it's pronounced Most [toast], yes."
But to an English-speaking person the title means 'the most'. They don't get the sense of the bridge, do they?
"Ehm, yes, correct, yes. We have to correct then constantly."
Why didn't you just call it 'The Bridge', or something like that?
"Too on the nose, too normal, it gave it more to talk about. What is Most [rhymes with toast]? And then when they found out...plus I think it's sort of ironic because it's the MOST sacrifice anybody can give, what the father gives, so there's other sub-textual, underlining messages, I think."
"Yes, yes, very much. And also I think it's because a lot of times I feel too many Americans try to exploit the girls in Europe, and we wanted to speak to that, and sort of have it be reversed, where the girl says very politely 'I'm too beautiful for you'."
The film did very well on the festival circuit, I believe you won the short film category at seven festivals - was it then any kind of a surprise at all for you when you were nominated for the Oscar?
"I think it always still is a surprise because you just don't know how people are going to go. One thing that made us more confident was after we won the international festival in Palm Springs - that qualified us to be nominated. So that was coming in at a pretty high standard."
Tell me about the Oscars ceremony, and if many of the cast went, for example.
"The best part for me was having Vladimir Javorsky there, and experiencing it through him. And driving to the academies...it was like seeing it through his eyes, though at the same time it was the first time for us. We had an amazing time, it was a blast."
What's next for the film now?
"Here's the thing: the reviews in the US have all said 'how could this be? This is a feature film experience in only 33 minutes'. Whereas most short films are one storyline with one twist, this is like a four-act structure, in a way. It has the emotional capacity of a full-length feature. So because of that we feel like if we can get it in the cinemas in certain areas it will begin to generate an audience and sustain itself for an amount of time. And that would be an honour for us if that can happen, if we can get it in the cinemas, one theatre in the US - one in New York, one in London and one in the Czech Republic."
Can you imagine working here again in the future?
"Absolutely, definitely. We're talking to the American Embassy this week about a possible other feature here, in the Czech language."
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