M.M.: I’m not sure how well, or even if, our readers know you (even after the review for one of your films, #Beings), so why don’t we start with a short introduction.
P.S.: Amateur filmmaker
M.M.: That was very short indeed, so I’ll just add that Paul Stefanescu is a passionate filmmaker (not sure about the amateur part, but so be it), who’s not only making films (…and other arts) but also hosted film screenings in Bucharest and is a breathing, moving performer. Personally, I always felt that your social media accounts are more like an on going virtual performance. But it’s not me speaking here, so let’s get back to our questions.
What can you tell us about your older projects?
P.S.: #Beings and Sleep-Awake, two “exorcism” films, as someone once described them. – If that doesn’t make our readers curious, I don’t know what will.
M.M.: How did you start making films? What’s your relationship with film schools?
P.S.: It’s a bit more complicated. My first encounter with film was in UNATC ( the National University of Theatrical and Cinematographic Arts “Ion Luca Caragiale Bucharest), but it took me like 10 years to find my own direction in film, and in the way of making it, in which to truly believe. Making film is hard, and you need deep beliefs, to be able to “sacrifice” your whole life for a few film scenes. It took me a long time to grasp a meaning of art and to discover what is art in me. And what in me would matter to others. A never ending search for truth.
In what concerns film schools, my only contact was with UNATC, a good place to form a network and to develop a sort of passion for film. Even so, I do not advise anyone willing to learn film to follow a Romanian film school. For us, in Romania, school seems to be, still, a poetical act.
M.M.: What do you aim for when you’re making films, what are your expectations? From yourself, from the “final cut”, from the public?
P.S.: It’s a classical route in art, first, you have a revelation – an understanding of something that is beyond linguistic discourse, especially if you are “a visual creature”. And then, you try to bring what you’ve understood, which is circumstantially dependent on a narrative and dramatic context, to an existential form.
It’s an emotional, intuitive and deep process. Of course, if you choose this creative path. What interests me the most is rediscovering the essences and being aware of them – that’s at the core of my stories.
I try to be totally honest. It’s really hard. And during the making of a film, being honest with your story, with yourself and with the essence you want to depict, all shape a different world. A world that pays for the effort, the pain, and the fight of keeping oneself open to it. And not only to the story, but it’s really important to stay open and true with the people you’re working with, and observe their own way of relating to the story. It’s a magical process. For me. For the people, I work with. For the public.
I, like Claire Denis, wish for the public to watch my films in the most open intimacy. Not collectively in a hall. My films are whispers to the soul. That’s why only a few can accept them, decipher them and connect with them. It’s hard nowadays to be totally open in this world.
M.M: I know your interest goes beyond film, and covers other visual arts as well, or better said, your interest is in Visual Arts. What place does film have in this scheme?
P.S.: Film isn’t film anymore for me. It stopped being a label, a definition of an artistic product. Film is simply a medium, like words. Normally, film means a complex process of production and distribution. The rest is art.
M.M.: How is it to make no/low-budget film in Romania?
P.S.: It’s like anywhere else in the world. Maybe it’s even easier than in the USA now, for example. Because here, in Romania, people are just starting to get a taste of “the visual life” and they start to open up to it, to be willing to expose themselves and redefine themselves visually. And this is superb. In 4 or 5 years, it will be a visual revolution in everything that means film and photography. Romania is getting out of its shell.
M.M.: Is there a public for underground films in Romania?
P.S.: For now the public is small, to say the least. I organized for a year events – screenings of underground films, and people came. People want this kind of events. We have a native inclination and curiosity for underground, but, unfortunately, we also have an induced doubt, when it comes to this “area”.
M.M.: We asked the public this same question, but an answer from someone on the inside, would be more than welcome, how would you describe in a sentence (or more) Romanian film?
P.S.: Romanian film is struggling, is searching for directions; directions set by countries that benefit from better financial funds and still produce art/artistic films. In cinema, it all comes down to the distributor. That’s where the “magic” happens. What’s sellable, that’s what is made. CNC (National Center for Cinematography, Romania) follows the same principles but doesn’t know exactly what it wants. But, despite this, there are rare examples of commercial Romanian films, but then again, the whole cinema infrastructure is pretty precarious.
M.M.: Any favourite Romanian films? Why?
P.S.: My favourite films list still includes At the End of the Line (La capatul liniei, Dinu Tanase, 1982), A Girl’s Tear (O lacrima de fata, Iosif Demian, 1980), Meandre (Mircea Saucan, 1966). I always had a special pleasure for films that force the limits. Not only for the sake of it, but because the limits meant a limited speech, and there’s a natural instinct to go beyond that speech when the “existent”, the “possible”, the “dreaming” cannot be contained within it. And we are a nation with an enormous dreaming potential.
M.M: Future projects?
P.S.: I have a bit of a complicated system, because of the budget, or better said the lack of it. So yes, I have a lot of projects, but I’m waiting at the corner, maybe someone passing on the street will help me realize them. There’s Obscur, of course, Routine, the newest post-sexual story and now I’m working on an older story that had been waiting in the drawer, Cavity. Besides that, there are the Sinne Sinth videos, and performance art projects. And of course, there is also my secret art-porn project, which seems to be the most interesting one, and the one that gets the most support, but from people outside the country.
M.M.: Thank you very much for your time, we’ll keep an eye (and an open mind) on your projects.
Also, you can find his films here.