I was sitting in a café in Bratislava, having a final cup of coffee and picking up my email before boarding a train for Budapest. I was dimly aware of a couple of guys in another part of the café dismantling film equipment as if after a shoot. I was in a hurry, so I wasn't paying much attention. But then one of the guys came over to my table.
"You look like that Apple fellow," he said to me.
True, I was wearing a turtleneck and wire-rimmed glasses, and I was sporting a sort of Steve Jobs beard. But no one had ever before mistaken me for the computer magnate.
Pavol Kustar introduced himself with a couple business cards and, once he found out that I had been interviewing people in Bratislava, he offered his services as a fixer. I told him that I was leaving the country in an hour. He looked unhappy. If I returned to Bratislava, he could introduce me to his friend the filmmaker, Michal Vasilko. And there was a famous violinist I should talk to. And maybe I could also interview Michal"s mother, a bestselling author.
So, on my next trip to the region in April 2013, I took a detour back to Bratislava. Pavol Kustar, his filmmaker friend Michal Vasilko, and I sat at an outdoor pub and talked about videos, contemporary art, and the South Pacific.
Vasilko specializes in one-minutes films. "I think that if you want to say something interesting, one minute is enough to get right to the point," he told me. He's done 60-second shorts on kids playing with toy guns, an erotic festival, and a disabled rapper. But he really wants to do films about famous Slovaks, like the traveler and astronomer - Milan Rastislav Štefánik. He is currently trying to raise money to finish the film.
Kustar too makes art. Or, rather, his son does. And his son is also focused on producing art in short bursts. We talked about his exhibition entitled The Youngest Artist in the World.
Tell me when you decided to become involved in filmmaking?
Michal Vasilko: I started with photography when I was 14. After that, I started to think about moving pictures. I bought a movie camera when I was 18. I went to Great Britain to earn money for the camera. It was still difficult here to earn more money.
Then I realized that with this camera, I could make short films. I started to think what it meant to direct short films. All these experiences in these fields were very helpful and necessary for me. Some people start out with school, or they get their start because a director asks them to help with their film. But I went my own way. I didn't know people from film industry in the beginning. There were no real film professionals or photographers in my family. I can say I am "independent" in video art, and my opinion is independent too. That is advantage for me.
Is there a film school in Bratislava?
Michal Vasilko: Yes, there's one film school.
Did you consider going there?
Michal Vasilko: I considered it. But I'm proud that I decided not to study there. There were possibilities there, of course, because of the teachers there and the classes on technical skills. But on the other hand it was not very interesting for me. I am still learning. I am still studying. People can study every day, but it's not necessary study in the school.
To learn things, some people need teachers, some need books, some need university. But it's not necessary to have a teacher or a university. It can depend on experience. I'm not interested in a person's age but rather their experience. The great artists and men have emerged from their own experience. That's the richest source of inspiration.
Tell me about your early films. What were your themes?
Michal Vasilko: With the first one, the theme was the difference between the life of people who are disabled and people who are not disabled. It's about a boy of 16 years old who was disabled, both physically and mentally. In another way he was very talented. He was also very empathic. He was conscious of himself and of his ability.
Can you give me an example of how he was gifted?
Michal Vasilko: He speaks in rhymes. He listens to a lot of music, and he could sing some of these songs. My movie was at a festival of short films - the topic of festival was "We Are People."
It was here in Slovakia?
To read the rest of the interview, click here.