Interview with Alexander Hilli

Director of Press Conference

Your project has been recognized in European Short Awards. Could you please provide a brief overview of your project and its significance in the context of our festival?

Violent and entertaining. It is a short story about a boxer who finds himself on top of the world after winning a championship belt only to find out that those closest to him might not be who he thought they were. The underlying theme of trust and how we form a trust to someone and how we can lose it is present throughout the whole film.


What were the key criteria or qualities you sought in selecting actors to participate in your film?The key to the casting was in the physicality and acting range of the lead role. The protagonist is a boxer who just won a championship belt, therefore he needs to look and move like a boxer. Most of the film however is set in a press conference room where he has limited space for expression therefore it had to be someone who has the emotional range in his acting and can captivate the audience with his voice and look. We found all that in brilliant young actor Ray Calleja. Opposite him we placed a female investigator who had to battle not only against him but also the entire room of male reporters. Therefore the actress had to possess a certain amount of strength and not be afraid to stand alone against a room full of men. And for the coach I needed someone truly British, with years and experiences under his belt to really guide the boxer through the scenes and inhabit a sort of father figure within the story.



How did you collaborate and communicate with the cinematographer to achieve your desired visual style?

This wasn't the first project we collaborated on so we are quite accustomed to each other. We developed a moodboard and look book which was drawn mainly from 70's court dramas. We also referenced images from sport photographers of behind the scenes from old issues of LIFE magazine etc. We wanted to get as close to the 70s as we could, so we used older lenses to achieve the look. The camera movement was discussed at lengths during pre production and recce and each shot was designed to support the overall emotion that the audience should feel. I couldn't be happier with how it turned out, which you can see especially on a big screen.



Can you elaborate on the choice of locations for your project and the significance behind those selections?

Because our film is set in the 70's and I knew we didn't have the budget for an extensive set decoration, the locations are crucials in creating the atmosphere. We shot it in Prague, Czech Republic and luckily there are still some places here where the time has stopped where we could shoot it. Then it was just a question of costumes and few props.

From your perspective, what unique qualities or aspects of your film make it a compelling choice for potential distributors?

It is bold, it is entertaining and it is cool. We made the film as a proof of concept to show producers that audiences will like the story of a fighter, if told with a fresh perspective which is provided by the "interrogation" style of unveiling the background of the characters. In this term it is more like a detective story than a sports drama.

Could you discuss the artistic elements or expressions you incorporated into your project, and how they contribute to the overall characterization of your work?

I knew from the beginning that I wanted very specific music in the film and that was a very naturalistic drum sequence which was derived from the film Il Mercenario with Franco Nero. I knew that I wanted the ending to feel exactly like you feel when he stands in the arena before the final duel. I worked on the drums sequence with an amazing drummer until we finally recorded what I was satisfied with. This whole piece is then cut through the specific scenes throughout the film, guiding you towards the finale. The sound design and the music is something that works really well here and I am really proud of what we managed to do in such a small team.


What initially inspired or motivated you to pursue a career in filmmaking?
Pure madness.

Are there any particular films or filmmakers that have greatly influenced or inspired your own work? If so, what aspects of their work resonate with you?

All of them. I definitely watched Citizen Kane more times than anyone probably should, I always come back to Charlie Chaplin, The New Hollywood Era produced some of the greatest films as well as French and Italian cinema, Korean Park Chan-Wook is beautifully disturbing, Gaspar Noe is probably the most original and David Fincher the most methodical - and many many more inspire me everyday. You can learn so much about audiovisual storytelling by just observing their work. From recent times the names that stand out and I like to watch are Refn and Chazelle.

What genres do you find most creatively fulfilling to work within, and what draws you to these particular genres?

I think more in terms of characters and I really like to explore characters who are not fitting into regular society very well. Can be on either side, hyper-successful people or low lifes - I find their stories to be more intriguing and that they can tell us a lot about the current state of society and relationships within it.

When you're not immersed in filmmaking, what are some of your other interests or hobbies?

Watching films.

Lastly, could you share any insights or plans you have for future projects?

We are shooting a feature film road movie in Spain at the end of the year and then hopefully we can make the Press Conference into a feature as well - we have the script ready so we are looking for a producer who will like the concept as shown in the short format.