What was the last short film you watched? Well, if you’re like most people, you probably can’t remember. Sure, the Academy Awards has three short-film categories, but besides the Academy voters, who actually watches these films? Maybe it’s the limited exposure the general public has to these films or maybe we just don’t spend the time to research these undiscovered artists.
That’s ok. Marko Slavnic understands. Although he’s made a name for himself with his short films, that’s not what he’s all about. On the contrary, it’s just the start. Of course to understand what he’s about and where he’s going, you have to start from the beginning. I had the chance to catch up with Marko to discuss his short films, his latest feature film and working in film in Austin.
You wouldn’t know just by meeting him, since he has no trace of a foreign accent, but Marko was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia. He moved to Austin with his family when he was only 8 years old. Like many from this war-torn country, he lost several friends and family members to the war, a loss that still lingers with him today. Although he may have been too young to fully understand what was happening at the time, this tragedy affected his life and has given him another perspective to tell his stories.
When I asked when he first knew that he wanted to work in film he mentions vivid memories of childhood. “I watched so many classics with my dad, everything from American classics to Japanese films… a really broad spectrum,” Marco says.
Of course, it was the more fantastical films like “Star Wars” that triggered the idea of working in film. As he grew older, his tastes and influences navigated toward the new approaches of filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher and Darren Aronofsky, which he still admires.
Growing up in Austin, with a major university and a film school in his backyard, Marko to UT to study Radio, Television & Film and earn his degree. But, just as most other film grads know, a diploma from film school doesn’t automatically equal a job. So, for the next few years after film school, with a few odd jobs here and there, Marko worked on his art with a series of “practice films” that he entered into the 2010 Nikon Short-Film Festival, including “The Hug Lady”, “One Second” and “Where Were You in ’92?” One of these, “Chicken vs. Penguin” won the top $100,000 prize. That prize gave him the means, the exposure and the contacts to continue his passion and affirm his career as a filmmaker.
Today Marko’s work continues to take him in between Los Angeles and Austin and around the world, but his home is still here in Austin. He has a lot of respect for local filmmakers and understands what it’s like to push yourself to make things happen.
“There’s a lot of talent here (in Austin),” he says. “It’s important to network within your own city and see what other people are doing and see how you can get involved and help each other out.”
In between working corporate and commercial jobs, he’s just completed his first feature film. The story brings together two estranged brothers and takes them to their homeland of Bosnia to spread their father’s ashes. Like true independent filmmaking, Marko has written, directed and produced this film. He traveled to Bosnia and Croatia with a very small crew of only camera, sound and two actors.
“It’s so hard to sit around and wait and hope that someone’s gonna read your script and give you money,” he says. “I wrote something in mind that I knew I could finance myself… that I could pull off.”
He hopes to enter his film into competitions after its completion. Of course, he’s not expecting to win Sundance on the first try, but then again, it wouldn’t hurt. His short films are proof that if he can get you hooked in only 2-4 minutes — imagine what he could do with an hour and a half.
Keep up with Marko’s adventures in film on his website at www.markoslavnic.com.
Check out Marko’s $100,000 prize winning short film below: Chicken vs. Penguin
Written by Jessica Hudson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Images by Ryan Green