Fantastic Fest Interviews Movies

Fantastic Fest 2019: In Conversation With Director Martin Krejčí

“The True Adventures of Wolfboy” is a funny and heartwarming coming-of-age story that features a fairytale-esque structure and a slightly quirky version of reality. It had its North American premiere at Fantastic Fest on Friday, September 20.

We sat down with Martin Krejčí to talk about his feature directorial debut and his experiences in making the film and seeing it at Fantastic Fest. The interview below has been edited for clarity and contains mild spoilers for the movie.

Director Martin Krejčí | Photo credit: Jackie Ruth

This is your directorial debut for a feature. For a coming-of-age story, it’s pretty lofty. What made you choose something so complicated?

Martin: The fact that I found myself in it. I obviously had some projects of my own which I’ve been trying to do, and there were a couple of scripts sent to me by my agent. This one intrigued me by the fact that when I read it, I thought I understood what it’s about. And what particularly intrigued me about it was that, unlike movies in the coming-of-age genre and the whole ‘outsider trying to find his own identity within the world,’ this one I thought was different.

The realization of Paul is that we are all outsiders; through the way we understand each other and the way we feel lonely and misunderstood in the world, basically everyone has, in one way or another, similar feelings. There isn’t such a thing as ‘normal,’ so just to realize it and to accept that we are not individually lost in the world — the world consists of lost people — to me this is a great paradox. I think especially nowadays it’s quite important because I think with that feeling of being lost comes fear, and with fear comes evil, so even though it’s quite a naive and idealistic message, I just thought it was worth spreading around. Because nowadays something like that should be heard.

And kind of relating back to that: Being different can be hard for anyone at any age, so what do you think is the significance of the protagonists in this film being young teens?

Martin: Well, sorry — it goes back to your question about what I found interesting about it. And it was, ‘What is it for Paul in terms of hair and facial hair?’ By the way, I love the fact that Olivia [Dufault] wrote the script and it’s lighthearted and it doesn’t take itself too seriously, so there’s the quirkiness and the great opportunity to play with the style. But for Paul with the hair, for me it’s a cultural difference.

As you can hear from my accent, I wasn’t born here. I found myself in that metaphor; everyone has their own form of ‘hair.’ That’s something that I believe is universal. And the fact that thet script was written by a New York-based grammatic author and it resonated on such a deep and personal level with me, who was born in Prague, in Eastern Europe, is kind of hopefully proof that the theme is universal for everyone.

The movie is kind of split up into chapters with title cards. Was that something that was part of the script, or something you added?

Martin: It was there from the beginning, but the structure was slightly different, and there were more chapters than there are in the final movie. We played with the placing of them, but that was one of the examples where I thought Olivia’s script was very good and original, because it worked with the clichés. I remember when I saw it the very first time, I saw the first chapter and I went ‘Ugh, I’ve seen it so many times. It’s such a cliché.’ But what’s important is that, in the end, there’s nothing just for its own sake. It’s not just a structural device; it’s a very strong hook for the story.

I don’t know if I can spoil it, but the whole thing is a form of communication between a mom and her child. That kind of dictates — and shines through — how these chapters should look. They need to be so perfect and detailed, and the technique needs to be so detailed just to show how much work she’s put into it, as a way for her to pay back her guilt that she wasn’t there for her child. It’s like the monk who’s beating himself over the guilt. I’ve never seen that before, where you make something as formal as structural dividers into the next layer of the story. That’s what I really loved about it.

I thought it was really well done, in the way that it was structured.

Martin: Oh, thank you. And of course, it has subjects which I really like, but it also has a structural meaning. Olivia always talked about it like an odyssey, so that’s where the chapters are going.

How do you feel that your previous professional background and your Czech heritage played into how you made the film?

Martin: I don’t have any previous professional work [like this]. I make my living as a director, but only do short films and commercials. And as I said, I’ve had a couple of projects I want to do, and it’s not by coincidence but by a stroke of luck that this one is my first.

And to your question about the Czech heritage: I would say that the film, or script, offered various approaches, and Olivia picked me, I guess based on the fact that when I read it I could find myself in it, meaning that there’s real life in it. I wanted to stay away from what could be a different version of it, which could be, ‘Let’s make it a fantastical fairytale-ish, Tim Burton-ish, Terry Gilliam-ish version of the world.’ It’s not something I’d be interested in, to start with. And secondly, it would just be a copy of something that’s been done before.

What I offered is that I’m a stranger here — not a stranger, but that I wasn’t born here. Because of what I do, I do have my eyes wide open and I might offer a view of things which are normal from an American-born point of view, but because I see them differently, it can hopefully kind of help to create a world of its own. Just by using real, existing elements and looking at them from different angles. That’s the twist, basically, of reality that helps us create a coherent world.

In your future projects, would you plan to do something that has sort of a genre twist to it like this one? It’s kind of a comedy and a drama, but it’s not straightforward.

Martin: Not particularly. To be honest, I loved the opportunity for this script, because the script was calling for it, and the story. Hopefully, next year we’ll shoot my next project, which is something completely different. It’s a very, very, very dry drama set in the 1900s in Canada, and it’s inspired by Rasputin’s story. It’s very dark and kind of archetypal drama, which has nothing to do with genre; it’s just three main characters in a small village, basically. I like to look at things in terms of what the story is about and what it says, then comes the approach or form of it.

TRUE ADVENTURES OF WOLF BOY, THE

Another thing I found interesting in the movie is that all of the music is part of the film. What was behind that choice?

Martin: It was purely intuitive. I’m very much into music, and to have a chance to work with Nick Urata was a dream come true. Since “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Ruby Sparks,” I’ve really loved it. What I love about his music is that it’s simple, but it’s always deep and kind of multi-layered. It’s authentic and real. The beating heart and soul in his music is authentic; it’s sugar-free, basically. When we met for the first time, I immediately knew that it was like a dream coming true. There were a few things along the way, like the look of Paul and the music — I would wake up in the middle of the night, kind of scared. When I met Nick, I knew it was fine. We met a couple of times before the shoot and he did the score, which we played on the set, based on the script and our conversations about the scenes and what I want from it. I had five key scenes which he did the score for prior to the shoot, based just on what I was describing to him… the mood and everything. That’s what brought the “Wolfboy” theme. Later on we kind of threw it away, but it stayed there as a bone structure.

Going back to the songs, I wanted to have three main songs because of how the structure is divided into chapters. I also thought it would be nice to have those three main songs: Aristiana’s song, the robbery song and Mr. Silk’s song, which are the only three songs you can see someone singing. It subconsciously worked and helped us to give it a little twist. The whole movie is a little offset within reality, and those things help me make it — not so much on the nose, but to subtly give it a playfulness. The songs were very important, obviously. If you ask me how I chose them, it was just reading scripts and listening to various tracks, and that’s what came of it.

That’s awesome.

Martin: Oh, I have one more thing. Sorry. With the robbery scenes, I knew that Rose needs to be singing the song while we are seeing the robbery scenes; I knew Mr. Silk has to have a song, and Aristiana has a song. So the Aristiana one was the first because Goldfrapp and this song were there immediately. The robbery song was particularly interesting because we had Mark Kirby, the music supervisor, and I wrote, like, a four-page brief of what it needs to be. He kept sending stuff that was too on-the-nose, crazy, dramatic. And then… I’m a big fan of Nina Simone. And the song “Marriage Is for Old Folks,” it became a statement for Rose, of her independence and her way of seeing life. That’s what she’s saying in the film. When those two things clicked, suddenly it brings something unexpected to the robbery montage. I cannot be grateful enough to the producer Kimberly Steward, that she allowed an extra budget for re-recording the whole song in its original form. It was so perfect. Mr. Silk’s song is another story; it would be too long and I don’t want to bore you with it.

You were able to watch the film with the audience here at Fantastic Fest. What’s it been like to see them react in real time around you?

Martin: It was interesting. When we had the premiere back in Europe, the screening was almost 1,000 people. It was a much bigger audience, and it went really well actually. But not like yesterday, when I saw people really laughing out loud. I guess it goes with the spirit of this festival; it’s much more open-hearted and I guess I wish this kind of spirit was in all festivals, where people just go to see a movie and come open. I don’t know if it’s something to do with Austin or this part of the world, but it was very nice to see people who are just open in an emotional way.

Thank you to Martin Krejčí for speaking with us about the film.

If you didn’t get to see “The True Adventures of Wolfboy” premiere at Fantastic Fest, there’s still time! Its second screening is on Wednesday, September 25, at 11 a.m.

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Featured image credit: Waytao Shing

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