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Berlinale talents: Canon short film competition

Gabriela Suciu

‘Love Locker’

Producer Gabriela Suciu was responsible for the production of Romanian film director Andreea Cristina Bortun’s ‘Love Locker’ and ensured all the values in Bortun’s original script were adhered to, taking care to preserve the film’s very poignant sentiment of a love finally realised. Please click on the window above to view the trailer and see below for the story behind the film…

Treatment of the brief

As producer, Gabriela Suciu’s role was to create an environment where the talents of the cast and the crew could flourish, ensuring the director’s vision and the writer’s story were matched as closely as possible. The film’s director Andreea Cristina Bortun explains: “’Love Locker’ presents a cropped universe: the small luggage room which hides a secret, the only secret that once revealed will help an impossible love story come true. The beauty of the story is that it can be situated anywhere... no specific country and no specific time are given.”

Why the film was chosen

The judging panel was impressed not only by the attention to detail in the film’s proposed storyline, revolving around the universal theme of forbidden love, but also with very specific notes made as to its proposed delicate lighting, cinematography, sound and overall presentation.


Gabriela Suciu

Gabriela ‘Gabi’ Suciu was born in Sebeş, Romania, in 1987 and graduated in the directing class of the National University of Theatre and Film (UNATC) in Bucharest, 2010. In February 2012 she graduated in the Film Production Masters Programme and founded Atelier de Film, a Romanian-based production and distribution company, supported by UNATC to produce works by graduates of the Film Faculty. It is this work which is currently helping her in her studies for her PhD in co-production. Gabi is an alumni of Talents Sarajevo 2012 and Berlinale Talents 2014 and, while continuing to produce other shorts and preparing a first feature as a producer, she is also involved in the organisation of the Victoria Film Festival in Romania.


Why did you decide to enter the Canon Short Film competition?

“Short films are very dear to me as a format. It’s sometimes much harder to finance and produce a short film, rather than a feature, with high quality equipment and in a professional environment. Canon’s competition proposal intrigued us immediately. Discussing with my writer/director, Andreea Cristina Bortun, we found that this was indeed an opportunity and she decided to write a short story especially for this.”

How did you get the idea for your film?

“It all started from the location of the story. Andreea [Cristina Bortun] is known to have a passion for old and forgotten places, remote spaces, like capsules in time. Trains and train stations are recurring elements in her stories. They connect and also separate people from spaces, from other people or from themselves. Combining them with some climate change issues and overlaying them on a romance story, we created a short film script that was attractive in its peculiarity.”

Please explain what the film is about?

“It's 1928, in Lete - a small and bizarre town situated in the deep South of a fictional country, miles and miles away from the civilised world. This God-forgotten place has closed its doors to the world: the last train, leading the desperate crowds to the capital, leaves without looking back. Rita and Mino belong to these barren fields and are secretly in love. They have been planning their escape ever since they were children. But now, when the railway station closes and the last train leaves town, they need to act before it's too late.

‘Love Locker’ is film about origins and the bonds one has with the land he or she originates from. It is aiming to focus on the mentality difference between the older generations that are tied to their lands and the younger ones that are willing to sacrifice their heritage and past and move on to better lands.”

Can you tell us more about the characters and narrative in the film?

“Rita (played by Doina Teodoru) and Mino (played by Rareș Andrici), the main characters, the lovers, have a secret affair, as her father won’t allow it due to their different social status. Rita is very connected to and fond of the land where she’s grown up, although it’s a barren area that can’t offer anything else to its followers. Mino wants to be with her, but he is a foreseer and much more prepared for the times than she is. She is confronted with the decision of staying with her father or leaving with the man she loves. The girl’s father, played by Constantin Drăgănescu, is a train station overseer, a man stuck in time, belonging to a generation that can’t move on.

In terms of narrative, [the director] Andreea was inspired by the Ancient Theatre inserting, for example, the choir, and adding magic realism elements to a classic ‘boy and girl fall in love’ story structure.”

What were the challenges or surprises you faced when making the film and how did you overcome them?

“We opted for a 1920s inspired period piece that required special aesthetics. We decided to build all the interiors on a studio set, to recreate that air of magical realism we wanted. We worked with a great team in the art department, coordinated by architect Bogdan Costea, who paid a lot of attention to the details. Together with his assistant Andrei Morariu, they managed to build the sets we wanted, even though we were restricted by a limited budget. We even had the train compartment built entirely on set.

Since the budget wasn’t nearly enough for the set construction, all the people that helped us did it out of passion for the project and for cinema and we (Andreea and I) thank them for that.”

Had you shot any previous projects with Canon cameras?

“Yes, I’ve produced another short film, also directed by Andreea Bortun. It is called ‘Blue Spring’ and portrays a day in the life of a solitary woman in her 30s, as she has to part from her teenage lover. The film was shot on a Canon EOS C300. It’s currently in post-production and will be released in 2015.

Our DoP, Mihai Marius Apopei, has a lot of experience with Canon cameras. He’s shot a short and a lot of low budget commercials on an EOS 5D Mark II and Mark III. He’s also done a commercial for Intel Turkey on an EOS C500 and made a short, shot on the C500 too.”

How long did the film take to shoot and what crew did you work with?

“We had five days of set building and five days of shooting, in two exteriors which were outside Bucharest and quite far from one another. The crew consisted mainly of our former university colleagues and friends – talented people we’ve previously worked with.

Our camera, lighting and grip crews were coordinated by DoP Mihai Marius Apopei (who is also a Berlinale Talents alumni); the art design was signed off by Bogdan Costea and Andrei Morariu, while film editing was done by Tudor D. Popescu. Sound design was by Laura Lăzărescu-Thois (who is also a Berlinale Talents alumni) and in terms of music, we’re very happy that composer Pierre Funck joined our creative team and we’re looking forward for a productive collaboration.

We’re still working on some details in post-production so I can’t name all the people yet, but we couldn’t have done it so far without the help of Dropia Film (Cătălin Drăghici and Radu Fulga) and deFilm. We are also grateful to Asociația TETA which helped us a lot with the volunteers on set and many other kind and helpful people and institutions that came in when we needed them the most.”

How did working with the Canon cameras and lenses help you to shoot the film?

“We’ve had some situations where the C500 camera was helpful in its size, but most of the time we used it with lots of accessories that got it to a normal size high-end camera. As for the post-production, shooting in 4K helped a lot in terms of visual effects and colour grading as we could do whatever we wanted with the material, including cropping from a master plan to a detail.”

How did you set up the Canon cameras for the shoot?

“We shot Canon RAW for the maximum footage quality, so we didn't use any specific settings.”

What was the performance of the Canon cameras like in terms of the quality of footage produced?

“To quote our DoP: ‘The Canon C500's sensor is a wonderful one. It gives the most important thing that a sensor must give: natural feel. The RAW is good quality. We did some colour corrections which, without a real 4K RAW, would have been impossible. I love the sensor!’”

Which Canon lenses did you choose to use and how did these perform optically?

“We used Canon EF Cinema prime lenses. Our DoP’s opinion about them was complimentary, saying: ‘They act wonderfully. In low-contrast scenes it's a pleasure working with them. They give that natural, soft, feel; perfect for telling the story’.”

How was the footage ingested and was this straightforward? How did the Canon cameras fit into the overall workflow - input and output - of the film?

“Our editor and the post-production team were quite delighted working with the material coming from the C500 with Codex [recorders]. And, as previously said, the high quality material allowed us to do a lot of stuff we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise at the editing desk.”

How did you record sound for the film?

“We used the on-camera mics for a guideline in terms of the sound synchronisation and editing, but the actual sound was recorded on an external boom mic and wireless lavalier (lapel) microphones, which the actors wore. We also recorded lots of sounds and the choir in the studio.”

What is your overall impression of working with the Canon equipment and would you use Canon cameras for future film projects?

“Working with the Canon C500s was a great experience – they were so easy to work with and with the material afterwards. As our DoP said: ‘the Canon C500 has one of the best sensors in the industry’. So, for sure, we’ll be choosing it for our future projects.”

What are your plans for future film projects?

“For now, we’ll finish post-production work on these two shorts directed by Andreea Bortun – ‘Love Locker’ and ‘Blue Spring’ – and start on their distribution. Together with Andreea we are working on developing other shorts and feature stories which we’ll hopefully finance in 2015.

I’ve just finished working on a feature film, ‘The Miracle of Tekir’, directed by Ruxandra Zenide and produced by Elefant Film, with whom I will continue my collaboration further on, starting 2015 on some other feature projects. Another project [that is] dear to me is a short we will shoot in the Autumn of 2015, which has just received financing from the Romanian CNC. It is called ‘The City of Ghosts’, [and is] to be directed by Victor Dragomir.”