Hunting Tesla: Interview with Ante Čaljkušić

Zoran Rajn

hunting tesla

June the 24th, 2024 – Zoran Rajn brings us an interview with Croatian film director and producer Ante Čaljkušić about the film Hunting Tesla, for which a crowdfunding campaign was launched through the international crowdfunding platform Bona Fides Invest.

can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background in film making?

The desire for writing and acting emerged for me in the sixth grade of elementary school. I realized a play with a friend from class, and we participated in a municipal competition. After that, ideas kept coming, and for my own pleasure, I wrote dialogues. During high school, I became interested in editing and filming. Everything was a kind of hobby with an increasing longing to engage in filmmaking, so towards the end of high school, I applied for a screenwriting workshop and became a member of a theater group. However, it wasn’t until after high school that I dedicated myself more concretely to acting, directing, and screenwriting, gaining acting experience in front of the camera for television. I studied at the Catholic Theological Faculty in Zagreb, but according to the Bologna model of studying, I also attended some film courses at the Academy of Dramatic Art and the Faculty of Education in Zagreb. Additionally, I would like to mention the course on Greek philosophy and the German language at the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb.

You are currently working on the development of the film Hunting Tesla. Could you provide a brief overview of the movie and its central theme?

Hunting Tesla is a family drama with elements of comedy and action. According to esteemed experts, it is an entirely original authorial work that Croatian cinematography has not yet seen, but also foreign. From a technical standpoint, it far surpasses in quality despite a very limited budget. The tagline and a more detailed description of the plot on international crowdfunding platform Bona Fides Invest reveal a lot, but almost nothing. Additionally, I can only add that viewers will be highly engaged because we managed to make the film somewhat interactive. I won’t say “as if they are there”, but rather “that they are there”. The cinema hall is part of the story itself and part of the set design.

What inspired you to choose Nikola Tesla as the focal point for your family movie?

I would like the viewers to speak about it. There are several reasons, and I hope that, as the author, I will be able to convey this clearly to them. On the other hand, I sought a name known worldwide to make the plot closer to the foreign audience. That’s why the main character bears the international name Michael, or Croatian Mihael. Similarly, the Italian surname Bruni, which is also carried by members of the Italian minority in Croatia and a certain number around the world. I chose the other names as the author based on my own preferences, but it so happened that some of those names are international as well. Furthermore, when mentioning all of this, there are also some universally recognized concepts and elements within the plot. The settings are carefully chosen, and there is a reason the story unfolds not only in Croatia but also in New York and London.

Why did you decide to launch a crowdfunding campaign for Hunting Tesla? Can you share some insights into the goals and objectives of your crowdfunding campaign?

Crowdfunding campaigns of this type are more popular in, for example, the USA than in Croatia, but we are witnessing an increasing presence of this fundraising method in our country as well. I see an opportunity to raise awareness about the project and encourage support through this method, along with other fundraising approaches. We have set a high goal for Croatian standards since we are not funded by the Ministry of Culture, the Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC), or the national television. For our benefactors, individuals, and certain business directors, this is a staggering amount—332,000.00 euros. In a way, we are breaking new ground because few dare to invest in a film or donate for a potentially poor product, and there are valid reasons for that mindset. The answer is simple: most Croatian films turn out poorly, primarily due to weak storytelling and a lack of experience, and secondly, due to budget constraints. Additionally, many are disappointed due to nepotism, rigged competitions, or misappropriation of funds. My conscience is clear because I can only be held accountable for the storytelling aspect. However, this is unlikely to happen. The reason for this is the wonderful film artists and technicians I have gathered, who have advised, guided, and helped me in some aspects, providing good directorial and production solutions.

What kind of support and feedback have you received from your community so far?

On one hand, I am very satisfied because raising €195,000.00, both in cash and in the value of services, is a job well done. This Bona Fides Invest campaign and some individuals will be a winning combination. On the other hand, I am honestly saddened. Certain recipients, closely related to this topic, have rudely rejected us or merely made a symbolic gesture of solidarity. However, I was shocked by the contributions of certain individuals, from whom I did not expect as much. Each of us has played this first or second role, consciously or unconsciously, in life. That’s just how it is, so I don’t allow emotions to overpower me.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of working on the Hunting Tesla movie so far?

Watching the rough cut of the film from start to finish in the editing room. I feel a great sense of peace in my heart, knowing that we have done a great job. With even greater enthusiasm and passion, we continue with post-production and additional filming.

Can you tell us about the team behind Hunting Tesla and how everyone came together for this project? Are there any notable collaborations or partnerships that have played a significant role in the development of the movie?

I reached out to two actors, Ivan Ožegović and Pere Eranović, to recommend actors they know and to assist me in disseminating a general casting call to actors to apply for auditions. We held auditions in a hotel in Zagreb and another one in Split. I was pleasantly surprised by the large number of applicants. Through Pere Eranović and some other friends in the television industry, I was introduced to the director of photography, Ivan Trpimir Lozić, and all the other film artists and technicians. I believe I found the contact information of cinematographer Boštjan Vučak only through the internet. As mentioned earlier, some members of the team advised and guided me to ensure that the story and filming process were even more professional and of higher quality, and for that, I am sincerely grateful to them! We have become great friends, like true brothers. We meet, hang out, and sometimes work on other projects together. I can only add some quotes from a few of them:

“Ante, this is the most beautiful film set I’ve ever been on!” – costume designer Nina Silobrčić.

“This is a completely different film set. I’ve been on all sorts of sets. This is a lovely and unusual experience.” – academic actress Jadranka Krajina

“I didn’t expect everything to unfold like this. At first, I thought it was a student film, but this is a real film, man. And the people, the number of friends I’m working with now and how close we’ve become!” – academic sound master Boris Stanić.

How do you envision Hunting Tesla making an impact? What do you hope the audience takes away from the movie once it’s completed?

“The movie Hunting Tesla will dazzle the world and remain remembered just as the great scientist Nikola Tesla dazzled and remained remembered.” Who said that? You’ll find out when you watch the film. Ha-ha-ha! The film will enrich and uplift viewers, encourage them to think about several life values, and save someone’s life, marriage, or family. Although it is not a religious or activist work.

After you make the film, what are your further plans for its distribution and screening?

We will screen the film in cinemas and other venues in more than 50 cities and in over 50 municipalities. Of these, more than 10 screenings will include a thematic panel discussion on the role of art. We definitely plan to collaborate with official distributors and exhibitors. Additionally, we are currently looking at around seven,  both domestic and international, festivals. We will not forget Croats in the diaspora either.

Is there anything else you would like to share with potential donors or the broader community interested in Hunting Tesla?

Join us and shine in the world like Nikola Tesla. And in the world of every individual. Bring with us into the world of man a work that will rest him, make him laugh, heal his wounds, thrill him, and give him peace. Become a producer with your gift!


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