Eva Doležalová on staying true to her 'weirdness' as a filmmaker and grabbing Sean Penn for
Eva Doležalová is multi-lingual, multi-talented kaleidoscope of creativity. Able to speak 6 languages, she’s an actress, screenwriter, director, producer, cinematographer – and if you see the credits on her short films Sound of Sun, Somnio and Carte Blanche, you’ll see she does just about everything else too. Oh, she’s also a dancer, signed up to several modelling agencies and gives inspirational talks at public events.
Hello Eva, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. I’m going to guess you’re quite busy! My first question must be, is there anything that you’re not good at?
Well, first off all, thank you for the loveliest introduction. To be completely honest with you, there are many things I’m not great at, but if I set my mind onto something and I really want it, I am going to learn it!
You started your career in the Czech Republic, working on theatre productions from the age of 10, which lead to you moving to London at 18 and joining the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. What was it like starting your career so young in your home country and then moving to another?
To have been selected at that young age from a non actors family to do films and theatre was a complete life surprise. I think that I was so excited that it became so completely normal to me. Traveling has always been the most exciting part of living for me, so moving from country to country wasn't a big deal. I love adventures. However, lately I’ve been staying mostly in Los Angeles, working on my films. I don't get to travel as much as before, but that’s fine, it feels very nice to find a home after all and a good place to work that makes me happy.
After studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, you moved to Paris, where your attentions turned to filmmaking. What was behind that change in focus?
I’ve always been magnetically drawn to every aspect of filmmaking. I started as an actor at a young age, so thought that was what I was supposed to be doing. Then one day I realised that I am always on the other side of the camera helping directors develop the films, helping to scout locations, co-writing with writers... so I thought, why don’t I do this for myself? A part of it was also that I no longer wanted to be judged for the way I looked. I felt like I wanted a new challenge in life and this felt right! I feel that filmmaking was the one thing missing in my life to become complete and the person I was supposed to be. Ever since then I've felt like myself for the first time, like I am here, in this world, for a reason.
Soon after moving to LA you made your first two short films. The first, Sound of Sun, starred yourself, Suki Waterhouse and Sean Penn – quite a cast for your directorial debut! How did that come about? What was your experience making the film?
Sound of Sun is a portrait of who I was becoming as a director at that time. The story is about a young girl (played by Suki Warehouse) who seeks to become who she is supposed to be in life, and through a help of yin and yang man and woman, she’s guided to the other side where she can truly be herself. The male part was embodied by Sean Penn and the woman part by me. Sound of Sun can be also interpreted many other ways and people have different opinions, but that’s the way it was supposed to be. When I screened it at UCLA, some students didn't fully get it and asked me many questions. I just said that there isn't necessarily only one way to see this film, you must find your own answer in it as an individual.
How Sean got to be in the film is actually a funny story. So as I am directing one scene, he comes to visit his friend, Suki, on set at No Vacancy bar. As I screamed cut for that scene, he introduces himself and asks me if I have been directing for a while. I say no, that this is my first time and he encourages me to keep going, and that I remind him of himself when he directs. It was later that day, after building enough confidence, I went up to him and asked if he would like to be in one of the scenes. He said yes, of course, so I improvised a scene that actually worked out perfectly for the film and without it now I can’t imagine it. You may watch the full film on NOWNESS and see for yourself.
Suki Waterhouse also stars in your latest short film, Carte Blanche, which boasts a larger cast that includes Dylan Sprouse, Jack Kilmer and experienced actors Johnny Whitworth and Gregory Itzin. Can you tell us about this project, and your experience making it?
Carte Blanche was such an amazing, yet harder, experience than Sound of Sun. The biggest test so far, with a much larger budget. But yes, I was blessed to have such experienced and talented actors, which was so wonderful. We had a set of 100 people including all extras and we filmed at The MacArthur iconic Art Deco building, with an amazing crew. It couldn't have gone any better. The actors gave it their all and I certainly did too. We are now close to being done with post-production and planning the whole festival spiral etc. We are also doing a private screening in Los Angeles in May 2018.
The story of Carte Blanche is a unique one again — Gideon Blake, a young actor suddenly launched into stardom as the lead in Hollywood's most anticipated franchise, attends a high-profile Hollywood event where he comes across a mysterious man from his past. This meeting begins a downward spiral that sees him pushed to the brink of his sanity. It’s a story of a battle between black and white energy, how we all are and can be both, all depending on what route we choose to take. I remember someone once told me, Hollywood stole my soul, however, I don't believe that it has to be that way necessarily. That is why I made Carte Blanche.
Do you think being so multi-disciplined, and multi-cultural, offers you a unique insight as a filmmaker?
I would agree, yes. I think every filmmaker represents in their films their past, upbringings, experiences of any kind... We all have subjects that we want to share with the world that all come from a certain place in our history. I believe I wouldn't be making the same films if I wasn't born in Czech Republic to a single mother, that I love. My first films definitely play with the subject of self-awareness and self-discovery and that is what I was at that time. My first feature film that I am directing this year toys with those ideas as well — I’ve adapted a modern French novel about a young girl into an American screenplay. I feel blessed to be a part of such a poetic masterpiece of a novel written by a young woman. Unfortunately, I can't reveal more for now, but it is a special one.
You also speak at public events encouraging others to pursue their passions. Can you tell us about some of the events you’ve spoken at what motivates you to do so?
My motivation is that I believe that we are the only ones holding the key to our lives. I believe in self-empowerment and sacrifice. I was born in a small town Brno, in Czech Republic and from there I made it here, doing what I love. Sure, it’s difficult at times and not every one of us have the luxury of traveling and discovering, and in certain countries people can't even have an education, however, I think that we all have the power to believe and transform. Some of the events I’ve spoken at were at film schools in Los Angeles and Czech Republic, but my next step is to extend and come to support young women and men who need that little motivational push to believe that they can do it too.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned with your filmmaking so far, and what advice would you offer others looking to make their first short film?
In filmmaking you learn every day and on every one of your films. It never stops and that’s why I love it. The biggest challenge is to choose the people that will be making the film with you. You have to show your crew and your actors the trust you have for them in order to make art together. My advice to every aspiring filmmaker is to stand behind your vision and of course be able to make sacrifices. Even filmmakers like David Fincher has to sacrifice and that’s a director that does between 60-90 takes per scene. You also must believe in yourself and make films on any device you have in your hand. I started on a hi8 camcorder and nothing could have stopped me. Furthermore, try to think as an editor while you film as that will help you to finalise your vision. I think, initially, that was my biggest challenge, I started to tell nontraditional and challenging stories and had to grow into more of a conventional storyteller. I still keep aspects of my “weirdness” in my films, but with more of a proper story structure now. Although, I would never take back those beginnings where it was just me, my ideas, few actors and a small camera, because those are the memories and beginnings you will remember for the rest of your life that will shape who you are.
You can follow Eva on