By: Monteque Pope-Le Beau
To say DirectorAnte Novakovic is a artist would be stating it mildly. He is so much more, he is truly a Renaissance man of the modern age. A man of many talents and a human being of deep spiritual wisdom. The Art Of Monteque had a chance to have a conversation with DirectorAnte Novakovic about his film “Leaves Of The Tree” and his philosophy about life.
First of all I would like to congratulate you on a wonderfully well made film.
Ante Novakovic: Thank you so very much, that’s incredible! That means the world to me. Thank you!
“Leaves Of The Tree” is a film that illustrates a great mastery of the cinema Arts.
AN: Thank you so very much!
After reading the book and watching the film I was intrigued to know what drew you to “Leaves Of The Tree”?
AN: The actual question of is there such a thing as a miracle and what is a miracle. What defines a miracle? The facts vs. beliefs. I wouldn’t say I am entirely religious. I grew up in a Roman Catholic family; that I don’t necessarily practice. At this point of my life, I have been to ashrams and practice Buddhism; spiritualism has become a big part of my life. What drew me to the project was the question of what do we as human do when we are challenged to see something and are unable to define it in the language that we want to define it in or rather understand the language that it is speaking to us in. What do we do when we are facing the undefinable? What would one do if they found out that something could save people, change the way they live their lives, change the quality of their lives? These questions are initially what drew me to it.
That is very interesting!
AN: It is the main factor in the nuances of human nature. I became very obsessed about how we were going to presented without beating someone over the head with it. For me it’s very philosophical.
Speaking about philosophical, looking at the film there is a very mysterious and mythical sense about it. How did you go about developing and exploring this part of the film?
AN: That in itself was the challenge. All of a sudden I realized that we were making a movie about the tree and the tree doesn’t necessarily move or talk. There are no moving parts. So I tried to do it with the storyline itself and the way I shot it. I tried to leave it open so that there was this space. Where there is more than just a space. With the angles and the way I shot it. The time that I took in between scenes. Sometimes exploring the elements of space whether it was in the estate or in the field itself. I wanted it to be more about openness. In the design of it it’s kind of like a hum or the first origin of sound which is the om like the mantras. It reverberates with its source. It was about creating an environment in which you show the audience the space, the place and they begin to experience the environment and to travel into it with you. To go into this space with you and you kind of have to trust that they will watch out for their sense of mysticism and not get lost in it.
You talk about the space and there is always a defining element of trying to find the space within the space..
And it has been said that the most profound moments in a film is the space where there is silence.
The silence in between the space..
In “Leaves Of The Tree” it seems the silence in between the space is a large part of the film. How did you achieve that effect?
AN: Well you know every time I looked at a scene I realized that I wanted to speak volumes visually and let behavior become a conduit to which the story can be told as opposed to me having to rely on continuously pushing out information to people. I chose to always trust in the silence that exists in the environment. I wanted the people, the audience to come into it. As a filmmaker the silence helps us to use our imaginations. To find it whether it is in a look, a landscape or the behavior of a person; you know it when you see it. It is in the simplicity of telling the story. That’s how the story is told. Sometimes when I see something I get pushed out of it because there’s too much information; to much of this and to much of that. I think you draw the audience in by inviting them in. By allowing the world to come into a storyline and the best way to do that is through the silence and I am as curious as my audience because I am trying to uncover the space myself. So I get very excited about it. I very much trust in that, I trust in the actors, trust in the storyline, and trust in what I am doing to explore it.
Along the centuries philosophers have stated that for one to be a true artist they must reveal themselves; for an artist must lay bare and bleed upon their art. Leaving nothing hidden for that is where you see the true artist. So in that respect how much of the film do we see you in?
AN: Every bit! It comes down to exactly what you are saying you bleed the art. I am intrinsically tied to it. I put myself in every part of it. For me, I find the inspiration is the artists and the artist is the inspiration at the same time. Discovering the secrets in it, discovering what the elements are, discovering what the storyline is and how best to portray it. I find myself in every bit of it in the silences and contemplation, very much so. And in asking the questions and the curiosity but mostly asking the questions. It is not the kind of story that involves let us say inherit violence. Inherit violence which has become a kind of currency now days. That is what attracted me to it. It was a story about this intrinsically important question that I think as human beings our curiosity would lead us to ask. So again I am in every bit. I don’t know how to separate myself from the material once I have entered into it. I would not know how to do it. I have met at actors and directors that can kind of create a boundary for themselves. I have not established that for myself.
AN: I kind of throw myself into it.
Your statement about intrinsic violence is very intriguing. What do you think about the kind of films which contains more violence, gore, sex and geared toward the blockbuster?
AN: You know that’s very interesting, all the great filmmakers like Federico Fellin, all those guys back in the days of black and white had a way of telling the story. There was a film called “The Young Lions” a black and white with Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift. It was a gorgeous film, it was a wartime film, but it wasn’t about violence it was about character. There was violence and scenes of gore, but it was more about the function of both sides trying to win the war. The reality is I have nothing against a blockbuster film. I have nothing against films done well. I’m a fan of films period. For myself it was great to explore something that did not have to go down that road and it was a little more challenging because I didn’t get to lay back and going to a scene where there was all of the sudden inherit violence. Where I could rely on that to get us to the next phase; as opposed to investing in characters and reinvesting in characters as the story goes on. I really enjoyed the challenge of telling a story that explores humanity and what it is to be a part of humanity. Along with the aspects of a miracle. Along with having a deeper look at something that is within all of us within the universal core.
The beautiful landscape in “Leaves Of The tree” seemed to have more than one purpose. It seemed as if it was the chorus to the voice of the tree. What’s this planned or did it happen organically?
AN: It was definitely planned. Everything was mapped out. I scouted the locations. I scouted the area for quite a while. It took us a while to find a tree and the area the tree was located in. It was incredibly important. The tree took us the longest to try to find and what we found was a 1000 year old olive farm. These trees were 1000 years old! That is kind of what I was looking for. I was looking for something old and could speak of wisdom without having to say anything. Just by looking at it we knew we were in the presence of wisdom. With every landscape we went to, there was always a note I made for myself to explain why we were there. With what we were trying to say with the film I wanted it to have a specific resonance as to randomly pointing the camera here or there. So the landscape was incredibly important in the sense of telling the story; which you obviously picked up on the tree having a voice. The tree having a voice dictated to me the rest of the film. That’s where I started. I started with how do I give the tree a voice and then the rest of the film could form.
There is a sense with the tree when you see it that it is saying “Come sit by me, I have so much to tell you. I have so much to give. Let me share my knowledge with you. “
AN: Exactly! Yes, as if it is saying “If you’re willing to silence your distractions long enough then we can get there together.” The stillness in the tree attracts everyone around it and it becomes the epicenter with all the characters slowly and surely circling around it. The intention was there for the tree to be a magnet visually and spiritually for the characters that was the focal point of the storyline.
Is the tree a metaphor for us to look inward to the tree which lives within us all?
AN: Yes, absolutely! Almost in the sense that it is a living breathing entity that has roots. It is nourished. Its leaves grow and it continues to live. it also has life altering properties. So in the same way every single one of the characters and every single one of us can in some sense be nourished, live our lives and have some type or essence of magic within us if we allow ourselves to be strong enough to center ourselves in it. To find that presents with in ourselves.
Is it hard for you to stay centered in such a fast-paced and competitive place as the film industry and hollywood?
AN: That is a perfect question! I think it is, I think it can be. I think you can find your own path at a certain point. At certain points you have to be really prepared and absolutely ready to go and do as much as possible at any point in order to stay relevant and to keep working; but I believe that you can always bring yourself back to center. You can always reinstitute what you need to reinstitute. It is more challenging from time to time because it is such a fast pace. You have to get up and go sometimes and there is no time to spend philosophizing or meditating.
AN: You’re up super early in the morning, I would say if you’re doing the average around 5 o’clock and when you get back around 12 hours later hopefully if the project went smoothly then your home by 6 o’clock; then you’re having some dinner and passed out by 7 o’clock. To do it all over again the next morning, but in between that time you can reinstitute your practices. Whatever you practice whether it is doing yoga, getting out in nature; there’s always a way back. I don’t ever feel cut off from those opportunities. I do believe it does become challenging though, but you prioritize. I think the older you get the more you prioritize and realize that chasing is chasing, but taking care of yourself is just as important. You gotta find a way to balance it out.
Obviously you’re doing something that you love and are passionate about. When did you know this was what you wanted to do?
AN: Directing for me was something that was long in the journey. I started out many years ago more than 10, 15 years ago writing plays off-broadway and directing them. I was directing then, but for theatre. I had a deep seated passion for storytelling and writing back then and that’s where it started to happen for me. I was a member of a workshop that put up plays on a regular basis. I would work on someone else’s play or I would write a play or they would work on my play; that kind of thing. I think the passion for storytelling started young that was the spark. After that I think film became the conclusion to how to continue the storytelling best and I started with some short films that I had a deep passion for, but it was always the route of storytelling. I think that became the drive behind directing. Whether it be in the theater or cinematically. It was always there that spark was always there. I was always fascinated with novels, writing, reading. I always saw cinema as a very relevant very important form of communication and I always knew I wanted to be involved in it. I wanted to be a part of the world of storytelling whatever shape of form that was. Obviously it was film…
What does being an artist mean to you?
AN: For me personally it’s to be inspired. Inspired by expression. Inspired by the stories around me. Inspired by the people around me. For me being an artist means connecting, connecting to people through the art itself. Through connecting to the stories that are being told. Connecting to my own humanity along with those around me. It makes me feel more a part of the universal community even more so by being deeply versed in my art. Being an artist is having the gratitude to understand that I’ve been given the opportunity to create and hopefully honoring that by finding truth in what I am creating.
Do you have any advice for up and coming artists and filmmakers?
AN: I would say always look for truth in everything you’re trying to create. Always try to find the center of whatever it is you’re trying to do. For the director, always try to find the truth in the scene and storyline. Trust your instincts. Always listen to your instincts. They are very important and if you honor your instincts they will lead you in the right direction on a continuous basis. If you have a strong passion for what you are doing then follow through on it. As challenging as it may be sometimes and you will be challenged. Try to stay as close to your in instinctual truth as possible and stay centered with it. Don’t doubt your ability to achieve the film that you know you can make. Be prepared be very very prepared, work and map it out ahead of time especially if you’re in the early days of working and are working in independent film. Work out as much as you possibly can in preproduction for yourself. That way you can absorb the process and maybe even enjoy it.
AN: It’s not all bad. You can grow to love it and actually be a part of the process.
Thank you so very much for giving us the time to speak with you.
AN: Your so very Welcome.
You created a wonderful masterpiece and we wish your film great success as it continues its journey from the Soho Film Festival on.
AN: This was a true honor and thank you very much.[TAOMR]
For updates and to view the trailer, please visit:For updates and to view the trailer, please visit: www.LeavesOfTheTreeMovie.com