A crowd-funded film project about the underground trade in human organs would be enough challenge for any young director.
But acclaimed actor Branko Tomovic saw it as an ideal project to showcase his talent as a first-time film maker.
The appetite for such about the ‘red market’ would seem to be shared by an audience as pledges are coming in to finance the short film and shooting is scheduled for January.
“Getting money to make a film is always nail-biting, especially with independent cinema, where raising even small budgets can be a burden on the process,’ said Branko.
“We chose to reach out through a campaign on the Kickstarter platform, to give the potential audience a chance to get involved in making Red a reality.”
The London-based Serb has attracted an impressive international cast and crew for Red, a film in which he will play the lead role of Niklas, a tormented surgeon who targets the clients of a young prostitute to harvest their organs.
Naming David Lynch, Tim Burton and Darren Aronofsky as three of his admired directors, it could be inevitable that Red would be influenced by such visual luminaries.
More than paying tribute to his admired film makers, the German-born Serb hopes to put his own accent on the language of film in his directorial effort.
“The script is intentionally written to offer great visual potential,’ he said.
“From the metaphorical opening shot all the way to the powerful climax scene, the visuals will have to match the intense story and the dangerous and dark world in which the characters live.
Blood red surgery and organ harvesting
“Think David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, or the loneliness and isolation of a big city depicted in Edward Hopper’s paintings and you will have some idea of the look we aim to create.
“Through framing and the use of shadows and dimly lit places we will build a similar atmospheric and moody look in Red. The idea is to use only faded colours throughout the film, apart from vivid red, which should be the only colour that stands out.”
To add to the intimacy of the film, much will be shot with a handheld camera. That claustrophobia of the camerawork will be mirrored in the minimal soundtrack, to feature only Beethoven’s Symphony 7 Allegretto, which will leave space for ambient sounds.
“The rhythm of the film starts off observational and contemplative, with the tension and pace rising as we get to know the characters and what is actually going on,’ said Branko. “In intimate and heightened scenes, such as the surgery and confrontation with Ed, I want the audience to have the feeling of being in the room with the characters.
“I am a huge fan of European art house films where you can really get under the skin of the characters. I want to reflect this style to really get to know the characters and their motivation.”
Influenced by truly great directors
Before trying his hand at directing, Branko studied at New York’s prestigious Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute and spent ten years working with respected directors, including Ken Loach, Paul Greengrass, Soenke Wortmann, David Ayer and Pete Travis.
“I learnt so much from working with many truly great directors,’ said Branko.
“They are all very different in their approach and have their own way of directing but, what they all have in common is their unique voice as a director, as well as endless passion and enthusiasm for their work.
“I have always been more fascinated by great film directors than actors. There are so many great ones that I admire.”
He has since won awards and nominations on the international film festival circuit and been widely acclaimed as Kiefer Sutherland’s right-hand man in the most recent outing of the hit 24 franchise, appeared alongside Brad Pitt in WWII story Fury, with Matt Damon in The Bourne Ultimatum and in British horror Entity.
Branko adds Homeland to 24
Soon Branko will be seen in TV’s hit Homeland series, as well as in City of Tiny Lights, a contemporary thriller directed by Pete Travis and starring Billie Piper and Riz Ahmed.
Having worked with such names on major projects in TV and film, Branko knew that he wanted to handpick his team for this project, which includes producers Adrian Carswell and Dina Vickermann.
Adrian’s film The Six Dollar Fifty Man was awarded a Special Distinction in Cannes, won the Sundance Jury Prize for short filmmaking, and received a special mention in Berlin. His recent work includes the BBC3 observational documentary series ‘Reggie Yates: Extreme Russia’ and a Channel 4 documentary on social housing in the UK.
German-born Dina recently completed Stolen, her second short, following Way Out. Both films critique modern social issues by tackling controversial and emotional subjects, with Stolen focusing on sex trafficking in Asia.
“It’s very important to surround yourself with people who you completely trust and who are great at what they do,’ said Branko. “Everyone on the crew I have worked with before and know how amazing they are. I have known Dina for over 15 years, since our time at the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York.
“Film is a team effort. It’s so important to surround yourself with great and lovely people. I am really excited about this project. I would shoot tomorrow if we could.”
* To contribute to the Kickstarter campaign, click here.