“Everyone has something they just keep to themselves, and it’s important to crack that in the character…!” -Dora Šustić

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Photo credit: Asiana Jurca Avci
Photo credit: Asiana Jurca Avci

Exclusive interview with Dora Šustić – Film Director & Writer from Croatia

Dora Šustić is a writer and film director, born in 1991 in Croatia, where she currently lives. She graduated BA in Political Sciences from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and MA in Screenwriting from the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. During her film studies she wrote and directed four short feature films, which were screened and awarded internationally. Her first film, Ladies (2015), was shot over two nights in a public toilet of a Prague metro station and is based on improvisation with non-actors. Her second film, Majda’s Poses (2017), was successfully crowdfunded and screened at the New York International Film Festival, and her most recent films, Blooming (2018) and Persephone (2018), both coming-of-age stories dealing with female puberty, have screened at numerous short film festivals and festivals for teens and children. Persephone won the New York Cinematographers’ Award and the Best Student Film Award at Moscow Shorts. Dora currently works as a freelance screenwriter and script editor on film and TV projects and teaches film studies at Prague Film Institute. Her drama series Afterparty, currently in development and produced by Croatian production company Antitalent, was awarded Best Project by HBO Europe as part of the Midpoint TV Launch development program and later pitched on Berlinale Co-Production Series Market. In addition to films, Dora also writes prose and is working on completing her first novel.

Photo credit Michaela Kyselova, BTS Persephone July 2018
  • NY Glam: What projects are you currently working on?

I currently have several projects in development waiting for funding. Together with the Croatian production company Antitalent, I am developing a short feature film Bananafishes, which tells a story about the relationship between a grandfather suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and his young grandson. We are also working together on a drama TV series Afterparty, which follows four girls, best friends, as they explore sex, parties, work and activism while living in a patriarchal, conservative environment of contemporary Zagreb. The series is currently my passion project, as it is mostly inspired by my own girlfriends. I also collaborate as a writer with several Croatian and Slovenian directors on feature film projects.

  • NY Glam: What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?

I’m moved by great performances and carefully crafted stories. Sure it helps if a film is visually stunning, but I’m really all about faces and dialogue. I love character-driven films where the dialogue sounds like real people are talking; gritty, dirty, emotionally over the top, with neurotic and passionate characters.

  • NY Glam: As a screenwriter, what is the most important aspect of building a character for you?

I think it is necessary for a character to have a secret. A hidden wound that moves him or her. Everyone has something they just keep to themselves, and it’s important to crack that in the character because that’s what makes them do or not do something. I think good stories are built around those secret inner lives. And around contrast. People are a walking paradox, full of contradictions. The more confusing (and confused) they are, the more real they feel.

  • NY Glam: Top 3 favorite projects you’ve been involved in?

I can’t really pick three because I fall in love with most of the projects I work on. I can easily become obsessed with a project. But my favorite one might be my first film, Ladies, which was shot in 2015. It was made on almost no budget, the shooting was very wild (and a little dangerous), and it was about a real person, a fascinating, wise woman who works as a cleaner in a public restroom. I’m very grateful to the friends who worked with me on the film; it’s technically very messy, but it has a big heart.

  • NY Glam: Do you express yourself creatively in other ways?

I love working with actors, that’s my favorite part of making movies. But other than writing, I don’t really do anything else. I keep a journal, read, and do yoga. I’ve completed a doula training and am very interested in helping women give birth, but haven’t started the practice yet. Soon though! I would also love to learn how to dance flamenco.

  • NY Glam: What advice would you give to someone pursuing a career in filmmaking?

Learn how to deal with stress.

  • NY Glam: What can we expect from you in 2021?

I hope to finish my novel this year and get money from the National Film Fund to continue developing some film projects.

  • NY Glam: Where can everyone keep up with you to learn more? …social media…website

My short films are all online and accessible on Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/dorasustic). Also, Instagram and Facebook.

Photo credit: Filip Kunovski _ BTS Blooming, April 2018

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