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The Staffroom

Sonja Tarokić, Ankica Jurić Tilić

Croatia

synopsis

Finally at a permanent job, energetic and warm-hearted Anamarija (32) confidently starts out as a primary school counselor. But, while protecting both the pupils and the school’s reputation, she finds her mediating position under close scrutiny of the staffroom’s power groups. As she builds alliances and battles through unintentional conflicts, she gets stuck in her own war against the middle-aged history teacher Jambrovic, whose egocentric and paranoid behaviour in class worries the parents. His complex personality, a mixture of narcissistic outbursts and occasional charm and wit, turns their relationship in a direction Anamarija is not happy with. The concrete problem of Jambrovic becomes the trigger for the strategic game she is now forced to play with the much more threatening figure of the headmistress, whilst the mistake she made in choosing a clique slowly aggravates her growing anxiety. Through bureaucratic assignments, stressful confrontations and constant chit-chat, she will find herself fighting the toughest battle of all: accepting that she is not as strong as she thought.

intention

Through the emotional experience of the protagonist Anamarija, "The Staffroom" explores small-time corruption that is spread throughout hierarchy, and anchored in socially cored defeatist attitude. By being put in this complex “organism” of a community, Anamarija has to figure out whether accepting the rules of the game would, in the long run, mean victory or defeat.

Her main question is whether she is strong enough to stick to her principles not just in one separate case, but in a series of such cases in a working lifetime, spent entirely with a group of people who are bonded by their friendships and judgments, and who put pressure on each other in seemingly simple matters. Sometimes I feel that being constantly surrounded by people is probably the toughest part of life, especially when, just like Anamarija, I myself emotionally seek others’ approval and recognition. The story of the film is the journey Anamarija is forced to take to painfully realize that her belief that she may be strong and exceptional, a “hero” of sort, was in fact just wishful thinking.

Anamarija’s conflicts are generated by those highest in the hierarchy, making these relationships much heavier to handle. Over time, these disagreements turn into hostility and fear, seriously influencing Anamarija’s self-worth. The main “goal” of the narrative was to portray how that fear slowly becomes the center of Anamarija’s daily routine. I wanted to explore how people find themselves being a part of the problem, and in that, I wanted to find forgiveness. I believe it comes from a later stage of growing up: that in which we as grown-ups realize that we may not be stronger or nobler than those around us.

The film’s structure is based on a great number of short, fast-paced dialogue scenes which show Anamarija’s daily work and carefully build the story like a jigsaw puzzle. Anamarija herself is not immediately aware of how the ’mosaic’ of the story will affect her, and we navigate through it with her, experiencing her routine as something that slowly becomes filled with meaning. Here people don’t yell or curse, nobody talks in a totally honest and ‘natural’ way; and still, within such sentences, the nuances in tone build all the conflicts.

I wish to employ an elaborate mise-en-scène, a flurry of glances and reactions, and frames with a minimum of space which is deprived of human beings, a kind of human horror vacui, to connect both the narrative’s structure and the language of the film with the subject itself.

budget & financing

"The Staffroom" was developed at Script&Pitch 2015, and chosen to be represented at Les Arcs Co-production Village market last December. The project is currently in its final stage of development. The development has been supported by the supranational Creative Europe Fund (MEDIA Slate programme) and Croatian Audiovisual Centre, and we are raising funds for production financing, with open application to the national film fund. Six months ago, we attached a French co-producer to the project, Janja Kralj from Kinoelektron. To round up the budget, we are counting on one more co-production partner and hoping to find it at this workshop. The total budget of the film is € 1.160.000. At this moment, the Croatian financing is in place and the rest is to be secured. Filming is planned for autumn 2017. In this stage we intend to find an international sales agent, and raise the interest of potential financers and broadcasters.

distribution & sales

Since "The Staffroom" is a film by a first-time director, it was essential to raise awareness of the project while it was still in development. We think that the participation in two TFL programmes and the project’s presentation at Les Arcs and MEDIA Slate support have been very helpful in that sense. Everything done so far will make it easier for us to secure financing and find partners, but also to present a new director and a new project to the European market. It is crucial to find an international sales agent as early as possible, in order to create promotion and distribution strategies together. There is probably no European country which is not dealing with educational crisis, that is the card we intend to play in the promotion of our film. Our film is primarily for women aged 30-40, women who can either identify with our main protagonist, or who have children in elementary school. We count on the festival audience, of course, but we definitely count on the viewers who like intriguing social themes (such as the conflict between the individual and the system, or educational in general) as well. Promoting and distributing a film by a first time director is often not an easy task (as it is not easy to finance it either), but it has certain advantages – we all always want to see a new “handwriting“, a fresh cinematic voice, and we believe that our author can offer all that.

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Newly arrived school counselor Anamarija struggles between fitting in or doing the right thing...
704-sonja-tarokic
Sonja Tarokić

Scriptwriter, Film Director

sonjatarokic@yahoo.com

359-ankica-juric-tilic
Ankica Jurić Tilić

Production

info@kinorama.hr

production notes

original title
Zbornica

directed by
Sonja Tarokić

produced byKinorama
Stoosova 25
10000, Zagreb
Croatia

in co-production with
KinoElektron – France

total production budget
€ 1.160.000

current financial need
€ 700.000