In addition to being a film director, you have completed a master's degree in biochemistry. How did that help you and did it give you a different insight into directing?
Ioana: Yes, I did. That is interesting because as a film director you have to be well organized, you need to see the bigger picture and strategy. I believe scientific education helps. It helps you to be meticulous. But it also helped me in a practical way, because when I went to America, I was in a big crisis. The school was too expensive and I could not afford it, and as a foreign student I could not work. So my only option was to teach something at university as a student. It was the only thing you could legally do as a student in the United States. I went to the biology department at the university I attended, just to look for a job. They saw my degree from Romania, and were very impressed and hired me. I taught biology for several years, that is how I paid for a film school in America. So, yes, biochemistry was very useful.
You are also a screenwriter and editor? How much does that help you in directing?
Ioana: I edited some material and wrote the screenplay for this film (Lemonade, 2018). I also wrote material that did not go into production and wrote a script with Cristian (Cristian Mungiu), somebody else turned it into a film. But yes, I believe it is necessary you know very well how these things work, even if you do not plan to write and edit your film. When you find yourself in a situation that you are on set as a director, with your actors, you really need to understand how a screenplay is written, if it happens that you have to change things on the spot, or if you need to explain something to the actors. You need to understand the script writing process very well even if you do not write it yourself. It is the same thing with editing. It is very useful to understand the editing process because it helps you understand the rhythm of the film and it is tremendously helpful when you think about how to shoot a film. It allows you to imagine how the ultimate product would look like and it helps you a lot on set. And, of course, it would be ideal if you as a director could understand what the other members of the crew are doing.
Your film ‘Lemonade’ is set in the United States, and you are dealing with problems of a migrant woman from Romania, but you still shot the film in Canada?
Ioana: Why did I shoot the film in Canada? I wish I could have shot it in the United States, but it was not possible to bring Romanian actresses and some members of the crew from Germany and Sweden. We did not manage to find a legal way to get them on set in the United States. So for immigration reasons, we decided to shoot in Canada. Well, at first it was only for immigration reasons, but in the end, Canada was very supportive. It turned out to be the best possible decision and situation.
As a jury member, what would you personally like to see in a film?
Ioana: I would like to be moved. I want to feel the emotion of the film. I am still only the viewer when I watch the film. I like to sit in front of the screen and feel like I really want to see what will happen next, and not to think about how I would like to get up and have a glass of water. I want to be fully drawn into the film and be moved by it.
You are also a professor, what would you say to young artists who want to succeed abroad?
Ioana: It is hard! Every time you leave your culture, the culture you know well, you must be ready to learn again from the beginning. For example, I am having trouble writing dialogues in English, the way Americans would speak. In order to write a plot and about specific situations that are convincing it takes time. I had lived in the United States for fifteen years before I made my first film. It takes time and patience. Therefore you must constantly learn, observe and absorb, essentially understand the culture of the country for which you are filming.
If you had to single out one important difference between our culture and cinema and culture of the United States, what would be the key difference?
Ioana: If it has to be one thing, I would have to say the way of thinking. For us in Eastern Europe things are always very complicated, and in America, they want to keep it simple. That does not mean that they are simple, but they really want everything to be simplified. It is very difficult to change the way of thinking. Everything has its own layers and subtext. People say one thing, and they mean another! You must be aware that you cannot count on anything. Today it can be one thing, and tomorrow something completely different! And in America, people like to keep things simple and specific, and when you go into too many details, they lose focus. It is a cultural thing. There are good guys and bad guys for them, and nothing else. It is very difficult to explain to them anything in-between.