Imagine if an uninvited guest toting a digital camera had walked unnoticed onto the set of “Zero Dark Thirty” or “Argo,” shot an hour’s worth of footage, edited it into a documentary, and had it accepted by, say, Sundance or SXSW. All hell would break loose — firings, lawsuits, armed militia appointed to run security on Hollywood productions.
Apart from the fact that he was carrying an 8mm camera, that’s exactly what amateur filmmaker Ladislav Františ did on one of the sets of Miloš Forman’s 1984 “Amadeus,” which was produced by Saul Zaentz in Czechoslovakia five years before the Velvet Revolution. Luckily for Františ, perhaps, it wasn’t a Soviet-backed propaganda epic that he infiltrated.
You have to admire his cheek and guerrilla opportunism, however.
According to FilmNewEurope.com (FNE), the factory technician Františ sneaked into the baroque Kroměříž Archbishop’s Palace (or castle) in Kroměříž, Moravia, “spending a busy hour shooting short glimpses of the cast and crew.” The palace was standing in for Vienna’s Hofburg Imperial Palace.
“I just walked past the barriers onto the set,” he told FNE’s Cathy Meils at a small press screening at the Zlín International Film Festival for Children and Youth last week. “My camera was very small, 8mm, so no one bothered me. Film was very expensive, so I could shoot only ten seconds at a time. The sound strip was very small, so the sound quality is not good.” He added that except for his family and a few friends — “other amateur filmmakers” — the film had never previously been seen since he made it in the summer of 1983.
Now, “Amadeus at Kroměříž” is scheduled to have its first public screening at the Vivat Amadeus festival in Kroměříž on June 29. The public service broadcaster Czech TV will air the film on July 6.
The film’s quality isn’t up to Forman’s standard, Meils reports. “The grainy end result has a grab-and-run quality, with shots cut off as soon as an actor or crew member catches Františ filming.” Were “Amadeus” Best Actor Oscar nominee Tom Hulce and Best Supporting Actor winner F. Murray Abraham put off by the interloper’s surreptitious shooting? (“Amadeus” won eight Oscars in all and accrued 40 awards from 53 international nominations.)
Meils adds that the “stars” of “Amadeus at Kroměříž” are Forman, “Amadeus”’s cinematographer Miroslav Ondříček, and the exquisite costumes designed by Theodor Pištěk.
“I would very much like Miloš Forman to see it,” Františ told Meils. Maybe it’ll be picked up by the New York Film Festival?