By Anja Mayer
Karl Markovics is an accomplished actor and director. Born in Vienna, he started his acting career as a member of the Serapionstheater, a theater group founded by Austrian production designers Ulrike Kaufmann and Erwin Piplits. From 1994 to 1996, he got known to a broader audience through his role as police officer Stockinger in the popular Austrian TV-show Kommissar Rex. In 2008, he celebrated international success with the Oscar-winning movie The Counterfeiters. The critically acclaimed drama Atmen (Breathing) marked Markovics’ debut as a director as well as screenwriter. In 2009, he co-founded the Austrian Film Academy, which serves as a platform for young Austrian filmmakers. For this issue of Austrian Information Mr. Markovics took some time out of his busy schedule to tell us about the current status and the future of Austrian film.
When did you first discover your passion for acting and how did you succeed
in becoming an actor?
I always wanted to become an actor. Already as a child, I could not imagine anything more satisfying than playing with imagination. At the age of 5, I played my first stage role. It was a play called Lucky Jack and my primary school performed it at a Thanksgiving celebration in the churchyard of the small village, I grew up in.
You are looking back at a long career both in television and cinema. What is the main difference between doing an episode for a TV-show and shooting a movie?
In general television is faster – less time, less money. There are often no rehearsals. You come and shoot. You often meet the other actors the day you have your scenes together. But the acting work is the same. There is no real difference between TV and movies.
You have recently also taken the spot behind the camera for your movie Breathing. How was the transition from acting to directing?
Since I was a teenager I have been writing stories, sketches, poems. I always wanted to direct my own stories, which I have been writing since I was 20 years old. It took me quite a long time until I was able to accept that there is no "best" but only a "better."
What were the main differences between the creative process of preparing for a role to perform and directing?
As a director you have to take care of everything but acting. As an actor you have to take care of nothing but acting.
Is there any special project you would like to work on? A dream role or script perhaps?
I never had dream roles or anything like that. I never know what I want to do until it appears by fortune.
How would you describe the status quo of the Austrian film industry nationally? What is the situation like for young filmmakers these days?
There is no actual film industry in Austria. The country and the market is too small. But there are a lot of young filmmakers who try to find there own "voice." Filmmaking in Austria is basically financed by the public. There are
several film funds
With the recent Oscar nominations for the movie Amour, in your opinion, what is the significance of the Austrian film industry internationally and how do you see it progressing?
There has been a lot of attention for the last couple of years, especially since the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film went to Austria for the first time in 2008. Of course, directors such as Michael Haneke and Ulrich Seidl were already successful before that but they were considered more as a singular events than a part of a specific trend. Whereas now, even our big neighbor Germany wonders how it can be possible for a small country like Austria to produce such a great number of excellent and unique films. I have no explanation for this either. Of course, the public film funding system works good and encourages young filmmakers to do what they want and not only what others think they should do. But this is only one aspect of a very complex and also a very exciting phenomenon.
How would you rate the level of international competitiveness of Austrian films
today and in the future?
I am not good in rating and I don't believe in ratings. If you define "competitiveness" by box office success the level is low. If you define it by awareness the level is high.
There was a fruitful relationship between Austria and Hollywood back in the 1920s and 1930s. Do you see a revitalization of this relationship happening?
Not at the moment. There is no real infrastructure in Austria to make or even co-produce big studio productions. Hollywood productions rather go to countries like Germany, Rumania or the Czech Republic because they have both public money and big studios or low labour costs.
In your opinion, what, if anything, makes Austrian productions unique and different from anything else?
We make films nobody else wants to make.
How do you see the future of the Austrian film?
Bright and dark. If we stay to our virtues we never will get a big audience. If we throw our virtues away we will make movies like many others do