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Metfilm School

Srdan Jankovic (BA Practical Filmmaking) on writing-directing ‘smart’ comedies

By Elise Czyzowska

10 February 2023

After realising his dream of being a writer/director, Srdan Jankovic joined MetFilm School Berlin on our BA Practical Filmmaking degree, and through class exercises, as well as his own external projects, he is quickly gaining experience in both of these areas.

Having both written and directed The True Story of the REALIFE Crash, which began as a project for a short film exercise, Srdan has seen success across the festival circuit, collecting four ‘Best Student Short Film’ awards, as well as eleven more ‘Official Selections’, including from Ealing Film Festival.

On top of this, he has also worked as a co-writer on Slozna Braca: Next Djeneration, a reboot of the popular 1990s Serbian television show Slozna Braca. With season two having premiered just this month, we caught up with Srdan to talk more about REALIFE Crash, his experience on ‘rebooting’ creative material, and his favourite course memories to date…

How would you describe your personal filmmaking style?

So far, my tendency has been to make satiric comedies, usually following ‘bad’ people trying to do ‘bad’ things – and failing in a funny way. I especially like to make so-called ‘smart comedies’, where the audience can learn and grow through laughter, rather than tears.

What also drives me to make this style of film is the difficulty of making a comedy. It’s much easier to make people cry than it is to make them laugh, and I think that’s why I find them so rewarding; the feeling I get when I hear people laughing in the audience is priceless.

Can you tell us a little about how The True Story of the REALIFE Crash came about?

At MetFilm School Berlin, we had an assignment to write and direct a short film. The project had to be limited to two characters, one location, and a script of under ten pages. Around the time that we got the assignment, Meta had crashed – Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook… nothing was working. I wasn’t able to contact my parents for the day!

When everything was back up and running, the news all around the world started blaming ‘secret agencies’ for the crash, citing political and capitalistic reasons. But I started thinking – what if it was just a mistake by an employee? A complete accident? That’s how I came up with the idea of two nerds who crash the internet over a crush one of them has on a girl.

L: The official poster for ‘The True Story of the REALIFE Crash’ | R: Srdan Jankovic busy at work on ‘Slozna Braca: Next Djeneration’

From your time working on Slozna Braca: Next Djeneration, do you have any tips on writing for tv shows, compared to short films?

To me, the difference between writing for television and short films is between ‘postponing’ and ‘finishing’ a story. When you’re writing for television, you’re constantly thinking about the number of episodes you need, the pages necessary to fill that time, and in that way, you’re always trying to ‘postpone’ creative ideas for further down the line.

On the other hand, when it comes to writing for short films, I always find finishing the hardest part. I have a great idea, fully developed characters, a unique story… but then I need at least 30-40 pages to explain everything, and to bring the character’s journey to an end.

My approach for short films is always to think about my ending, and to figure out how I’m going to finish the idea I’ve had, whereas for television, I start with the ways I can postpone things, such as coming up with B, C, and even D-plots that will keep the audience watching.

Across your projects, you’ve worked as a director, writer, producer, and more. How do you think your BA Practical Filmmaking degree has helped prepare you for such versatility?

My dream is to become a writer/director, which I think of as the captain of the ship, in many ways. In order to be a great captain, you need to understand every member of your crew: their positions and roles, their capabilities, things like that.

On the BA Practical Filmmaking degree, we get to try all kinds of crew jobs, from on-set electricians to main producers. This first-hand experience is what has helped me learn to understand the importance of every role, and therefore, has made me a better ‘captain’.

Watch the trailer for season one of Slozna Braca: Next Djeneration, co-written by Srdan Jankovic

Can you share a favourite memory from your degree (so far)?

Before I share my favourite memory, I have to say – making German people laugh is difficult! That’s definitely not a myth, it’s true.

Two months into my programme, I wanted to make a comedy for a short film exercise (which ended up as The True Story of the REALIFE Crash). However, one of the best tutors I’ve ever had, Henner Winckler, was hesitant about the idea, since he knew how hard comedy can be to get right. I was stubborn, though, and eventually convinced him to let me try.

When it came to present the final version of my film, Henner’s laugh is all I remember – that’s definitely my favourite memory of the course!

Finally, what else are you working on at the moment?

Last year, I got together with a group of BA students, and we decided to make our own short film, Berlin Rising, which is now in post production. I was the writer, one of the producers, and also assistant director for the film.

The story is about the constant and unacceptable rent increases in Berlin, a topic that makes us all feel equally angry and helpless – I strongly believe it’s going to be something that people have never seen before, and as they say, the best way to bring about change is through your own talents!

We’ll be starting a festival tour from March this year, and since we made this film through fundraising, we’ve also launched a GoFundMe campaign to help with the entrance fees, which you can visit here.