Petr Jarchovský - Screenplay arises whole life

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Petr Jarchovský was born on 6.10.1966 in Prague.He belongs to our most successfull screenplay writers and he wrote topics for  very successfull movies such as “ Šakalí léta”, “ Pelíšky”, “ Musíme si pomáhat”, “ Želary”, “ Horem pádem”, “ Kawasakiho růže” or “ “Občanský průkaz”.Majority of his screenplays was transferred onto screen by his life–long friend Jan Hřebejk.We were interested how it works in tandem Jarchovský- Hřebejk  and how arises screenplay which receives award “ Český lev” or is nominated for Academy Award.

When was born your friendship with Jan Hřebejk ?You both attended Secondary academy school in Prague.Were you same as your mates, you used to chase girls and go to discos or you had more intelectual spirit and rather prefered going to cinema and dreamt about making film yourself-one day, soon?

At a disco I was only once in my entire life, it was in 8th class..... and thanks to horrible music being played there it decimated me so much that I even didn´t notice there are any girls around.

At that time we were divided into two groups” Somráci”( long haired men wearing old cloth and shoulder gas mask bag) and “ Veksláci”( well dressed men who obtained gear from changing Tuzex vauchers for cash).I belonged to former and discos belong to latter group.I met Honza(Jan Hřebejk) at a secondary school, we liked music, literature and we even wrote some song lyrics and theatre plays and we tried to outdo each other in who read more books.Later on we started to visit Film club and Ponrepo cinema, where you could watch good films and one could avoid grey existence in tough normalisation time.Honza decided to study film already at secondary school, I wasn´t brave enough to go an start artistic career.So I went to College of education specialized on Czech language and craft.But this college was the real communist bastion with bizzare creations being teachers.One couldn´t sustain it and I lost all my illusions. So I  escaped to FAMU(Film academy) since it was only university close to my interest in literature and screenplay writing.

Did you feel that you can work together or you went your own separate ways in film industry but then realized that chemistry works and you have potential together so you can milk it?

We were friends, but I was real green novice while Honza´s interest in film was much deeper.We both studied screenwriting and dramaturgy, but Honza had clear idea from very beginning that he wants to be a film director.When he wasn´t allowed to change subjects, he took it as his advantage and started to make his student films for money he got from his parents.Instead of titles like “FAMU presents” he put subtitles like “ Anežka Hřebejk presents”.I had to learn all from scratch., see how others do it.Honza made his student films with his mate Petr Zelenka.We found each other as authors during writing screenplay for film “ Pějme píseň dohola”, which I wrote in my 3rd class.Miracle happened later since screenplays from 3rd grade are usually not used for realization.But we had balls and offered that to older mate Ondřej Trojan who just finished Directors´ department and was looking for topic for his debut film.So what happened was that during my school years I had my first feature film screenplay in realization.But what looked as a bingo turned sour later.The screenplay was written before Velvet Revolution, but it was made as a film in 1990.At that time the market with American films was opened and nobody was interested in film from pioneer camp with amateur actors.For many years we thought we made a flop but this movie found it´s own fans many years later and today they rate it as a kind of cult movie.

In films like “ Šakalí léta”, “Pelíšky”, “Musíme si pomáhat” there is always something in it from your own family in given era.Did you write screenplays as a tribute to special person with a subconscious notion that you pay tribute to hundreds of likewise looking people who were here at that time?

No, not really, I didn´t pay tribute to anyone.I only wanted to tell stories about human´s character on the background of historical events which affected their destinies.Those stories, which I knew from my parents talks and talks of my old friends.It was a way how to share history and destiny.Through talking of my grandparents and parents I sucked myself into these live stories and I felt very much connected with them.Memories-our memory- and stories created from it are kind of death defiance.That´s the way how I feel it.In case of older buddy Petr Šabach it was just continuation of friendly talk and reminiscence, kind of author´s co-existence, mutual closeness.It´s great when friendship brings some positive side fruition.

Many of your screenplays see the light of the world at the cottage of Jan Hřebejk where you meet up with Petr Šabach and talk.Is it just pure chewing the fat session with bottle of wine by the open fire from which sparks the idea for new film or you have clear idea that you need a topic and that you go to cottage with view of finding something interesting?

To the cottage of Honza Hřebejk we used to go as students and there rose our first films.The way how our topics rise doesn´t have the same mould.Sometimes I come with idea, sometimes Honza.Sometimes it rises just from talking and re-talking and re-creation of the told versions, sometimes it is a slow process in my head, which gets concrete face at the paper and it comes to Honza as finished screenplay.To first category belong films like “ Šakalí léta” or “Nevinnost” to second category films like “ Musíme si pomáhat “ or “ Kawasakiho růže”.

When you have idea and you put pen to paper, how does it work? Do  you have to be alone in the room, nobody can disturb you not to burst your”creative bubble” and you write and write maybe 12 hours during 3 days before the idea gets to paper?Or you only write segment, then you go shopping, walk the dog, write two more pages and that goes on and off the same way?

It differs.Big chunk of creative work is not made behind typewriter.If I have a clear idea about construction of the scene or sequence, then I seek solitude and peace and try to transfer it onto the paper.At that time I don´t want to be disturbed.Sometimes I ignite myself with some scene and then I let it go and only think how to handle it.Then, when I have to think about it all the time, when the idea doesn´t desert me, I realize, it´s worthy and I keep on working on it.I write in many days intervals, which are very intense and among them are long gaps.The mostly frequently asked question is “ How long do you write screenplay?”I can´t answer that.Generally speaking such screenplay is being written and created during whole life.When some idea rises from lived through stories, it can take year or two before it gets concrete proportions.So time spent behind typewriter can be realitevely short.When I am “finely tuned”, I can make first version in 14 days easily.Then comes the point, when you have to-as screenwriter-let director enter your inner circle.It must be empathetic view which doesn´t exclude critical view at written thing.But it ALWAYS must be mutual agreement, what and which way you want to tell the story.

We have idea that screenplay is like chunk of wood, like a log, which carver machines with his chisel until he can see concrete bust or sculpture having some expression.How do you realize that this is “ it” that this version is the best you can master?

Your screenplay gets the concrete shape during shooting and at editor´s desk.Till this time, it´s only phantom, not made work.This is, unlike say write´s  destiny, a curse of this profession.Screenplay which is not realized is very sad product.I can say I am lucky since our close colaboration with Honza Hřebejk doesn´t leave behind many such sad memorials.If some of my screenplays didn´t come to fruition, it was so called “ producers´project” which was written on order.Topics which Honza and I wore in our heads and built them from ashes were all made and realized.

Jan Hřebejk doesn´t like sci-fi.If it happens that you write great sci-fi story, would you be loyal to him and leave it in drawer or you would offer it to different director who would show interest? Same goes if Mr. Hřebejk would chose someone else´s screenplay.Would that be a crack in your friendship or business is business and it doesn´t affect the friendship?

I don´t like sci-fi either so I don´care.We have similiar taste, similiar view at the world, similiar sense of humour and sense for irony.Honza is pro-director and earns his living by that.I earn the living by writing the screenplays.We had some solo projects made but thankully the core of our work is in mutual projects.

Does it tie you to have a tag of being such successfull screenplay writer?Maybe people expect a box office hit everytime you put pen to paper which can tie you hands, can´t  it?

I feel it as some kind of commitment....but it never restricted me from trying something else, going different way which public didn´t expect from us and carry the risk that we loose part of viewer´s sympathy.Our films are changing in their topics and genres and pretty well show our professional and human maturation.We don´t do sequels of “ Pelíšky” or “ Pupendo” since had we tried that we would have been finished by now.Because we try to grab our stories different way, approach them differently, we keep energy among us and inspire each other.Let´s hope it will last long.

Is screenplay writer independent or very dependent?How do you understand the name independent film and what is your idea of it?

The feeling that feel the American screenplay writers in US film system I never experienced.No commerce dictate, no producers usurpers.For our creativity freedom we pay the price that with every new topic we start from very beginning and we have to burn midnight oil to make it work.I always saw myself as independent author.Only time I feel dependence is in possibilities of realization, on finances which you are able to get for your film.Thankfully, we were lucky on producers, who are different in approaches but first and foremostly they love film and I am grateful to them that they have taken care of our topics and let us our freedom.

What would you advice young film nutter who doesn´t have FAMU(Film academy) degree but he would like to write a screenplay for his film?Is there any manual which was, is and always will be working and without which no screenplay can be made?

Desire and will.Love to literature and film.Adoption of his trade.Admiration to the masters and their work.Not being alone for that.

You sort out details on your screenplay for months.How do you view directors of Woody Allen type, who either don´t show screenplays to actors or they re-write it just before shooting?Is it artistic attitude or bad preparation?

Woody Allen is a genius, he is director, screenplay writer and actor in one, he is one of the last Titans.What ever he does, just pricking his ears during shooting-if it brings such good results, we have no other option  than raise our hat, get astonished and learn from him.

Photo: Ondřej Littera,, Michal Kobrle, Cinema Open