Benjamin Konjicija, 24 years old, spent the summer semester 2021 at the mdw at the Filmakademie. He grew up in a small town in Bosnia and Herzegovina called Fojnica, not far from Sarajevo. Currently, Benjamin lives in Sarajevo and is a fourth-year student at the Dramaturgy Department of the Academy of Performing Arts in Sarajevo, where he learns about writing for film, theatre, and radio.
Why did you decide to spend a semester abroad at the mdw?
Since I have some family members in Vienna, I was a regular visitor in the past. I always liked the city. Historically, Sarajevo had strong connections to Vienna and there was a tradition among many Bosnian scholars and writers to study there, which was also interesting for me. I myself always wanted to experience Vienna not only as a tourist but from a perspective of someone living there. With all that, the idea of studying at a department such as the Filmakademie Wien was very appealing to me.
What were your impressions when you came here?
Studying in Vienna during a global pandemic wasn’t something that I had in mind while thinking of a semester abroad a few years ago. I was staying in a student dormitory where, reasonably, people weren’t really allowed to interact a lot with one another, the campus was closed, but I remember being very excited as I met up with one of my professors at the campus. Although I ended up having most of my classes via Zoom, in the end, thanks to engaging lectures, a month of practical exercises and great people I met, my stay in Vienna turned out to be a very interesting and positive experience.
If you had any advice for the incoming international students at the mdw, what would it be?
My only advice would be to enjoy every moment, interact with people, and explore all of the great possibilities that the mdw has to offer.
What did you appreciate the most at the Filmakademie?
The first thing I noticed was how technically equipped the Filmakademie is, and I think that is very important for training future filmmakers. In addition, the emphasis is placed on practical work, which I find crucial given the nature of the profession. Also, I believe that the friendly and well-meaning attitude of professors stimulates the creative development of students.
What excites you about films and film-making?
As David Lynch put it: “Film exists because we can go and have experiences that would be pretty dangerous or strange for us in real life. We can go into a room and walk into a dream.” This is what draws me to films. They open up whole new worlds for us to experience. Sometimes these worlds are “realistic”, sometimes they are worlds of fantasy, but no matter how fictitious, they are always a reflection of real-world experience. For me the most inspiring aspects of writing for films are expression and connection. Writing allows me to share my feelings, both positive and negative, about various topics that affect me on an inner level and lets me explore them. In the most selfish way, I feel like that by creating new worlds referring to the one that surrounds me I am able to live a number of different lives and by sharing things that I created I share these experiences with other people.
How did you find out what you wanted to study?
I always loved film and theatre. Growing up in a small town, films were the main source of adventure. In addition to taking me to distant places, they inspired me. Together with my sister, cousins, and friends, using a camcorder and later smartphones, I recreated films I saw on TV and at the cinema. At one point I started writing my own screenplays that we would later film. Going to a performing arts academy felt like a natural development of events.
How did the semester at the mdw affect your further studies and career?
Spending a semester at the mdw was a very important part of my studies. Thanks to my professors, I was introduced to interesting new approaches to writing screenplays and different approaches to analysing films. Hearing comments from my classmates and professors on my personal work was immensely useful, especially because they come from a different context. I also developed some connections with students from the academy which might result in future collaboration. My German language skills have also improved.
What are you currently working on?
Currently I am working on a screenplay for an animated short film. In collaboration with an animator, I am working on analysing the problem of generations of young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina who are growing up in a dysfunctional society, carrying a burden of the past, unable to live in the present. We are trying to do all of this through the prism of a zombie movie.
What other passions do you have besides film?
As I mentioned before, I am very passionate about theatre, especially puppet theatre. Just as film has the advantage of capturing an unrepeatable moment, theatre has the power to create an unrepeatable moment in a common space.
Which artists inspire you?
I already mentioned David Lynch, who is surely one of my favourite filmmakers. I am also very inspired by Peter Schumann and his Bread & Puppet Theater, and I admire most of the work by Marina Abramović and many other great people. It is hard for me just to pinpoint individual names, because I am inspired by many different works of art.