Tedy Necula is a Romanian film director, video campaign producer and motivational speaker. He has spoken at the Romanian Parliament, as well as many other platforms on various topics. In 2019 the European Film Festival in Singapore is launching with his debut film “Beside Me” and CEEC decided to catch up with him for a chat.
CEEC: Can you tell us more about yourself. Who is Tedy Necula? How did you start in film?
Tedy Necula: My connection to film started when I was twelve years old when a Romanian director Radu Gabrea was looking for a child with disabilities to play the lead role in his film Noro. He saw my picture and the rest is history. This changed my life in a way.
Later in high school, because of my experience in debating on various human rights topics and involvement with non-profit organisations, I started to get involved in making videos, tv commercials and ads for this social field.
Early in my life, since I was 16, my approach has been always to find the positive things in any drama. Even if we were shooting in women’s prison, a campaign on drug awareness or handicaps, I was looking for that positive spark. The positive story that you can pull out that can be inspirational for anyone.
In 2007 one of my clients invited me to speak in the Romanian Parliament. This was on the 5th May, International Day of Protection of Persons’ with Disabilities Rights. I didn’t know what to speak about, what to tell them. They were politicians. So, I decided to talk about my campaigns and my films. The agenda lead the conversation to the topic of what disabled is (by Constitution). I spontaneously thought I would share with them what my definition was without having to think so much. I said a handicap person is anyone who says, “I can’t”, even just one time. It was partly a joke, partly serious. Immediately the whole Parliament broke out in applause. This is how I became a speaker. Now I get invited by many companies as a speaker and touch upon subjects which are mixed between my work, my films for brands and the inspiring and positive, socially impactful topics.
CEEC: What is that thing that inspires you and makes you see this positive side of things? What is the trick?
TN: It is an exercise. It depends how you phrase the questions in your life. What would it be like if all that could go wrong does not go wrong? What is the positive thing that keeps this world alive or on track? It is all about what you want to see and how sensitive you are to social issues or business. I always say when I do a video for a brand or company, I do a porn film. I undress these people from all of the peers and politically correct things. I want them to be natural and tell me who they really are. Why they love their company, what they have built this company. But without the excess artificial fluff.
Because I have worked in all these social fields since young, it is easy for me to be open. Be open to whatever you encounter. Because if you are open you will understand more. With all the superficiality you cannot go deep into understanding. You are afraid. There are extraordinary things in each field and relationship whether it is in film or in business. I love this. Stay open.
CEEC: You are opening the European Film Festival 2019 in Singapore with “Beside Me”. What would you like everyone to take back from the film?
TN: Once you see the film, then you will take (laughs). That is the honest answer. It is a universal story.
I wanted to make this film since I was in university. I was traveling in the subway and I liked to make eye contact with the other travellers. Because we are all strangers in the subway, there is this fear of connection which is an unnecessary fear. The main idea of the film is this topic of connection because we are all strangers before something, or someone puts us together. Like in the subway.
It is my first feature film in terms of fictional film (I have done many feature documentaries before). I built it in seven years. The script was not a problem, but the funding took a long time because it was only businesses who were involved in the funding. It took me a few years to build my network with these businesses to then fund and make the film. It was not a very high budget feature film. The cost was like that of a big commercial (laughs). It was a positive story. The actors believed in the story. They were great.
I placed the story line a day after the Colectiv nightclub fire. This was a fire in a nightclub in Bucharest around three years ago. It killed almost 70 young people. I placed the stop of the subway in the morning after the fire. Why? Because in a way that story brings us Romanians together again. Since that moment, since the Colectiv tragedy, Romania has protests, gatherings to fight and stand together against corruption, which was associated with the fire. The scene where the people light the flashes of their phones. This was inspired by one big protest in Bucharest with over eighty thousand people which lit their phones up. It was a symbol.
Except the budget of the film it was important for me to raise a significant amount for marketing. Why? I believe in the business of film. I am happy that I am creating stories for people and inspiration, but it is a business, so we needed a strong marketing campaign. We ended up having fifty thousand viewers in the theatres by December. The premier was on the 30th October.
This was the same date as the fire. It was both symbolic and marketing. I believe they are connected; the humanitarian and business aspects. You have to manage the two. You cannot help people without money.
CEEC: What do you think about technological trends and AI in film? Will it change the way films are made? Will it take away the human aspect?
TN: AI is a classical debate. Technology is only a tool. It will not replace your mind. It will introduce new processes, but we will always need people. It will be very depressive if we have only robots and machines around ourselves. That is why we need other people. Nature is always balanced. We see this throughout history.
CEEC: Tell me more about your Video Campaigns for Brands?
TN: It was a natural course because I was already established in social commercials and campaigns for goods. It was an “a-ha” moment at a business networking event. In Romania there are big networking events five time a year. I’ve taken part as a speaker. I started consulting big brands in Romania and Europe. When I sat down with a client, we spoke about their brand as a human. If your brand were a person, what kind of stories would it tell? What kind of characters would describe it the best? The Thai are the best in their campaigns. You know the kind of storytelling advertising? Especially in insurance. They know very well, how to make very impactful campaigns. We build whole social media campaigns for them for three, six or nine months, based on these kinds of emotional stories that we make for them. Starting from the human values, we build these stories with the head of branding which leaves the spectator influenced positively. People like positive stories. That is why these videos are more likely to be shared. We see what the values of your brand are, what you want to communicate. These kinds of campaigns bring a lot of awareness to brands. Customers will choose these brands of products because they have given them this positive story. Going back to your question on AI – it is not about AI only, it is about the emotional story.
CEEC: As a speaker is there a certain topic you are passionate about?
TN: I have not decided yet. I have recently been invited to speak at sessions about relations between inspirational topics and business. On topics related to leadership; in a documentary we did, we were three staff and 100 you people; how do you lead a team and be efficient in this scenario?
Producing inspirational video content is also another topic and the connection between business, CSR and human things.
My story is also inspirational because I was born this way. My handicap came from my birth from a medical mistake, so I was happy to live. At that time during Communism, during Ceaușescu they didn’t accept handicap people at all. They told my parents to me up and put me in an orphanage and to work on having another child.
I also do trainings for video content for organisations about public speaking but in a natural way. I do not encourage people looking too rehearsed.
CEEC: How is Romanian film developing in recent years?
TN: Romania is developing in independent production film making. The business of film making has started to grow. I admire one or two producers who know how to do marketing for their films. This is change from the state funded film making from the past.
CEEC: Which good films have you seen lately? Would you recommend a few?
TN: Yes, Charleston by Andrei Creţulescu is a wonderful film and Illegitimate by Adrian Sitaru. The latter was shot by the same DOP (director of photography) that I was working with. It is a wonderful film based on improvisation. It was a good drama. You know, it is a pity we rely so much on drama. It is easy to make drama and we are always happy with only drama. The festivals embraced drama – Romanian drama, communist drama, post-communist drama, etc. We have to come up from it though.
I like talking about heartbeats in my speeches: heartbeats are a powerful symbol of our lives because they go up-down-up-down-up-down. That’s how we are and how our lives are. This is normal, otherwise we are dead.
In this regard, a lot of comedies are being made since last year. I think it is a really good trend. There have been quite a few fresh ideas lately and quite a few in the process.
CEEC: Why should people visit Romania? Where should they go and what should they eat?
TN: People should visit Romania for the people, for the human vibe. They will see the connection to nature, our traditions that are kept here.
The north, centre and west of Romania are the best to visit. The capital, Bucharest was a cross-road of nations – Turks, Greeks, Bulgarians, Arabs and other nations. That’s why we have a mix of cultures here. If you want to see the real Romania, you should visit the centre of the country – Cluj-Napoca, Maramures. They are very traditional. People still wear their traditional dress to church on Sundays.
Entrepreneurship in Romania is growing fast. We have great companies, good taxes. It is not expensive to hire labour here. It is also great for women, and of course for men (laughs). There are also many handicaps (laughs).
We have great food. I would recommend the traditional cold plates. The meat, especially pork dishes with vegetables, similar to the Bulgarian dishes. Smoked meats.