Cosmin Gurău, filmmaker: Getting it right is sometimes an accident, and almost always, a process

How did you get started as a filmmaker? How long have you been making movies? 

Cosmin Gurău: I distinctly remember being 8 years old and watching ALIEN (1979) on TV and asking my mom the name of the job you need to have in order to make THAT. The fact that I had access to my first (digital) camera so late (2006) meant I had to improvise, going first through hand-drawn animated sketchbooks, envisioning and programming point-and-click adventure games in Visual Basic, doing lots of 3D animation, and perhaps most importantly, being in a theatre group, both as an actor and as a director. All these things proved very useful in 2006, when I made my first attempt at a “movie” in the 11th grade, for a nation-wide high school European Union-themed competition. It was crude, could barely be called a movie, and basically flipped off the whole idea of the competition. I won an award for it. And an iPod. Good times. I was hooked.

What formal training did you receive?

Cosmin Gurău: Although it could be said I went to and graduated “film school” (Universitatea Media), the fact that most teachers there didn’t care too much about the students, coupled with the almost complete lack of practical teaching, adding on top of that my battle with depression and anxiety (which made me skip classes a lot during the first year), most of the things I learned, I did so on my own. However, the two things this film school did right, was to teach us what a film is and isn’t, and then create a super-competitive environment between the students (but not in regards to the grades – we all got the maximum at the most important subject – Directing). Exams were tiny film festivals in that regard, and that was GREAT.

How would you describe your professional path?

Cosmin Gurău: Painful but perhaps necessary. After film school was over, and I impressed a certain someone with my film, I was “invited” to have a go at working in the advertising industry as a freelancer collaborator that just “got things done”. The pay was good, and I did that for almost 6 years. Probably hence comes my disgust for the practices of most commercial brands and the advertising industry in general. Feeling myself deteriorate further every day, I decided to put a hold on that kind of work, and try to return to movies.

How long does it take to produce a movie? 

Cosmin Gurău: Haha, depends on so, SO many factors. Could be a few months, could be a decade (hopefully not more than that ☹).

What does it take to make a really good movie?

Cosmin Gurău: I think a “really good” movie needs not only to tell an interesting story but also to contain a truly powerful human element, that feels authentic and hits home. That is very hard to pull off.

If there would be a filmmaker decalogue what do you think the commandments would be?

Cosmin Gurău: You don’t really need 10 rules. One can pretty much do the job: “Make the audience care.”

Do you believe that you have a social responsibility as a filmmaker?

Cosmin Gurău: My father sure does think so. I do too, to some extent. A film can be a conversation starter, an explorer of some ideas that most of society might shy away from. And I support that, as long as it’s done in a genuine, honest fashion. But is it acceptable for films to merely “ease the burden of consciousness” as David Mamet says? I think so, too. Still struggling with this, I must admit.

If you could have a tea with any three filmmakers, living or dead, who would you choose? And why?

Cosmin Gurău: Tea? That narrows it down too much. Chris Nolan? To tell him I miss his Inception/The Prestige years, and that his exploits of late have utterly disappointed me, and that he needs to get his sh*t together. Now beer… I’d probably have a beer with Fincher, Tarantino and Danny Boyle. Who wouldn’t, though? What, was anybody expecting me to say, Fellini, Antonioni, Bergman? Psssshhhhhh. Please. 😊

Can you tell me five lessons you learned through the art of making movies?

Let’s see:

1. The sound is just as important as the image, if not sometimes more.
2. “Gear doesn’t matter” is only true for early attempts or heavily conceptual projects.
3. When (if) you meet someone truly talented and able, cherish him/her like the Tasmanian tiger he/she is.
4. Compromise is only as inevitable, as it is disastrous.
5. Getting it right is sometimes an accident, and almost always, a process.

Something you wish you’d known when you were just starting out?

Cosmin Gurău: I wish I trusted myself more and had gone out of my comfort zone more often, more viciously.

What are your greatest achievements?

Cosmin Gurău: That’s easy. Pranking but also fascinating a third of Romania with the story of two college students who mysteriously went missing in 1995, while out on an investigation of the ruins of Chiajna Monastery, basically creating an urban legend. That was “București, 13”, the first Romanian mockumentary, that I did in my first year of film school, which helped me with another personal achievement, overcoming crippling depression and anxiety. Then, making the very first Romanian post-apocalyptic movie, “TAX PAYER”, on a zero budget, and constructing the film’s audio from scratch, all 28 minutes of it, by myself.

What are some of your most memorable work experiences?

Cosmin Gurău: Suddenly seeing the towering Chiajna monastery for the first time, through a thick blizzard, at night, on day one of shooting “Bucuresti, 13”. Also, almost shooting my lead actor in the head with an arrow, on filming “TAX PAYER”. Being in France on vacation and seeing that my film was making headlines everywhere at home.

Do you have a special daily routine?

Cosmin Gurău: Yes. Wake up. Fight procrastination. Lose. Procrastinate. Fight it again. Lose again. Procrastinate excessively. Look at the time, get panicked, get some actual work done. Go to sleep.

Do you ever hit a creative wall? If so, how do you recharge your batteries?

Cosmin Gurău: I am so used to the aforementioned wall that I have decorated it with posters and stuff. I recharge my batteries mainly by riding my bike through remote natural places, while listening to my tunes, at golden hour. Does the job pretty well.

What are your goals now? And what can you tell us about To The Wild? 

Cosmin Gurău: Right now, the goal is to properly carry out this endeavor called “To The Wild”, which is a non-commercial independent film festival. The main point of this event is to combine two things that I love, namely nature and films, into one. However, what definitely sets our festival apart from others that do this, is that ours tries to offer a pure picnic film festival experience, by removing the ubiquitous, distracting commercial brands activations (so no traditional sponsorships – it’s all paid from our own pockets and realized with the sweat of our own brow). Furthermore, we come closer to say pure experience by eliminating the otherwise heavily enforced “no-outside-food-or-drinks” restriction (so people are actually ENCOURAGED to bring their own food and soft drinks), and by doing away even with the entry fee. We also have no political, or religious affiliations.
We are also offering people the chance to better experience the film’s audio track on their headphones, on their FM radio-enabled smartphones. We will be projecting independent Romanian films, however, the festival is open to the idea of becoming international.

The first edition (if all goes well) of our festival will take place on the 25th of August, in Bucharest. For more information, please visit


„It probably all started two years ago, with an IKEA thermos that I always carry with me in hot weather, that prevented me from entering another film festival (for which I had paid a ticket), on the insane and insulting grounds that I might attempt to store water inside of it, from the bathrooms (which were eco-toilets by the way), and not buy overpriced water from the inside.
I was instructed to throw it in the trash, even after I emptied the last remaining drops of water on the ground. I preferred to get the hell out of there. That day, I was among hundreds of other people who were insulted and mistreated in this way.

Behind “To The Wild”, there are just a few people trying to find out if there is another way to go about this “film festival thing”, or if indeed unpleasant experiences similar to the aforementioned one just have to be part and parcel of the festivalgoer’s existence.

I personally am of the mindset that, no matter how passionate and indie you are, you cannot completely divorce filmmaking from the commercial aspect. In fact, I believe movies have thrived and evolved partly BECAUSE of it. We would be robbed of thousands of cinematic masterpieces if you were to remove it. That’s not at all what we are trying to do with “To The Wild”. We’re merely trying to send a message, to dial back a little on the terrible excesses of said commercial aspect (especially in the festival/event business), and maybe inspire others to do the same.

“To The Wild” may be my brainchild, yet the other most actively involved person in this project, a man also not afraid to put his money where his mouth is, is Ștefan Nistor, who is none other than my vicious childhood bully (I’m talking half a decade), who also happened to star in most of my films.
What I’m saying is, maybe there’s some hope. ” – Cosmin Gurău

I am a story teller. A fast one. I have a solid background as economic journalist, and I worked for business media institutes in Romania such as Bursa, Business Cover, Forbes, Leaders Reunited and also Capital. I am equally a reader and a traveler and I get inspiration from all the things I find on the way.

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