The Euros 5.5m Slovak epic Juraj Janosik - A True Story has been halted mid-way through production while producer Rudolf Biermann waits for his US backer to hand over Euros 3m of overdue cash.
The film, directed by mother-daughter team Agnieszka Holland and Kasia Adamik, has been hyped as the Polish-Slovak version of the Robin Hood epic and a needed shot in the arm to Slovak production. The shoot's failure would have a serious effect on the nascent Slovak production sector.
Last year, Biermann's Bratislava production house Charlie's signed a contract to get backing for Janosik with an LA-based firm headed by a Slovak emigre. But Biermann says none of the promised Euros 3m has yet arrived. The producer has meanwhile plunged his firm Euros 400,000 in debt to finance the shoot.
Following the story of a 18th century outlaw and folk hero who made a living stealing from the rich in the Vah river valley in Western Slovakia, the film is expected to appeal to Czech, Slovak and Polish audiences.
The 130-minute epic, with a longer version planned for a three-part TV mini-series, also received backing from Czech Television and Prague production house In Film Praha.
"There is not much optimism on the team, but there's a lot of determination," Biermann told a group gathered for a presentation of eastern European films in development at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
With 40-50 more shooting days needed to finish the film, Biermann says he needs the money by August in order to wrap Janosik this year. "If we can get the money by this deadline, then we will be able to continue shooting in September," he says.
Other films in development presented at Karlovy Vary are Czech director Petr Zelenka's Euros 2.5m The Best Films of Our Lives, a black comedy set in the US produced by Pavel Strnad's Negativ; Martin Krejci's Euros 1.2m Substitute from Vratislav Slajer's Bionaut, a Czech production; established Slovak director Juraj Jakubisko's The Third Sex, with a budget of Euros 20m; and award-winning Hungarian helmer Gyorgy Palfi's Taxidermia from Budapest's Eurofilm Studio, which has already secured half of the film's Euros 1.7m budget in Hungary and is looking for the rest in France, Germany and elsewhere.