Interview with actor Marko Petrić: Social networks are a powerful tool that I try to understand and learn to use as skillfully as possible

Croatian films have recently received international awards, we have great producers, great directors, great actors

We know Marko Petrić from numerous series, films and theatre plays in which he acted. For the play "Goodbye, Cowboy" at the 58th Split Summer Festival in 2012, he won the Croatian Acting Award for Outstanding Achievement of a Young Artist under 28. At the Gavella Theater, he is the audience favourite. We talked with this active and interesting actor about his career, the projects he is currently working on, the film industry in Croatia, social networks and the perception of public figures in the media and the public.


Can you introduce us to the projects you are currently working on, or of which you were a part, and which will start promoting soon?

I am currently working on two new plays at my home theatre Gavella: Childhood in Agram, by Miroslav Krleža, directed by Senka Bulić. It is a play that will have its official premiere at the end of February. The play Our Class directed by Jasmin Novljaković should be released in March. As for TV, I have two projects in preparation. A TV series and show that I can’t name because of a contract. But you will soon have the opportunity to watch. This year, two films The Sixth Bus by Eduard Galić and the film The Pelican by Filip Heraković should also be released, where I play a minor role. I also had the opportunity to give my a voice for a Netflix movie. And after a long wait, the first Croatian 3D cartoon Cricket and Ant is finally coming out, in which Tara Thaller and I lent our voices to the title characters.


How do you assess the current state of the film industry in Croatia, how many foreign co-productions are paving the way for actors to shoot abroad, do you have ambitions to build an international career?

This is a trick question... Croatian films have recently received international awards, we have great producers, great directors, great actors, yet, there are still very few moviegoers in cinemas. Which, however, indicates certain problems. What are they exactly? Maybe the themes of the movies? It might be the lack of film studios, equipment, or our ignorant attitude towards domestic production? I have no answer to those questions. If I had to rate the situation, I would say 6/10.

But what is good is that more and more serious foreign productions are doing big projects in Croatia and that in a way opens up domestic film employees to work with the best in the world. I have no ambition to build a classic international career, (because that would mean living outside), don't get me wrong, I would enjoy filming big foreign projects, nevertheless, I would always love to come home.


What is it that currently attracts the most attention to you on TV and in the theatre? Are there any projects you’d like to work on, or something you’re watching that is so good for you to regret not being a part of it?

Honestly, there are so many negative stimuli around us, general uncertainty, bombardment with bad news, that only things that entertain me or make me feel warm, happy and comfortable attract my attention. Of course, there are a lot of projects I would like to do/ would have done but the circumstances just didn’t match. Eg. Black and White World. I followed that series and was a big fan, and it just didn’t happen. I’m regretful I’m not making more films, but I hope that will change as well.


Let's go back to your splendid role as Tesla in Gavella. What is your favourite thing about the character creation process? What is the difference in character building, in film or in the theatre?

Thank you, I like that role. Every creative process is different, first, it depends on whether the role suits some of your predispositions. If it fits, the process is a bit easier, but there’s a lot of fumbling, research, uncertainty, crises, breaking through crises, and ultimately solutions. The theatre is an uninterrupted hour or more of the character's life in front of an audience. And the film is the same character, fragmented into different parts of the day, different chronologies of events, so the greatest skill is to stay focused and not let anything affect those few minutes of life in front of the camera.


How do you become related to the character you play, if the character is repulsive and disliked? Would you agree to play someone like, say, Franjo Tudjman? Is it more problematic that Kevin Spacey plays Tudjman, or that he plays at all?

I always try to find something I love in the character I play. Otherwise, it's a pain. If the director, the script, the team is great, of course, I would agree, my job is acting. I played Romeo, Tesla and Donkey in children's plays.

Kevin Spacey is an amazing actor, and no one can take that away from him. But I strongly condemn any form of abuse, especially abuse of power. He inflicted serious and indelible trauma on someone. If I was in a position to choose who would play in my project, with so many ingenious actors, he would not be my choice.


The general population and part of the regional film industry were very exclusive in condemning this information/decision. If something like that doesn't give any results at all, is it hypocritical in our region to talk about how there is no film criticism, how the public is not interested in the art, etc?

The public is most often engaged around wrong and sensationalist topics. And then everyone has an opinion. Culture, in general, from ancient Greece until today, has had the task of being in some way a corrective of society, however, it seems to me that today the role of culture in society has relativized and that people are more interested in other things. Dialogue, constructive criticism, differences of opinion, and discussion are needed. And I hope that films and theatre will once again take a more important place in society.

Since you belong to the younger generation of actors, what is the most important thing that the older generations have passed on to you, and what is it that you are trying to teach younger colleagues? Is there enough space for young actors and actresses in our region?

Older generations of actors have passed on the spirit of another time. A different treatment of society towards the artist. Thoroughness and dedication. And when I find myself in a situation where I can advise younger colleagues, it’s usually some encouragement, to allow yourself things. And not to be taken too seriously. I guess that's what I'm working on. As in any profession, there are more and more successful people in the business who work. There will always be room for the more resourceful. Unfortunately, not everyone is fighting for the opportunity. But one should never stop hoping and working.


Are there any roles you turned down, fearing they might trace your career in a direction you didn’t want?

Yes. For a long time, I refused to do series, or work on TV in general, because I was afraid that it would put me in a mould, but when I agreed to these types of formats after almost 8 years, I was surprised how wrong I was. I eventually learned a great deal from the formats that I initially refused to participate in. My fear of "moulding" in the end was so irrational.


Do you sometimes feel that actors and actresses, general public figures, have been abused and exploited by the media? Do the media sometimes trivialize the artistic performance itself and reduce it to a sensation, and how do you feel as a performer at that moment?

I feel it. And that is why I enjoy this conversation because we are not dealing with piquancy from the private segment of my life, but we are talking about projects and acting. It has happened to me many times that after the premiere, an article was published about who was at the premiere, and nothing about the play or the roles came out. It used to strike me because I thought that what we were doing should be a priority, however, what I know today is that the media is dealing with clicks and numbers (I honour exceptions).

Well in that context there is not so much room for some fair analysis.


You were part of the TV show "Stars Sing". How do you view such projects and how important are they for piercing the mainstream?

I have always enjoyed singing and performing in that show has brought me only fond memories and friendships. I don't think there's anything wrong with showing the other side of yourself. And there I learned a lot about the way TV works, and what kind of door a show of that kind can open to you.


Do actors have to and should they be part of the mainstream today, how much have social networks, ubiquity, and omnipresence shifted those paradigms?

Well, they don’t have to be part of the mainstream, there are no rules. Sometimes it’s the wind in your back and sometimes it’s a weight around your leg. And social networks have created some virtual space where anyone, can be anything, which some people make great use of and do a good job of. And they promote their ideas, work, and themselves. But one should be aware that mostly it is all an illusion, filters, and setup. Social networks are a powerful tool that I try to understand and learn to use as skillfully as possible.


In this regard, public figures (although this is a very problematic construction today) popularized some important things, primarily the LGBTI movement, the promotion of healthy living, training… etc. How do you look at it and what do you personally stand for?


As I said. Social networks are a powerful tool and can be used to promote some essential values. But I am much more committed to real life, tolerance, understanding, learning, creativity, healthy living.


How do you remember the years of study in Split? Could a "purger" ever grasp the state of mind in Split?

I remember them for the sun, the sea, the studio, the first steps of acting, love, colleagues at the Croatian National Theater, friends.

I will immodestly say that I have mastered some moments in Split. With song, ease of life, eternal no rush. A little...


Are you preparing or working on anything other than acting? Does an actor have to be just an actor and why do you think that we still have such a prism, that an actor cannot be both a director and a producer, or a casting director?

I am preparing something new, together with my colleague and friend Bojan Brajčić. I am writing a screenplay for a feature film. I'm working on materials (drawings) for an art exhibition, which will be I don't know when and I don't know where... Maybe in a year, maybe in 10. I'm learning some new skills, such as dancing. These are all some long-term ideas. And sooner or later I will bring them to an end. The very fact that I’m talking about it pushes me further.

I don't think we have such a thoughtful discourse. There are no rules here, being an actor by profession does not prevent me from doing things that interest me. And specifically, my situation is such that I am interested in everything, so I allow myself to play with something completely unknown to me. And make a mistake, and miss, and not know and be insecure, but at least try. I think only something good can come out of it.