It’s often difficult to explain to laymen what producers and showrunners do exactly during film productions, but most guesses come down to “spending money, right?”. Well, it’s a bit more complex than that, but lucky for us, we had the opportunity to ask a professional about it.
Balázs Juszt, seasoned showrunner and screenwriter is the first Hungarian member of the International Quorum of Motion Picture Producers (IQ) in a long time. Since Juszt will be hosting the organization’s 55th conference in Hungary this October, we asked him about the event and his current projects:
BPR: How did you get into filmmaking?
Balázs Juszt: I started as a child actor, trained with Hungarian actress Margit Földessy, before pursuing economics in London. During my studies, I took a media course headed by Susanna Capon, the former head of BBC Drama, which got me hooked on filmmaking. I went on to study producing and got my MFA at UCLA, and the rest is history.
BPR: Can you name any projects you are working on these days?
B. Juszt: I’m currently involved in several series, such as a collaboration with Swiss Television with two other IQ members, Peter Reichenbach and Kjartan Thordarsson, that is based on a Washington Post article about the CIA’s “intelligence coup of the 20th century”. That’s the agency’s words, not mine. It’s called “Codeword: Rubicon”. This will be an eight-episode period spy thriller, which I’m showrunning and writing.
I’m also working with Gareth Wiley and Oscar-winning Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky on a true story about the only foreign operative to infiltrate Al Qaeda in the ’90s. Another series I’m involved with is being directed by Peter Weber, the director of “Girl with the Pearl Earring”, and that’s another historical spy thriller about the infamous East German Romeo agents in Paris, during the ’68 uprisings. You can see a pattern here…
BPR: Based on your experience in the industry, what makes someone a great showrunner?
B. Juszt: The story. It’s all about the story and the characters that move it. A showrunner should focus on why they want to tell a particular story and feel driven to share it. If you’re more concerned about the audience or the budget, then it’s not the right fit. No one ever tuned in to watch a series because the show came in on budget. It’s crucial to be genuinely invested in the project and be able to contribute meaningfully.
BPR: You’ll be the host of the 55th IQ conference, which will be held here in Hungary. What can you tell us about it?
B. Juszt: The International Quorum of Motion Picture Producers is an organization of independent producers, with members coming from all around the world. Consisting of five sections, which are entertainment, corporate, new media, documentary and services, its members are valuable assets to the industry.
The organization’s motto is “Trusted filmmakers connecting”, and that’s 100% the case. An in-person conference with this group feels like a family reunion, except you like all your relatives.
BPR: Have you attended previous conferences?
B. Juszt: I joined IQ just before the COVID-19 pandemic, so my first conference was held online. The second one was postponed due to the second wave of the virus, but last year we finally had our first in-person conference in Edmonton, Canada, organized by our local member, the incredible Josh Miller (also of Hungarian roots, by the way).
The Budapest conference was initially planned for Moscow, but well-known circumstances make this impossible at the moment, so I was asked to host in Budapest instead.
BPR: Is this the first time the conference is held in Hungary?
B. Juszt: There was a small IQ Conference in Hungary back in 1989, with around 15 attendees. Since then, this is the first time the conference is returning to Hungary, with a much larger organization. By the early bird deadline, over 70 of our members have registered.
BPR: It’s definitely a wise choice, as international filmmaking is thriving in the country right now. How long do you think this can last?
B. Juszt: While we are in a lucky position, we are starting to see some possible issues, such as insufficient infrastructure and studio space. Although there are new spaces being built, we need to invest in virtual studios and crew education.
In addition to the service industry, we mustn’t forget about creative advancement, particularly the education of writers, executives, and storytellers. In my opinion, this is what will ensure the continued growth and success of the Hungarian film industry.