Making Paftuar: A Conversation with the Talented Film Producer Julian Biba

Julian came to US about 15 years ago after a colorful life in Albania that included being in military high school at the age of 14 and later on to Police Academy. He has participated in a few Karate competitions and has been involved in Albanian Police classified operation while has worked as bodyguard for politicians and other VIP-s since 1996. Telling some quite unique stories made his friends induce him to write some of them.

At this point Julian came to realize that: when you do what you discover to love, that’s not a hobby anymore.

Julian co-worked with writer/director Roland Uruci who was interested in one of his stories and they wrote together a full feature script. The funding problems they faced, forced them to end up shooting a short film based on the full feature. They filmed “Paftuar” (Uninvited) in Albania and Julian helped in the project by being: Assistant Producer; Co-Writer; Script consultant; Script supervisor; Stunt coordinator; and Translator.

Since that project Julian has taken a few acting classes with actor/director Ron Millkie and wrote a couple of scripts, many of which are based on real life stories. Most importantly, Julian took an intensive course with “ScreenwritingU”: Professional Screenwriting Program. During the 8 months of the course he completed his script “Leap of Faith” featured on “Inktip” magazine for consideration of several production companies.


Meet the Artist: NY Elite Interview with Producer Julian Biba

NY Elite: What was your first movie making experience?

Julian Biba: The first movie was a great learning experience filled with joy of accomplishment and full of adrenaline. It was basically like a crash course on movie making.

NY Elite: You co-wrote and co-produced “Paftuar”. What is this short film about? Who was part of the production team?

Julian Biba: This film is based on true events where I happen to be an eyewitness and it is a drama about human rights violations by Greek border patrol units against Albanian illegal emigrants. We wish to have the funds at some point, so we can film the full feature version of the script to tell the whole story.

I had the pleasure and honor to work with director Roland Uruci; director of photography Albert Elmazovski;, two actors that I grew up watching on television Todi Llupi and Karafil Shena; the actor/director Laert Vasili; the amazing producers Tefta Bejko and Bujar Alimani; and actors Artan Telqiu, Albi Dhima, Armando Dauti, Griseld Kapllanaj, Sabrina Alimani, Galip Cobaj, Ervin Kendella.

NY Elite: How was your experience with the director and other actors in this film?

Julian Biba: Roland Uruci is a fast moving and hands-on director that gave me the motivation to learn and adopt fast to the changing circumstances during filming. All these professionals treated me with respect and enabled me to learn a lot from them.


Producer Julian Biba and actor Laert-Vasili

NY Elite: You also completed 3 full feature scripts and 4 shorts. Can you tell us a little bit more about them?

Julian Biba: Two of the full features are again based on true events that I have participated in. “The Bright Future” is somehow a follow up of “Paftuar” but now the main story happens in Athens, Greece. “Trust” is based on events happening during a massive armed rebellion in Albania on 1997. Then there is “Leap of Faith” which is my first fiction script and it’s about the drama of a Syrian woman that loses her family and her CIA handler/boyfriend in the hands of Jihadists who 20 years later brainwash her son to become a suicide bomber.

The short films are again a mixture of true events and fiction. But the whole reason for writing them is because it is easier to find producers who can finance short films than the full features.

NY Elite: What sort of stories excite you?

Julian Biba: I like history especially that of the Balkans. Often I read articles about historical events that I didn’t know or knew little about and the result of that is what some call “the opposite of writer’s block”. The story sticks in my head and I can’t go to sleep without going through some levels of the script in my mind.


NY Elite: What do you enjoy about producing?

Julian Biba: About four years ago I didn’t think I would be involved with this craft, but now it occupies my mind most of the time. I’m trying to learn anything I can about it. I take script writing classes; I write all the time; act on small production; go to auditions; observe other productions etc.

NY Elite: What’s been the largest project you’ve taken on so far?

Julian Biba: “Leap of Faith” was a game changer for the way I write and think about writing. It is designed for a big budget film, which makes it in the same time the strong and the weak point of the project.

NY Elite: Do you like attending screenings of your own work?

Julian Biba: I have attended one screening of “Paftuar” so far and was overwhelmed by the questions of the audience, once they found out it was based on my real life story. It is exciting although I’m not used to that amount of attention.

NY Elite: What is the most important aspect of building a great character?

Julian Biba: What is usually referred to as the “character ark”, I think is one of the most important aspects of building a character that the audience understands and experience his/her journey with.

NY Elite: Any particular character that you wrote that is interesting? Who played it?

Julian Biba: In “Paftuar” the character of Palacos the Greek army sergeant, has a blind fascistic hate for the foreigners in his country and he doesn’t hesitate to show it. This role was played amazingly by the brilliant actor Laert Vasili.

NY Elite: Besides producing and writing, you also acted in “The Americans” and were featured in the documentaries role Al Capone “Mysteries At the Museum” travel channel. Do you prefer acting, producing or writing?

Julian Biba: First I don’t want to take the credit of acting on “The Americans”. In there I was only an extra but I love that show and had a great experience watching first hand a production of that level. The Al Capone and 19th century detective were documentaries where we had to improvise and I really enjoyed it.

During the New York Albanian Film Week of producer Mrika Krasniqi I had the chance to have constructive conversations with directors like Iris Elezi and Fatmir Koci while was asked “out of the blue” by the Kosova director Sabri Pajaziti to act on his short film “A Tough Time in NY” next to a very talented actor Julian Gjaci. This was a very pleasant experience and I enjoyed every moment of it.

At this point I can’t really tell which one I prefer the most, but I know that I enjoy every bit of it like a child with his new toy.


NY Elite: You are currently working on a big budget feature. What is this movie about? What interesting actors and characters should we expect to see?

Julian Biba: I am hopeful that one of the production studios I have submitted to, will decide to produce the “Leap of Faith” which is typical Hollywood style and action packed drama. I don’t have any actor attached to the projects so far, but usually it depends on the production company and their budget to decide about this.

NY Elite: Tell us a little bit more about the Jewish story during Second World War in Albania. What fascinates you about this topic?

Julian Biba: That script is still in progress and touches this very interesting topic that has fascinated me because explores one of the most precious values of Albanians, Besa, the promise that a traditional Albanian would prefer dying rather than breaking.

NY Elite: One piece of advice to screenwriters just starting out?

Julian Biba: I don’t think I am qualified for advice since I am myself a new screenwriter. I just think that if you have an idea or concept for a script, the only way you can get a feedback, is if you write it.

NY Elite: What are your future plans for 2016?

Julian Biba: I am lucky to have the moral and artistic support of the award winner producers like Mrika Krasniqi, Bujar Alimani etc and I hope to produce one or two short films in NY,

We have also organized more screenings in D.C., New York, etc, with the objective of achieving our first goal; that of producing the full feature version of “Paftuar”.


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