With Ljubno in heart – director Dejan Čretnik, RTV Slovenija
Providing live coverage of ski jumping events, the Slovenian TV team is known as one of the best production teams in the world –pioneer guidelines were set already by Beno Hvala and Stane Škodlar. How big of a challenge was it to step into “their shoes”?
I see them both as my teachers, although I would say that Beno was mainly my friend, whereas Stane Škodlar was more of a teacher. It is true, their shoes needed to be filled – and I did that gladly with no trouble whatsoever. I knew that they taught me a lot and I relied on having enough touch to carry out what was needed.
Due to professional and well-synchronised approach, the Slovenian TV-team is permanently involved in directing Olympic sports events; you directed in Sochi as well. Are there differences when working in Slovenia or at the Olympics?
Besides Sochi, we also covered the ski jumping events in Vancouver; prior to that, Stane worked at the Olympics in Italy. It is kind of sad to see that we are valued more abroad than at home. I would say that there is a difference between working at home and working at the Olympic Games, but to be able to do the latter, you need to prove yourself at home first. Only when they notice and appreciate your work at home, you can get invited to work elsewhere. We apply our local coverage knowledge to the Olympic Games' coverage, never vice versa. There is no room for experimenting at the Olympic Games.
Few people realise the number of people and the amount of effort it takes to cover the events or to invest in a single coverage which is then broadcast in 15 countries or more. How do you prepare for each event?
Firstly, a director has to imagine how the entire event is going to unfold during the coverage. It is important to set the cameras with the right lenses to the positions as high or as low as necessary. Before each competition we discuss the starting intervals. A director has to keep in mind all the details he or she wants to show between two jumps. We have to find the time to show the competitor at the start (before the jump) and we need to be familiar with the entire systematicity of the competition. Experience plays an important role, there’s a lot of learning involved. You need to have a certain touch, a feeling of rhythm.
Both Hvala and Škodlar have continuously set higher and higher standards of directing the coverage of ski jumping. Are you planning on doing the same, and if so, how?
Our probably most important task today is to keep the work of our predecessors alive. This is our main goal in these times of crisis and austerity. Perhaps we are not really aware of what Ljubno, Planica, and other important large-scale projects mean on an international level, as far as our country, our national television, and people who live here are concerned. Some things have changed – we have added new camera positions, new perspectives, and new analyses; however, we need to stay in touch with how things are done in Europe, in the rest of the world. After that we can upgrade.
We are in the midst of preparing something new, which still needs to remain a secret. Maybe we will reveal it already in this or the coming year. There are still some perspectives that should be introduced, especially when it comes to analysing ski jumps. The resources are scarce, just as is the time to do all the work. However, we keep on working and pushing, what we will continue to do also in the future.
Have directing ski jumping live coverage and the technologies concerned with that changed through time substantially?
Given any critique by the viewer, you have to take it and personalise it – after all, you as the director are the one who is responsible for any mistakes made, whether during the preliminary preparations, the preparations or at the event itself. Years ago in Planica, for instance, we introduced a special camera that was the first one that could show the elevation of a jumper at the highest point of the parabola. It was a good feature for sports experts and viewers to enjoy; the feedback we got was very positive. Since then they always ask us, even at the Olympic Games, whether we are going to use that camera again. But Planica is really one of a kind. We could use the same camera in Ljubno, but the effect would not be as obvious, since the jumps there are much shorter.
Since 2010 you have been directing women’s ski jumping in Ljubno. Have you noticed any difference between directing women's and men's ski jumping events?
The only difference I see is that women's ski jumping is still developing. Thus, men's ski jumping consumes more technology and time. But I need to emphasise that we remained strict, since I did not want to give up certain camera positions – I would rather have declined directing the event. It later on turned out to be a good decision. This will be the fifth year in a row that we will be working in Ljubno. I have paid attention to the progress over the last five years, and how ski jumping events were covered in Japan, Finland, and Austria. They have made certain steps forward, since other TV-networks did not want to trail behind us, after we set up a proper system.
How do you feel about ski jumping? Are the feelings as strong as Beno Hvala’s who favoured women’s ski jumping very much?
Over the years I have somehow grown fond of the motto that “sport is becoming television more and more, and vice versa”. Athletes want to be seen on TV, mainly for sponsorship reasons and also for themselves. In a way, TV stations also compete among each other to be part of such productions. In any case, you have to be fond of this sport and what you do; above all, you need to be true and fair to yourself, the viewers, and your team. Without doubt a director can’t do this on his/her own. If the entire crew doesn’t pay attention in the right moment, there’s nothing the director can do to fix the situation. The fact that we are one of the best ski jumping production teams in the world is true, indeed.
The fifth FIS Ski Jumping World Cup Ladies event in Ljubno will take place on a renovated ski jump – does that bring better work conditions for the TV-crew as well?
Ljubno is where we began our story. I have been part of the event since the first coverage and the first jump; the conditions have always been very good. During the renovations of the ski jump, we managed to secure quite a few better camera angles than before. This makes everything easier for tomorrow’s competition. I need to mention that we are extremely grateful to all the people of Ljubno as well as to all others who come to Ljubno and are part of the organising committee. Everyone has been very cooperative, knowing what television needs. Our work conditions are quite optimal.
Would you like to send a message to all the visitors of Ljubno and the TV-viewers of ski jumping events?
I believe that Ljubno mostly deserves a competition, a new ski jump, and a large number of visitors. The town's location is not remote. I feel that it is the most wonderful feeling to be able to show viewers an event with a lot of fans who make a wonderful atmosphere. That really makes my heart skip a beat. The organisers in Ljubno really make an effort. Besides that, they are a relaxed bunch, open to new ideas, to having an open discussion and to having fun.