Film Director Balazs Juszt - The Mind Behind The Man Who Was Thursday

Good to be back with my LA Splash family and friends! As you already know how much impact independent film makers are bringing to our communities within the industry, here’s one that fascinated me with his recent piece The Man Who Was Thursday. 

I couldn’t skip the opportunity to get to know the mind behind this wonderful film that intrigued me so much about all that goes down inside and outside our capabilities to understand our believes better than what we hear from others. 



Who is Balazs?

Balazs began directing musicals and plays in high school at the American International School of Budapest and directed his first music video at the age of seventeen. The same summer, he translated the Harper Book of Quotations to Hungarian and interned in the U.S. House of Representatives where he wrote speeches for the late Congressman Tom Lantos (D). Balazs later wrote a comic autobiography about his experience there, which was published in Hungary. This scored him the head writer position on Félszázadunk, a retro comedy series about when he was 18.

Balazs received a BSc Economics from Royal Holloway, University of London and during his studies, completed the Management Training Program at Phillip Morris in the Corporate Communications Department. While at undergrad, he worked as a bartender, a DJ and a bank clerk.

Balazs studied film producing under Academy Award-winning Cathy Schulman and received an MFA in Producing from UCLA. He was an assistant director to Oscar- winning director István Szabó on his movie Relatives.

He has directed numerous music videos, commercials and TV series in English, Hungarian, German, Hebrew, Arabic and Italian.
He has worked for Skyfilm as VP of Development from the age of 22, where he oversaw development and sales and was the executive producer of Gábor Herendi’s third movie Lora, and directed and produced the comic series Valami Hungary, the spinoff of Hungary’s cult sensation, Valami Amerika. He also directed Experidance – The Legend of Dance, a 12-episode TV series when he was 24.

He left Skyfilm for Beacon International, a TV production company, where he produced dozens of prime time television shows and developed and sold formats at numerous trade shows.

He began writing feature screenplays and selling them to several production companies in Los Angeles. Later, he opted to move into directing.

He directed The Kiss Goodnight, a comedic short about anxieties. His no-speaking film, It Happened in TLV opened the Jewish Summer Festival in Hungary. His third short, Split Perfect was picked up in Cannes by OriGine Films and has travelled the festival circuit from Sarajevo through Barcelona, Bogota and the LA Shorts Fest and also had a limited theatrical run in Los Angeles.

He built the financing from strictly equity for his feature debut, The Man Who Was Thursday, which he wrote and directed.



Marilinda: What’s your overall objective as a director, writer of The Man Who was Thursday?

Balazs: A wonderful teacher of mine, Peter Guber once told me: this is show-business. It’s not show-show, and it’s not business-business. I’d like to therefore entertain as well as relay the messages that I believe to be true. See, it’s ironic how even I use the word ‘believe’, when a lot of people are screaming blasphemy, unholy, anti-Christian and the likes at me and the film. In fact, I look at this as a very pro-faith movie, and you’ve seen it, without giving the twists away, I think we can agree it all rests on Father Smith (Francois Arnaud) finding his faith again. I would go so far as to say it is anti-institution, because, frankly, I sincerely despise the course history often took as a result of the influence of institutionalized religion. From personal tragedies, like the innumerable cases of child molestation to more grand schemes, like the fascist collaboration during World War II. Overall, I feel the Church has, for the most part, been very two-faced about issues. Take G.K. Chesterton’s own case: a convert, who became a devout Catholic and is known for his Christian writings. Well, sure, but before he converted he was a hedonist alcoholic, with at least questionable sexual desires and dubious drug-infused trips that led him to write The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare as a recap of his years down the rabbit hole. And now they began the process of his canonisation, because he’s Pope Francis’ favorite writer, so they want to turn him into a saint. From delusional alcoholic to Saint Gilbert. But, to quote a line from the movie: if one person is delusional, it’s a psychiatric case. If a lot of people are, it’s religion. 



M: Why The Man Who was Thursday and not any other day of the week?

B: Because Chesterton wrote this and not The Girl Who Was Tuesday. Having said that, the book was an inspiration, so do not expect to see the original on screen. We use a lot of the original structure, dialogue, and the basic story is the same. But I also take a lot from Chesterton’s own life: his drug trips, his doubts about faith and religious dogma (he really lost it for a while after his brother’s death) and his struggles with recapturing faith in his own way. Whilst the original is great reading, gentlemen in top hats discussing poetry in the turn-of-the-century London, then chasing each other on hot air balloons and elephants is not necessarily something I could have turned into a movie. Perhaps Tim Burton or Terry Gilliam, but I’m grittier. Jean-Pierre Melville and Polanski are more in the direction I’d like to move in. 




M: If you had to invite a group of catholics to come see your film, how would you do it?

B: I would give a fair warning: if you’re a bigot, a fanatic or an extremist of any kind, this movie may not be for you. I mean, our hero, who’s a Catholic priest drinks, gets high, jerks off, fu#!s a hooker on the altar, then burns his own parish to the ground, and that’s just the first fifteen minutes. Oh, it’s not a documentary. In all sincerity though: I would just say, please be open minded and hear the other side’s arguments for once without launching an inquisition against them. You may find out we agree on a lot of things. 



M: What aspect of your personal life or creativity this film reveals to the audience?

B: As I’ve said before, we all believe in something. We either do it because we’re lazy to find a rationale explanation, or because we shift the blame, or we hope for redemption at the end of the road. Whatever the reason, we go through life when many a times we have no idea why certain things are happening with us or how we ended up here or where the hell it is we’re going? This is essentially the hero’s journey in the film and it’s my experience: how the hell did this happen and what am I doing here?! At times I feel lost, but then I’d like to think I’ll find my way in the defining moments when the decision we make really matters. I’m a fatalist, who believes in destiny. For the lack of a better term: I’m an incurable romantic.



M: Did the film stayed as close as possible to the original idea?

B: To the basic premise, absolutely. But we deviated substantially from the setting, the dialogue and the characters. The fundamental idea, that seven people are set up against each other and fear is infused against an invisible enemy, it’s the groundwork any and all terror-based ruler or tyrant exercises. Fear is the most primal emotion and it is always easy to evoke. 


M: Did you mean to go any further with the story in regards of violence, religion facts, etc?

B: I feel we pushed it to the limit in every direction. In fact, we didn’t push the envelope: we tore it up and tossed the pieces off the terrace of Saint Peter’s basilica. 


M: How did you go about pitching the story to your investors?

B: With the guys at Cobera, I sat down over coffee in Budapest and told them the story. The meeting lasted no more than half an hour. They said they were “in” on the spot and only read the script afterwards. With Moritz and Patrick at Bulldog Agenda, I’ve sent them the script and as Moritz tells it: he read it, then ten minutes later started reading it again, knowing he’ll want to do it. 


M: Are you religious?

B: No. I believe in things, which is pretty much the same thing, because I don’t know - I just suspend disbelief and take it for granted. But I don’t follow an institution for that or someone else’s set of ideologies. In this regard, I think we’re all believers, but that doesn’t necessarily make us religious. 



M: If you had the opportunity to redefine or create a new religion, what would that look like?

B: There are over 4,000 known religions today. Most of the problems in the world are religious-based. I would subtract, not add. 



M: What’s next for Balazs?

B: I’ve been working with one of our co-producers, European hotshot Dragos Vilcu on a mini-series based on a true story about a Mossad-KGB double agent during the hottest era of the Cold War, so that takes up a lot of my time now. I have the followup script ready for after Thursday’s release, another mind-bending action thriller, only it is bigger and more commercial. We’ll work with Bulldog Agenda again. 


Keep up with Balazs HERE.

The Man Who Was Thursday Social Media: IMDB/ FACEBOOK/ TWITTER



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