Romanian creatives in the UK | Anda and Dragos Teglas (This Is Insomnia): I think the main thing here is the enormous pool of talent

Newsroom 06/10/2016 | 12:11

With an extensive experience behind them, even at a young age, the brothers Anda and Dragos Teglas left Romania for the UK over six years ago and started their own company – This is Insomnia. Since then, they have been working for important clients such as Harrods, Carlsberg, Bayer, Uber, Universal, Ikea, creating and directing movies and documentaries, but also TV commercials.

Romanita Oprea

This interview continues the exclusive series “Romanian marcomm successful people in UK” started with Maria Nazdravan and followed by Bogdana Butnar, Stefan Liute, Andreea Nastase, Alina Pirvu, Mihnea Miculescu and Raluca Voinea.

What made you chose this industry in the first place, what attracted you to it?

Anda Teglas: I grew up watching news being put together and broadcast straight from various local TV stations across Romania, as our mum used to be a News Reporter for most of her life. I guess it was the kind of thing that quickly grew into a lifetime passion. Both me and Dragos went straight into it during adolescence and we haven’t looked back since. Neither of us has actually tried other jobs to be honest – filmmaking pretty much sums up what we’ve always looked for in a profession; creativity, intuition, discovery, discipline, boldness and human interaction.

Dragos Teglas: I’ve always been fascinated by stories and movies. Since I was 15, I wanted to work alongside my mum, who was a news producer and reporter. I wanted to get into the editing suite, where the magic happens. I didn’t get what I wanted in the first instance, as she advised me to start learning how to operate a camera first before being an editor and getting to judge other people’s work. It was a really good piece of advice that helped me as a director, to firstly think like a cameraman and assess every angle before starting shooting.

What do you consider to be the most important steps in your career so far?

Anda Teglas: Working in TV definitely helped, whilst still in Romania. Doing live shows as part of bigger production teams and then moving to London were by far the most important steps in my career. I wouldn’t even call it a career to be honest; I see it more as a continuous learning curve towards being the person that I’ve always wanted to be. A lifestyle if you will.

Dragos Teglas: I don’t believe I can name just one aspect, but I can go through a few. Firstly, when I edited X Factor season 2, back in Romania – it was the biggest and most important moment up to that point and I felt that I need to go in all guns blazing. I still believe I’ve done one of my sharpest editing sessions to date. Second, when I set up my own production company in the UK. I think it was the best decision I could have taken, as it opened up more opportunities that I would’ve imagines. Thirdly, when I co-directed with Anda our first feature documentary, ’13 Shades of Romanian’. It was an important moment that I wanted to take part of, it mattered a lot, not just to me, but to so many other people, and it also brought us 4 international awards and 10 other nominations at festivals around the world. It was worth it, as I’ve learnt how to do a feature of my own.

What about the projects that you are most proud of while being in Romania?

Anda Teglas: There are quite a few past projects that still bring a smile on my face. Corina Voicu is actually the producer that I’ve learned the most from. I remember working endless nights alongside her and a pretty small team to bring to fruition huge shows, in partnership with people like Florin Piersic or Mihaela Radulescu. It was hard work, but also great fun!

Dragos Teglas: I greatly enjoyed all of the projects that I’ve done. I was never hired in a place, but was merely a creative hunting for the most challenging productions. There are many which made me proud: ‘Duminica in Familie’, MasterChef, X Factor and more recently ‘Selfie 69’, part 2, directed by Cristina Iacob, which in less than a month after its cinema release, it’s enjoying its well-deserved no. 1 box office status.

How did you decide to leave Romania and why the UK?

Anda Teglas: I’ve always dreamt of living in London, ever since I was a kid. I’m not really sure where did this passion and calling come from, but I’ve always been fascinated by the British culture. I’m still fascinated by the language, their way of living, their history and the very interesting mixture they’ve now become, culturally. London is one of the most multicultural places in the world, more like a modern version of Babylon than a British capital and that is really what attracts me to it currently – people from all walks of life, coming here from all over the world to make a new life for themselves.

Dragos Teglas: I was always on the lookout for the next big thing that would matter to me and I think I had reached a stage in Romania from where I couldn’t progress as much. TV shows were very useful, but I wanted to follow my dreams of editing feature films. That’s why the UK; firstly because of the language and then for the opportunities it offers. I think I’m in the right place. I’m very content with this society, with the people here, with my career.

Why did you choose that particular moment?

Anda Teglas: I simply had the courage to do it then. I was in my final year at uni and it just felt like the best moment to make such a bold move. Dragos followed shortly after my arrival and we’ve luckily continued working together even after moving here.

Dragos Teglas: I didn’t choose the moment, Anda did. We’d been working together all our lives and she took the decision of moving to the UK. I chose to follow her and today, we’re the co-founders of This Is Insomnia and we continue to do great stuff together. If we ever decide to leave the UK, I think it will be in the same formula.

How has your professional life changed since moving to the UK? The most important steps.

Anda Teglas: It took a while to start working here to be honest; it didn’t just happen overnight. I first got hired by a London based creative agency, where I worked for almost two years. Meanwhile, we were also developing our own independent projects and Dragos was still travelling back home quite often, to edit and supervise post-production projects such as the X Factor or independent feature films. I also worked as part of feature film production teams for a good while and only after about 3 years in the UK, we finally decided to set up our own film production company, called This Is Insomnia. From that point on, we’ve been fortunate enough to work with clients such as Harrods, Carlsberg, Bayer, Uber, Universal, Ikea, and many others, as well as in the feature film and documentary fields.

Dragos Teglas: When I worked on my first feature film, ‘The Crypt’, directed by Mark Murphy. It was a blessing for me, as I was finally reaching my goal, the thing that I came for and it all made much more sense afterwards. The second moment was when I co-founded the company with Anda. I’ve developed, because of that, not just my artistic skills, but the entrepreneur ones as well and I think we’ll get far if we continue on this path.

How is the life of a young Romanian entrepreneur in UK, in such a challenging and difficult industry?

Anda Teglas: You need to move and innovate constantly. No day looks like the previous in a sense and you need to learn how to make your voice heard through the projects you’re putting together, through all the little things that define you as a filmmaker. It’s definitely hard work and I believe we’re both still getting the ropes with it. It’s a never-ending process of constantly evolving, adapting and reinventing yourself, but as demanding as it is, it’s clearly worth the effort. I don’t think I would’ve learnt as much if I weren’t both an entrepreneur, as well as a filmmaker.

Dragos Teglas: Good question. I think the competition here is tremendous and it’s hard to reach the surface and get yourself noticed, but we don’t let ourselves be intimidated by that. We’re mostly based in our work on our sharp filmmaking senses and that gets us noticed. We’ve become a pretty sought after company in London in less than 3 years and we’re working with great clients asides from our feature film work. In what regards advertising and short form content, we’re working with clients such as Harrods, Uber, Carlsberg, Canon, Samsung, Virgin Media and many others.

How much has helped the fact that the two of you are working together (the family factor)?

Anda Teglas: Working together has always been our greatest asset, our biggest strength. We understand each other without much explanation, we can divide our workload easily and we can create without major misunderstandings. It does help having a common goal with someone and that someone being part of your family. Everybody’s a tad surprised by the fact that we actually get along that well as brother and sister, especially after so many years working together, but that’s the way we’ve been brought up and the way we chose to live our lives after all. It just works.

Dragos Teglas: To be honest, this is exactly what makes the difference. We know what each other wants super quickly, we can take decisions easily and I think that if we hadn’t have worked together, we wouldn’t have reached half of what we’ve done so far. Of course, that also comes with harder situations, where you have to be very frank and cold and business minded, and that can sometimes hurt, but we’re used to that now. We have a glass of wine at the end of a hard day and become friends again.

How are your roles divided in the company and why?

Anda Teglas: We tend to co-direct most of our projects together, but asides from that, we each have our individual roles, which have clearly defined themselves in time according to each one’s strengths. I handle the script writing and production bits, as well as the creative and liaising with the clients, whilst Dragos enjoys generating new business leads, doing post-production and taking over the more logistical and technical aspects of our productions. We both come up with ideas and then develop them together.

Dragos Teglas: Both me and Anda have important, but very different responsibilities. Anda’s good at liaising with clients, maintaining relationships, creative pitches, script writing, all round communication. I’m doing new business, projects logistics, handling technical aspects for shoots, image direction and most importantly post-production.

What are each other’s strengths?

Anda Teglas: Dragos can see beyond obstacles and come up with clear, game changing ideas and visions. He likes to take risks and that’s something that I need to balance him at, as I like to make sure our next steps are laid out and have a clear objective at the end of the line.

He’s enjoying working with the Director of Photography on set and I like working with the actors and the rest of the production team. We’ve learnt how to divide our tasks in time, based on each one’s strengths and not lastly preferences.

Dragos Teglas: Anda’s very good at in-shot choreography, she likes movement, working with actors and these are all things that come very naturally and easily for her. She likes to rehearse before shoots with the actors and focus on things which are hard to attain for me. I think we make a good team because she finds the things that I’m good at hard and vice versa.

What are your company’s main areas of expertize and whom do you target on each section?

Anda Teglas: We work with brands on short form content and also do post-production for feature films. For the past two years, we’ve also developed our own IPs and have done our first feature documentary, which got 4 international awards and 10 other official selections at film festivals around the world. ’13 Shades of Romanian’ will also be broadcast on Pro TV this autumn.

Dragos Teglas: Our services are creative, concept development, film production and post-production. We love anything that is cinematic, we love story telling even when we’re doing a corporate project and we managed to implement our narrative based ideas in the least possible places. We don’t target specific companies or people, we mainly work on projects that appeal to us.

How would you characterize the UK movie scene?

Anda Teglas: The UK film scene is a place where you can develop and grow, where you can experiment and get your ideas heard – all with hard work, obviously, but as long as you’re determined you can definitely progress. You get to meet and work with a lot of talented folks and that feeds your passion and creativity. I still see London as the melting pot of European creativity.

Dragos Teglas: I think the Brits are brilliant when it comes to humour. I was extremely glad that I managed to edit my first feature comedy called ‘The Comedian’s Guide to Survival’, where I had the chance to work with actors such as Paul Kaye, who played in ‘It’s All Gone Pete Tongue’, one of my favourite movies ever. I think the main thing here is the enormous pool of talent that you can find, from all over the world and that is actually what makes a production big and successful. The biggest studios, such as Pinewood or Ealing Studios are also contributing a lot to the industry.

Do you ever consider coming back to Romania or moving somewhere else? Or do you see yourself working forever in UK?

Anda Teglas: I see the UK as the starting point of my journey and I like to believe that there will be a time when I’ll be able to bring back home everything that I’ve learnt and develop good projects there. Maybe not right now, but things seem to be moving in the right direction at home. I’m open to the idea of moving someplace else too before coming back home, but it all depends on the projects we’ll be focussing on over the next few years.

Dragos Teglas: I don’t think the UK is necessarily the only place I’d like to live in. I’ll always be chasing for the next big thing and I would love to finally get to go ‘home’ at least once in my life and try my chances there. By home, I actually mean Hollywood, not Romania. I would like to open up a business in Romania too though and we will be focussing on that pretty soon – it will be related to the media sector, of course.

What do you believe that are the Romanians main assets that bring them success on the UK’s movie industry?

Anda Teglas: Romanians are, as we’ve heard repeatedly, very adaptable and quick at learning almost anything under the sun. This gives us a broader understanding of things and definitely helps in almost any industry, not just filmmaking. We also bring our own cultural input and backgrounds into everything we’re creating and that quantifies as a ‘unique edge’ in here. Being aware and proud of your heritage is really important in life.

Dragos Teglas: Filmmaking is not an exact science like medicine; the most valuable thing a filmmaker can count on is his intuition and the actual experience which gives him confidence. There are many departments where Romanians are working in here in the UK and I think they each bring something unique to the table.

What do you miss from your professional life in Romania? (if you miss anything)

Anda Teglas: I don’t really miss anything on a professional level from Romania specifically. I like to believe each stage of our lives has its purpose, so my standpoint is ‘learn, grow and move on to the next stage without getting too attached of your past’. If anything, I kind of miss the speed and ease at which productions take place back home, with less pre-production time and clearly smaller budgets. Everything has to run through very lengthy processes here, from getting your film permits to shoot on any exterior location across the UK to handling serious paperwork in post-production. From this point of view, things are still much looser back home, which means you can do more in a more restrained timeframe.

Dragos Teglas: I guess I miss the courage to be spontaneous. Romanians are by their very nature spontaneous – you give them an idea and they jump to make it a reality, whilst here, things are very thought through, prepared, discussed and re-discussed before execution. I miss not having to pay thousands of pounds to shoot in a park and the thing that’s actually the hardest in here is that if you don’t have a slightly higher budget, you can’t really make even the simplest things.

What are the clients you are working for/ on at this moment / main projects?

Anda Teglas: One of our biggest clients right now is Uber UK – we’ve done over 20 videos for them in the past year alone and we’ve pretty much become their go-to agency for all things video. They’re a cool bunch! We’re also working with director Mark Murphy on a couple of feature films and are in production with our next feature documentary.

Dragos Teglas: I’m directing a new film now, another documentary about the world’s biggest globetrotter, who happens to be Romanian and is mentioned in Guinness World record. It’s a subject that I wanted to cover ever since I was a kid. The plan is to make this documentary and then raise funds for an artistic feature film based on the same story. At the same time, we have our day to day work with clients such as Uber and I’ve also just been involved into a new feature film, ‘End of Term’, for which I’ll be editing again. I’m hoping it will be a lucky one, as it’s my 7th feature film and my lucky number has always been 7. I’m also born on 07.07.

What are your main plans for the next 2-3 years?

Anda Teglas: We want to continue growing as a company and as filmmakers, and get to where we’ve always envisaged ourselves – working on meaningful, but entertaining projects with the coolest peeps and ideas in town; bringing something new to the table and having the courage to change the game.

Dragos Teglas: We’d like to bring our company to the next level, have an office in central London and hire at least 10 more people, so we can actually create separate departments for each of our directions. We want to keep growing on expand our capabilities, both as creatives, as well as a business.

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