When Milcho Manchevski graduated from SIUC’s film school in 1982, he had no idea that he would one day write and direct an Oscar nominated film.

By Gus Bode

Manchevski, writer and director of Before The Rain, a story of human passion and how it can lead to unexpected situations, was nominated in 1994 for an Academy Award in Best Foreign Film.

The film also won Best Film at the Venice Film Festival and a total of 30 awards all over the world, which included Toronto, Brazil, Sweden and Austria.

Manchevski began his start in film after going to see Richard Blumenberg, an SIUC professor in cinema and photography, lecture in Macedonia in 1979.


I almost missed his lecture, he said. But I went and introduced myself after the lecture, and he helped me enroll and got me a scholarship to SIUC.

Manchevski said meeting Blumenberg was one of the most important steps in his life.

Meeting him changed my life drastically, he said. I still keep in contact with him, and I got advice on my new script. In a way, he stays my professor.

Manchevski said SIUC taught him all the technical bases of filmmaking as well as script writing.

It was a real serious hands-on education, and the hands-on part is what really mattered, he said. In Europe a lot of schools train students by emerging them in theory, which is fine to a point, but it doesn’t help production without hands-on.

When Manchevski left SIUC to the real world after graduation, he worked at various jobs in the film industry, but it took five years to get his first professional directing job.

It was an EMI records music video for Partners In Kryme,’ he said. The following year, I did a video for Arrested Development, and it was a great experience.


Shot in Atlanta, Manchevski said the Arrested Development video was produced with very little money.

It was guerrilla style filmmaking, he said. It was done on a shoestring budget, but it won best rap video on MTV and best video in Billboard Magazine.

After gaining recognition with the Arrested Development video, Manchevski went on to direct more than 30 videos in New York, London and Paris before directing his first major film.

It took a little over 10 years to get a feature film after graduation, he said.

While Manchevski said he had the idea for his first film in his head for more than a year, he was able to write the screenplay in less than a month.

I had been writing scripts and trying to get them produced, and most of them were being returned unread, he said. I had to go back to Macedonia for a visit, and I wrote something for myself not intending to submit it.

The script Manchevski had no intention of submitting for production was the award-winning Before The Rain, which has been distributed in more than 50 countries.

Manchevski said although studios send him a lot of scripts to read after he was nominated, he will not just choose a script because of the publicity of the film or because of a big name.

I was offered a re-make of Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M For Murder with Nicole Kidman, he said. But eventually I turned it down because the script needed more work.

I was offered a biography of James Dean, but I couldn’t find a strong enough actor who could play him, he said. The studio wants someone already known. I would go with somebody unknown but good, and they wouldn’t do that.

Manchevski is currently working on another original film titled, Dust.

It is produced by Robert Redford, and Willam Dafoe is playing the lead, he said. We begin shooting in the fall.

Manchevski said he prefers to direct serious material with a message behind it.

I look for something that is really substantial and cares about what it is trying to say, he said. I look for scripts where the craft of writing is really strong.

Manchevski came to SIUC Monday to speak to cinema students about his experience.

He said he was going to come to Carbondale to judge for the Big Muddy Film Festival in 1994. But Before The Rain was nominated, and he had to stay in New York for publicity.

Manchevski said directing did not always come easy to him, and he had to work hard to get it right.

My first directing experience was a workshop in Carbondale, he said. Mike Covell asked me to direct and fired me on the first day.