This post was written by Adrián Adamec.

Nevenis an independent film thattells the story of a boy, Peter, who lost his family as a result of a global war. The world is devastated and without hope. However, after a long journey, Peter finds a new meaning in his life, which, on the one hand, brings him an unexpected friendship and on the other reconciliation with the past.

The film was created in cooperation with Theatre Divadlo z Pasáže, a municipal community theatre in Slovakia working with actors with Down syndrome. One of the main themes of the film is an exploration of what it means to go on living when there seems to be no road ahead. It's a story about characters overcoming their demons, leaving bad experiences of life behind, and trying to find new hope for a better future. 

The film premiered in cinemas across Slovakia in September 2022. Now you can watch it here. Below I want to share some lessons from the making of the film.


Peter lost everything he loved at a very young age. The world is a very dangerous place, full of out-of-control war machines. In all this darkness, Peter finds a long-forgotten sense of happiness in the form of an unexpected friendship with a damaged robot named Neven. At the end of the story, Peter comes to terms with the loss of his family. 

When I write, I usually write about things that do not exist but illuminate things that are. Emotions are real, the world and settings are fictional. I was going through tough times in my life and was in need of hope so I decided to create a story about a boy that loses everything.

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Of course, one wraps it in something interesting—in a genre and fictional world. It's important that our message reaches the audience through entertaining stories. I wouldn't want to interpret these ideas and feelings in a literal heavy drama. But however "fantastic" the worlds and situations in those films are, the basis is the human experience.

I fell in love with the movies because they drew me into another world. For two or so hours, you are on an adventure with those characters and do not think about real problems. The balance between the theme and the cinematic experience in which the viewer gets lost is important to me. Certain genres are not common in Slovakia (like sci-fi) but that does not mean that they cannot be made even without a budget.

And if we can pull it off here, you can surely do it anywhere you are.

Adrian_adamec_2Credit: Adrián Adamec


One of the biggest challenges of Neven was to pull off an emotional performance with actor Peter Hudec. Since Peter has Down syndrome, it was not easy to film scenes quickly. We were filming during winter, so we had six hours of solid light, and Peter had energy for four hours. We needed to shoot more than 50% of the movie with his double.

Moving fast on production is very important when working with no budget. You have a location for a few hours and you need to shoot everything, since for most cases it was not possible to come back for reshoots. So, you need previz and detailed, planned storyboards. Also, you need to be ready to improvise, because actors like Peter may have a bad day so you don’t have your lead for an hour.

A big advantage of Peter's talent was authenticity. He was a capable actor based on direction but always ended up adding little details that made performance believable. It is this unpredictability that makes his acting unique. Not having full control over the actor ended up being a huge advantage.

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I discovered Peter when I was looking for actors for my previous project. I was amazed by him when I saw their play. Actors with Down syndrome do art with pure love. They don't plan to be famous, this art form is everything for them. I really wanted to do a project with him and that's how Neven started. No script or idea but I knew he would be starring in it. I really wanted Peter to see himself on a big screen with audiences. I'm not sure if he will ever get more opportunities to act in films like this, so I'm really happy that we could pull this project off. It was touching to hear that on the day of the premiere, he shed a tear at the end. Memories from this production will last forever.

I remember that even on the first day I wasn’t sure if this would work with Peter. We had a lot of practical explosions, running, acting against a tennis ball... could he do that? He had years of theater experience but none with fiction films. We didn’t have time and money to do lot of prep work and we did only one quick rehearsal. It was very stressful, for the fact that we were trying to do a lot without a budget, and we started shooting during the height of the pandemic.

But after the first day, I realized we could pull this off. I was so happy when I saw that Peter loves this and is willing to cooperate and do whatever he can to create this movie with me. The whole production was euphoric because many people were willing to help me and get involved without reading the script. I was afraid that I would disappoint them if we found out that this project wasn’t going to work with Peter. We would probably have to recast and come back to it later, but the project started with Peter, so it had to work with him. I know that directors are afraid to work with such actors because they don't know if they will be in total control. I took it as a challenge.

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I storyboarded and did previz for every scene myself. You need to be prepared 100% to be able to improvise. It’s good that I could be writer/director/VFX supervisor at the same time, so I could change things quickly and be sure that they would still work. The hardest was the action scene towards the end of the film. That was the first thing we filmed; I always like to start with the hardest scenes. 

Movies that are easy to make are hard to watch. That's when I thought this would be worth it. I want one day to give the audience a reason to come to the cinema, so I have to give them something special. Doing a film with Peter was very special for me.

Peter's father was also played by the well-known theater and television actor in Slovakia  Marek Majeský, for whom it was a "return to the beginnings."

"The most important thing for me is the young people themselves and their ideas and goals, why they want to do it. I get energy from them, and it forces me to work on myself all the time and not step on the spot.”

We were very lucky to get Marek for this role, since nobody was paid. The only thing you have is the project itself. So, when I approached him if he would love to participate, we filmed 80% of the movie and I could show him what we shot. It definitely brought more attention since we had someone who is a famous actor in our country.


The crew faced several challenges during filming. Since the idea arose in the summer of 2020, the entire process was limited by the pandemic. Filming was supposed to start summer of 2020 and last until winter of that year. However, everything was interrupted again by COVID and the measures at the time. At the end of the year, the crew managed to film approximately half of the film, and the other half was kept for spring 2021. The film is half an hour long but it took almost a year and a half of hard work to create.

One of the things I love about film is the merging of multiple creative activities. Pre-production, production, and post-production are very different creative processes. Among other things, I cover my films as a producer, supervise VFX, and figure out how we will implement practical effects that are often overlooked. I'm very comfortable with alternating these positions. People and friends see our passion and want to work with us. It's super exciting how many people want to create and work on film projects like these. You can do a lot without a budget.

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Sometimes your disadvantages become your advantages. We are all from small cities, but the advantage of that is that people are willing to let us film on their properties for free. We even had firefighters come to help us for free. They liked the idea and knew that we don’t have any budget. We all paid for our gas and food. We didn’t look at this as “work” but as a fun way of spending time with friends.

The end result is a movie that holds our memories. The goal of every movie I think should be to create a film that looks 10 times more expensive. The goal of this one was to look like we had a budget. But when working with a budget, you need to make sure money is well spent. On no-budget productions like this, you will for sure learn how to use budget cleverly.

Filmmaking is a constant "problem-solving." Something always goes wrong and one has to change the plan on the spot and adapt to capture one's vision. With Peter, there was a lot of reorganization on the spot, changes of plans and so on. He practically gave me an incredible amount of knowledge and practice. I think he prepared me for filmmaking much more compared to professional actors. You talk a lot about the project before production but when filming it should go smoothly. Everyone knows what and why we are doing.

With Peter it was different, but it taught me how to adapt and always be prepared for the worst. For some scenes I had four different versions of storyboards and a production plan. Depending on the weather and the actors’ willingness to cooperate.

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From project to project, you gain more experience and knowledge. Every new project should be challenging, we should fear doing it but also it should be achievable. Projects like this are my film school. Stuff you learn on. From project to project we know how to do better visual and practical effects, but you will find out that it’s just a visual noise if you don’t have a story.

We spent almost two years on this one. It’s impossible to keep passion if you don’t have something that is strong or different on the story side. Cool visual effects won’t give you enough motivation. Enjoy the magic of them, but don’t get caught in them. The technical side of filmmaking is fun, but I noticed a lot of people spend most of their time looking for new lenses or lights and forget over time that they wanted to be storytellers. All that technical stuff can come handy of course, but there are other important things.

I found out that if you have interesting ideas and are passionate, technically skillful people will follow. You need the knowledge to be able to properly direct them, but you don’t have to be a master of everything. That’s what I must keep reminding myself of constantly.

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Creating without a budget

Some actually do not believe that we pulled this off without a budget. I remember spending most of my time when I was at the university of mass media communication studying directors and how they pulled off their low-budget or no-budget films. I wrote my final thesis on independent filmmaking and how they pulled off some amazing visuals with a limited budget. Filmmaking is unfortunately an art form that requires money. And I’m not a big fan of spending time sitting with people and asking for money. I honestly never did that. I just picked up a camera with little of what I had and decided to create and learn.

I had around 50-70 people working on this project. Hard days required a crew of 40, simple ones around 20 people. Most of them are childhood or high school friends. Others I met at university with the same interest in filmmaking. New DPs, composers, and others contacted me, or I found them and wanted to work with them. Of course, when you are starting you call four friends and create with what you have. Then you try to call 10 friends on the next one and so on.

If you are growing and work is getting better, they will come back and help again. Even if they don’t want to be filmmakers. Making films is something that interests a lot of people and they would love to see how they are made. So, you slowly build your portfolio and use that for approaching new people when asking if they would join you in this crazy and exciting filmmaking adventure.

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Because we were students at the time, it was very easy to get locations. You try to contact them and explain that this project means a lot for you and would love to use their location. For this project, it was a big advantage to have an actor with Down syndrome. When we explained with whom we are working on it, they were very cooperative. As I said, we choose small cities. They probably never saw a film crew so they were excited that someone decided to film on their property. We were very lucky because the company that owned one of the locations decided to create a proper location release form for us through their lawyers.

COVID was also an advantage in a way. I had to pay for one location, but less than 50% of the price because they liked the project. It was very little money. The mother of one of the child actors snatched the money from my hand when I was ordering a pizza, saying that she would cover the food. People saw how passionate we are and wanted to help however they could. It is really contagious when you do something out of pure love.

Even Marek Majeský didn't want anything special. We were a bunch of students with professional actors and he didn’t mind grabbing pizza for lunch like the rest of us. I was so lucky to have such an amazing cast and crew. At the end of the first day we all hugged each other in euphoria from the fact that it actually worked.

Filmmakers have so many possibilities these days. It truly is not anymore about how to create, but about what. What is the story you think is important to tell? Even with art forms like filmmaking, almost everyone can express themselves these days. You can learn about cameras, how to do visual and practical effects from so many sources.

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As I said, in order to grow and learn, we (filmmakers) need to make every new project more and more challenging and scary to pull off. With this one, it was a no-budget film made during COVID with an actor with Down syndrome and 200+ VFX shots done by one person—I was shitting my pants. It might take a long time, and might be scary and hard, but it will be worth it. Believe me. 

Very important tip—make your crew wear safety reflective vests. Nobody will doubt you. Some of the crew will hate it but you look legit and are professional now.

Getting professionals on board

We assembled crew, found locations that could be accessed for free, and fought our way through COVID restrictions to have six filming days with our main actor Peter. That was the most important challenge. Challenge number two was to get one filming day with professional actor Marek Majeský. As I said before, I showed him some rough materials we talked about the story, and he liked it. It could believe that he would be willing to be part of it. 

Another massive challenge awaited in post-production. I was a one-man army for 200+ VFX shots and multiple assets modeled from scratch. I knew there was in the city next to the one I live one compositing supervisor who was a member of the Oscar team for Gravity, Vladimir Valovič. He also worked on films like Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars, Terminator, etc. A guy with a lot of Hollywood experience. My DP knew him and he had the idea to show him what we got, so he might give us some advice. It took me five months to get 70% of the VFX done. It was in rough shape, but I could show it to him.

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We met at his house. I told him about this project, and he got really excited. He said that I’m absolutely crazy to do all 200+ VFX shots and previz, concept, script, directing, practical FX, etc. He said that on the paper this should be done by 20+ VFX artists. In the end, I think he comped about seven shots and gave me advice on how to fix some of my comps. I would be happy just for his advice, didn’t expect him to be in any way part of this project. Suddenly we had a very well-known professional actor and VFX supervising compositor who had worked on the biggest blockbusters. 

The only thing I had was passion and I think they could feel it. It was also very helpful that I could show them what I was working on, and assure them in a way that it would not be an embarrassment for them. I don’t think you can approach people like this with just a script. It was my absolute honor to have them on this project. And it is still kind of surreal for me.

You start with vision, no budget, just passion, and end up having some amazing artists working with me on this project.

Visual effects

When I was a kid my filmmaking journey started through stop-motion animation and visual effects. They were pure magic to me. I always wanted to be a filmmaker but didn’t know where and how to start. Most of us at that time had cheap computers, so I started to learn editing and basic visual effects. To this day from project to project I like to learn new techniques and be a better VFX artist, and grow not only as a director.

I think the job of a director is to get his hands dirty, learn a bit about all aspects of filmmaking so he can be a better leader and better at communicating his vision with all departments. Knowing what's expensive and achievable will also save you a lot of money. And you apply this knowledge even when you are writing a script.

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For this film, I had to create several digitally created machines, destruction, or other fully digitally created shots. In January of this year, I created a list and planned how to execute all visual effects for the entire film. Every month 30 to 40 VFX shots needed to be done. We had our premiere on Sept. 10, but even after that, we were fixing some shots until Oct. 9 (for the online release). I guess I could work on them even until this day and make them better, but they need to take the movie away from you. Yes, we could fix so many things, but if that short film doesn’t work, a few fixes of VFX won’t make it a masterpiece. You want to make them just good enough.

Lessons learned, it’s time to move on.

The whole approach for visual effects, how to execute them, plan them and film them were learned as all things filmmaking related for me—books, DVD extras, director commentaries, interviews... I have a kind of addiction to buying DVDs with tons of extras and watching them on loop.

One useful thing for VFX that always comes to my mind is Guillermo del Toro's commentary for Pacific Rim. You should check that one out. I'm a junkie for “Art of the film” books, and I think Gareth Edwards Godzilla: The Art of Destruction or Neill Blomkamp’s art books are also amazing sources for VFX approaches. You can learn so much from the internet today, thanks to websites like No Film School. Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, or James Cameron can teach you, in a way. All technical stuff can be learned fairly quickly, and amazing pro software is becoming free. Again, it's really about what you make a film, not about how.

Of course, you need to put a huge amount of hours into it, but if you love it, you will enjoy the whole journey. We as a team are at our absolute beginnings, and I can’t wait for what’s ahead of us. Is so exciting that there is so much to learn, new tools that will enable you to tell your stories. It truly is wonderful to create, isn't it?

A love for film helped me get through tough times and I’m happy that I can share with you our journey, and hopefully give you enough courage to follow the same love as I do. This was excellent practice for us. I will never forget this amazing experience and will be forever grateful for everyone who helped.