Interview with director Bartlomiej Jakubiak

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

In my case everything was in reverse order. Filmmaking has been very close to me since I was a little child. At first, I was mostly interested in editing and VFX. I was amazed by the idea of moving pictures and the technology itself was more interesting to me then telling stories.

But in the High School,  some changes turned up. I met new friends who were also interested in making movies, but they didn’t know anything about the process. At that time, I was reading nofilmschool, cinema5D… so I had the “know-how”. We started creating together and I, as the only one who understood technical stuff, had the leading voice. We were making many short films and I had the opportunity to direct, shot and edit them.

Suddenly I realized that writing and directing is really interesting to me! My head was full of new ideas, I couldn’t wait to create new projects… So, this was the moment I recognized that filmmaking is my way of telling stories.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

Everyone has their own way. I think the clue is to find our personal path and follow it, as long as we believe it’s the best one. For some of us , attending film school might be a necessary step but for the others it is a waste of time. In my case the most important thing film school gave me was the possibility to meet and work with great artists like cinematographers, sound designers, producers, actors etc. So, from my  point of view choosing a film school was probably the best decision I have ever made.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

Maybe I’m just a lucky person but I have to confess that I have never had any problems with those things. And at the end of a current project I can’t wait to start the next one.

Working on a film is a very hard process. Sometimes you have to overcome many difficulties, such as lack of sleep, no meeting with friends or even investing your own money you have to earn somehow.

But there are also some beautiful moments that compensate everything – the sleepless nights during preproduction when you and your DP have an argument over placing the camera on some schemes, the liters of coffee you drink with a producer discussing best ways of creating the movie, all the decisions you make, knowing that each of them is important…

Then the production comes. It is a very tiring, but on the other hand very satisfying work. Post-production is for me the most stressful part. In the first rough-cut some scenes may look horrible and you know that either  you perfect  them or  you will have to make expensive re-shooting. Fortunately if you work with talented editor you can do magic in post.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

For me the most important lesson I had was that sometimes it’s better to do something simple. When I was working on my previous film, I thought that it has to be  something special and extraordinary. I wanted to make a movie with every single shot on dolly. I was so strongly attached to this vision that I put a camera movement in places where  it was completely unnecessary ! And then it turned up that the set was horrible. Because of the heavy dolly which  we had to put in each shot , we worked 18 hours a day. Everyone was tired and angry. That film turned out to be a failure. Those  camera movements were actually distracting from the story itself.

At that time, I found out that sometimes it is much better to make simple panorama, zoom or even static tripod shot. Some special things like movement or tricky photography should be used only when they help to tell the story,especially if you make a low-budget film.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

In this particular case, the production went pretty smooth. I had a strong image in my head, I spread it throughout the crew and we were sure of what we wanted to achieve. During pre-production this action was a path of success, we found perfect location, all the actors  accepted  my offer immediately… The problems started to show up during production and all of them where connected with money.

You see, working within a tight budget is always a challenge. A lot of our crew members worked for free, but some of them just couldn’t afford to leave their job to volunteer on short film. For instance, for a long time we couldn’t find good gaffer who would accept our payment offer. The same problem we had to face with gear. But as for having a great production manager in our team, we succeeded in overcoming those problems without scarifying anything related to the look or the sound of the movie. And how we did that? It’s all about time. I think that filmmakers should really take their time during pre-production. Sometimes, at first glance, it seems that something can’t be done cheaper or in different way. But when you think about it for a while, new ideas come into your mind. For us it is the key to success.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

In this particular project, the hardest thing was to accept the location we found. It was almost 600km from my film school and there were no film-related companies nearby, all the crew members and actors were also from my home city (Warsaw). That meant we had to transport the whole crew and equipment 600km, then we had to find accommodation and catering for everybody. As for our tight budget and the fact we financed the movie on our own it was very hard decision to make. But after looking for some other locations near our home city, I found out that this particular location is just perfect and I can’t imagine this story taking place anywhere else. So, we decided to travel there. From a producer’s point of view… That operation took away half of our budget, but as I director I’m very glad that we shot the movie there.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

It depends. Some of my current collaborators are my friends from the High School, some of them are my schoolmates from film school, and the others I met while working on some different projects . I like to work with people I easily get along with. All in all, they are the people I will spend most of my time with.

My way of keeping the relationship strong is that I work with them as a collaborator not as  a boss. We are creating together. I know it is me who will have to make a final decision and be responsible for it, but I always listen to my crew. I try to see their point of view. I’m never angry at them. I believe that if I treat them well, they will treat me the same. The goal is to make my crew believe in the project as strong as I do. Only then they will give them all and do their best.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

I think, that movies should be make for a great audience. Why to tell  stories no one listens to? Film is a powerful machine that may have a great influence on people. I don’t mean films should be flat and simple. No. We should tell about important things, but there are many ways we can do it. We can either dress it in a genre that will attract people’s attention or create some artistic movie only a small group will understand. If we want to tell something we believe in it’s better to be listened to, isn’t it?

On the other hand, art is constantly changing. Things which were not acceptable earlier now are commonly used. If artists will always only stick to the audience’s preferences there will be no breakthrough ways of thinking about cinema.

All in all, I think that there is enough space for both movies made for audience and for experimental cinema or art-house.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

Festivals are great for young filmmakers who are just starting their carrier. Festivals also give a great opportunity to promote new artists and let them show what they can do!

For some filmmakers, it is also the first experience with wide audience. It’s like a test: they can see what makes people laugh and what makes them cry. Are those the same things director thought about?

They’re also great way to learn new skills, to see other peoples work. You can decide which of them you fond of and why? Festivals are  a great way to find inspiration.

And last but not least, they’re very often related to some events other than screenings, like interviews with creators, special shows or even parties or banquets at the end of the day. There you can meet directors, actors and other crew members and talk to them. Maybe you can learn something new, or find new friends ? That’s why festivals are so special.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

I think that filmmakers should be somewhere in between. Telling stories is one of the oldest things people did. That is why, there are many rules, schemes and ways of doing it and they have always worked.

On the other hand, when every possible story was already told we have to find some new paths. To combine some genres or create completely new worlds… There are endless possibilities!

Sometimes it’s better to tell some scene or even the whole story in classic style, but there are also situations it will be better to try something new. It’s all about the story that is being told. A good director should listen to the story carefully and find the best way he can tell it in. Just like that.