FNE Visegrad 2021: Polish Film Production Recovers From COVID Pandemic

    Phillip by Michał Kwieciński Phillip by Michał Kwieciński source: TVP

    WARSAW: Polish producers have adapted to working under COVID restrictions and production has continued to recover during 2021.

    Polish filmmakers were allowed to return to sets in May 2021 and it looks like the Polish production industry will keep up its usual average of around 40-50 feature films produced annually, despite the pandemic and in spite of breaks in production. Indeed, “the coronavirus has not hit the Polish film industry as much as it might have seemed. There is still a lot of filming occurring, and cinemas have survived,” said Radosław Śmigulski, the Director of the Polish Film Institute.

    The list of projects shot in the last three months includes Figurant directed by Robert Gliński, the story of the security officer who kept Karol Wojtyla under surveillance for 20 years. The production is this year's winner of the Film Fund Competition in Krakow, and was produced by WFDiF, with support from the Polish Film Institute. Moreover, Kasia Adamik is working on a new film based on a short story by the Nobel Prize Winner Olga Tokarczuk. The film will be a Polish/German/Swedish coproduction, and the author of the script is Sandra Buchta; the film will be produced by Wild Mouse Production - Olga Chajdas, and is set to premiere in 2022. The shoot of the newest film produced by the Polish public broadcaster TVP, entitled Philip, was launched in September 2021. The film, directed by Michał Kwieciński, is a screen adaptation of Leopold Tyrmand's novel of the same title. The premiere is planned for the second quarter of 2022. Jacek Bromski, Polish director and the head of the Polish Filmmakers Association, has decided to return to his hit series Snug as a Bug with a fourth installment of the comedy saga. The film is being produced by WFDiF, and the filming started in October 2021, with a premiere planned for the first half of 2022. “I’m glad that we could go back to set after the restrictions were lifted,” the director Jacek Bromski said, adding that “life is slow in the film Podlasie. It is in human nature to need peace and harmony with both oneself and the outside world. We miss such a state.”

    Period costume dramas revolving around war, many of which have been supported by public funding decision makers, seem to be a strong trend in Polish production in 2021. “At the moment, work is underway on two films which relate to Polish history. The first is Kos about Tadeusz Kościuszko; the second is Volunteer / Ochotnik about Witold Pilecki. The first is strictly American, while the other is a Polish/American coproduction,” said Radosław Śmigulski, Director of the Polish Film Institute. Leszek Bodzak and Aneta Hickinbotham from Aurum Film, the company behind the international success Corpus Christi, are producing the Kościuszko biopic. The script was written by Michał A. Zieliński and the film is directed by Paweł Maślona. The film received project development funding from the Polish Film Institute. The final budget has not been announced yet. In the meantime, a major war drama about Witold Pilecki, produced by Madants with an estimated budget of 35.4 m EUR / 150 m PLN is expected to be one of the most expensive films in Polish history. The film is supported by the Polish National Foundation. “As Minister of Culture, I have a democratic mandate to decide on these matters. It is my duty to shape Polish cinematography from the point of view of viewers and the needs of Polish historical policy. Each community pursues a historical policy, because this is where its opportunities in international competition and its continuation arise,” said Prof. Piotr Gliński, Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage when asked about the trend of assigning big public funds to period dramas.

    Another strong trend in the Polish film production industry is the growing involvement of streaming platforms commissioning local content. The Walt Disney Company has commissioned a major animated production which was shot from July to September 2021 in the Kashubia. The screenwriter is Mirosław Piepka and the director is Filip Bajon, a duet responsible for a major Polish box office hit Kamerdyner (Filmicon). “In February of last year I received a phone call from the Walt Disney Company with a proposal to write a script for an animated feature film,” Mirosław Piepka revealed. “Paradoxically, it was the pandemic that allowed me to do that when we were all locked up, so I could take care of this project completely,” he adds. In the summer of 2021, Netflix announced further investment in film production, which will include nine new feature projects to premiere in 2022. “The Polish film market is developing very dynamically, partly as a result of the growing demand for local films and series. Every broadcaster in Poland would like to offer productions aimed at the Polish audience. We're glad Netflix is ​​part of this ecosystem. We are constantly looking for ideas from Poland to share new local stories with viewers around the world,” said Łukasz Kłuskiewicz, Film Licensing and Co-Productions CEE&CIS Director at Netflix. “Great stories can come from anywhere in the world and can be watched far beyond the borders of the country of origin. In our opinion, it is the local content and languages ​​that have value: therefore, the production language is one of the criteria that Netflix takes into account. We really want Polish films to be made in Polish with filmmakers and cast from Poland,” he added.

    Poland is working on new rules for the beneficiaries of the film incentive scheme. The incentive system has been operating since 2019. Producers of feature films, documentaries and animations (including series) can take advantage of a cash rebate of up to 30%. The funds come from the state budget and are disbursed under the Audiovisual Production Support Act. The aim is to develop the domestic audiovisual industry and promote Polish culture. The incentives are to increase the competitiveness of domestic companies in this industry and attract international coproductions to Poland. The change envisaged by the Ministry of Culture in the draft amendment to the Act on Incentives provides for a new condition for receiving support: a positive opinion of experts. The Minister of Culture will appoint them from among candidates presented by the director of the Polish Film Institute. They will be representatives of "film circles and opinion-forming circles".

    Both the Polish Producers Alliance (KIPA) and the Polish Filmmakers Association believe that these changes are inconsistent with the objectives of the act. “The new procedure poses the risk of a subjective elimination of applications,” warns the KIPA in a position paper sent to the Ministry of Culture. In response, the Ministry of Culture replied that it was currently “analysing the comments to the act submitted during inter-ministerial consultations and public consultations.” Time will tell if this will shift production and coproduction conditions in Poland in 2022.