"AT THE BEGINNING IT WAS A COMPILATION OF EVERYTHING I WAS INTO: WORKING WITH OTHER PEOPLE, WRITING, PHOTOGRAPHY. AS A TEENAGER I WAS WATCHING A LOT OF FILMS - IT WAS ALMOST MY SOLE ACTIVITY DURING HIGH SCHOOL."
New Year’s Eve 1999. Twenty-year-old Sebastian, armed with a gun, hijacks a TV studio and takes two hostages—a famous TV presenter and a security guard. His plan? No one seems to know, including Sebastian himself. His demand to deliver his message, whatever that may be, via live broadcast is repeatedly thwarted by an uncertain police force and an egotistical network chairman. As the night wears on, Sebastian and the hostages bond in unexpected ways, while those in power fumble to restore order.
Before YouTube or TikTok, there was broadcast television. Prime Time, the debut feature from director Jakub Piątek, subverts the “medium is the message” concept by revealing how tenuously the medium is held together by ineptitude at all levels.
Hi Jakub thank you for talking to TNC, how are you held up during these very strange times?
I’ve almost done nothing more than this one film for the past 12 months. Luckily COVID-19 bypassed production. During lockdowns I was prepping or editing a film.
Has this time offered you any creative inspiration?
After first lockdown in spring 2020 I felt that all of us were thirsty – lacking contact, work and kind of normality. So when we could we eagerly jumped into rehearsals and preproduction. Our film is claustrophobic, protagonists are locked in a TV studio for couple of hours – after lockdown actors and crew could easily get that emotion and refer it to ourselves.
Congratulations on Prime Time being part of Sundance Film Festival, what does it mean to you to be part of such an amazing lineup of films?
It’s great! Sundance was the very first festival - we send them our rough cut. Receiving invitation was encouraging. I’ve got a boost that maybe that initial intuitions can be read and felt by someone else. And of course we had postproduction sprint at the end of a long run to bring the best film we can to the festival audience.
Prime Time is your debut feature film and is one 10 films selected in the World Cinema Dramatic competition, does this add any additional pressure on you?
I’m simply happy that our film can start its life there. And I’m happy that I will watch films of my colleagues from around the world as an audience member.
Can you tell me a little bit about Prime Time, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
We started writing the script 2,5 years ago with Łukasz Czapski. We felt kind of longing for rebellion and our protagonist Sebastian started as that feeling. We found several cases around the world (in USA, Burkina Faso, Brazil, Holland and Poland) which triggered curiosity and research.
You co-wrote Prime Time with Lukasz Czapski, what was this experience like?
It’s our second script that we wrote together that has made its way to the screen. We have been working together for couple of years so it’s rather astable marriage. It’s not a method but we love to rewrite after rehearsals with actors or even casting meetings. It is always the first test for the scene.
Looking back is there anything you would have done differently?
A lot of things! It’s painful at the beginning of editing, you can see all those minor (or bigger) flaws of material. And then you need to fall in love again in your film. At the end of the process I watch the film for the very last time. It’s time of an honest confession – but it’s just for me, to be better next time.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
At the beginning it was a compilation of everything I was into: working with other people, writing, photography. As a teenager I was watching a lot films – it was almost my sole activity during high school. And if you are fascinated by something you want to see how it works.
How much did your time at Łódź Film School help prepare you for your filmmaking career?
It’s a great school! You do a lot of shorts – both documentaries and fiction – I think is important to link both of them. And you learn craft from basis, also you sometimes need to be a boom operator, an actor, an editor – so you can see those different approaches to the craft. I also had great class from around the world and mixing those perspectives is crucial for me. We are still in contact, we exchange our scripts and work-in-progress versions of films.
"I was/am really into documentaries, so from that I’ve took attachment to research..."
Has your approach to your films changed much since your debut short film?
I’ve never done such summary. I was/am really into documentaries, so from that I’ve took attachment to research and that "I don’t know“ is a really good start to make a film.
Now that you have completed your debut feature do you have any tips or advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
I’ve got a feeling that I still need advice myself...This time stronger than ever I felt that what we do is a teamwork. You need to listen carefully and appreciate your cast and crew. And try to build the best possible circumstances for actors– and it doesn’t mean campers and assistants but more of a connection and partnership.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Prime Time?
We designed this film to raise questions, so I hope audience members will have them after the screening.