17th ÉCU
The European Independent Film Festival 2022 

8th - 10th April 2022 
Interview

Konrad Kultys
STAGNANT 
Section: Student Film
ecufilmfestival.com
Polish Version

Tough skinhead Adam ignores his disability, despite it he tries to dominate his loved ones. A decision by his caring brother to change jobs pushes Adam to reconsider his situation and and face up to his own limitations.

Hey Konrad, thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times, has this time offered you any new creative inspiration or opportunities?

The fact that the world slowed down for a moment in the pandemic actually made me happy. I finally had time to get back to the things I truly love and can benefit from. I found time for music, writing, photography-anything that can provide an emotional foundation for later visual and cinematic work. I like working in isolation especially in the early stages of a project so I didn't really feel the big life change that Covid caused.

 

Congratulations on having Stagnant part of the 17th ÉCU Film Festival, what does it mean to you to be screening your film in the Student Section?

First of all, it is a great honour for me and the whole team. The choice of our film surprised us very much. I care about the possibility of meeting the film with the audience in cinema and festival conditions to create an appropriate climate for the reception. ECU gives us the opportunity to show our work in professional conditions to a great audience, so this is a very important event for us. Choosing "Stagnant" also gives me strength for future work.

 

How much did you background directing documentaries Tensity & Futhark prepare you for writing and directing Stagnant?

I started working in documentary because of the greater freedom of production and less budgetary limitations. It was a field for me to experiment, both visually and sonically, which is why these films do not have a traditional documentary structure. I treated it as preparation for later work with narrative matter. Being responsible for both cinematography and direction, I had the opportunity to test myself in various roles and have a more comprehensive approach to filmmaking. It came in very handy during the realisation of the fictional story, especially in the context of creating a coherent image and realistic characters.

Can you tell me how Stagnant came about, what was the inspiration behind your short film?

I don't think I have a simple answer to this question. On the one hand, "Stagnant" was actually born from the last shot in the film, which had existed independently in my imagination for some time. I had seen the scene and it came back to me occasionally, but I didn't know where I knew it from or where it was happening. So on a visual and emotional basis "Stagnant" came about because of that imagined picture. On the other hand, once I started writing the script and thinking about the characters, various threads naturally developed and weaved themselves into this story. When I imagine a certain world I often don't have full control over it anymore, I rather act as a listener and observer, taking notes of what I see and hear. It may sound strange because at the end of the day it all happens in my head, but when I write I have a strong conviction that I am simply visiting a complete world that has a life of its own. And in this world I managed to find Adam with his story about overcoming his own weaknesses.

The theme of your film is very powerful did you have any apprehensions about making a film that showcased such an important and social subject?

I never gave a second thought to whether this film might cross any boundaries. Adam's disability and his place in the skinhead subculture are secondary to me. Of course, both of these facts make the protagonist's life and his relationships with his loved ones look the way they do. However, I am particularly interested in the protagonist's loneliness and vulnerability on a deeper level than mere physicality or social conditioning. For me, Adam is a character who has to face what is deeply hidden in himself, his own weakness resulting not so much from his disability as from some deep pain and tenderness to which we have no access. Adam does everything to cut himself off from who he is deep inside. But this cutting off turns out to be completely impossible. Who we really are will always come back to us, often when we least expect it.

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"You can talk about difficult, painful, important things in an innovative and groundbreaking way, you just have to remember about the boundary behind which there is harm to another person."

Whilst making on Stagnant how close where you able to keep to your screenplay once you started filming, where you able to allow yourself and your actors much flexibility?

I try to give the actors as much space as possible to work together. On Stagnant I had the opportunity to work with wonderful actors. Igor Kowalunas and Mateusz Czwartosz created such realistic creations that being on the set I had an irresistible impression of observing the documentary world and not the fictional one. Izabella Dudziak and Jakub Sierenberg who accompanied them also complemented the whole in a wonderful and realistic way. The script is a strong framework for me to work on what happens between the actors. However, I firmly believe that working on a film is a shared experience where we exchange and share both emotions and thoughts with each other. That's why I try to create realistic set conditions in which the actors have freedom of movement and expression. We correct on the fly what seems unrealistic to us and together we watch as the world we have brought to life begins to take over within the limits we naturally allow. To a large extent this could also happen thanks to the organic work of the cinematographer Mateusz Nowak, who naturally lit the whole space leaving a great freedom of work for the rest of the crew.

What has been the biggest challenge you've faced bringing Stagnant to life and looking back is there anything you would have done differently on this film?

The time limitation was the biggest challenge for me. All the time I have to deal with short films, the nature of which forces me to condense the story to necessary elements. This teaches a certain discipline and selectivity, but on the other hand I have the impression that I identify more with things that are slow and long-lasting, with the observation of emotions, the slow transformation. Short film often doesn't allow for this kind of storytelling through its limitations. To answer the question in the context of "Stagnant", I don't think I would change anything at this point. This film was an adventure for all of us and a good lesson on what solutions work and should be used and what elements are less functional in a short film structure.

 

What has this experience been like for you being part of the Directing Department and a Graduate of the Cinematography Department at the Łodz Film School?

For me, film school is first and foremost a place to learn from people with similar artistic sensibilities. I majored in photography at the cinematography department because my greatest passion has always been the art of cinematography and how to tell stories with light. Eventually I also got into directing, and it was at this faculty that "Stagnant" was created. For me, film is about telling stories, conveying emotions, and connecting people through something not quite named. So I don't feel connected in any way to the terms "director" or "cinematographer", I see filmmaking as a communal activity of people with similar sensibilities. The school provides a unique opportunity to meet wonderful people both among students and lecturers. These are people filled with passion for what they do, sincere and open to contact with others. "Stagnant's" artistic supervisors are the wonderful director Leszek Dawid, who is an incredibly warm, patient, and wise man. He helped me a lot in organising my thinking about the film. Jarosław Kamiński took care of editing, always offering professional advice and full commitment. In terms of cinematography we consulted our project with Paweł Edelman and Piotr Kukla, both gentlemen are outstanding cinematographers with beautiful sensitivity.

Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?

I guess so. The first and most important thing that moves me deeply is the music. The second is music with imagery. So naturally I turned towards filmmaking. I have always played with cameras, I still have recordings from a Hi-8 camera from 2000 when I tried to "direct" movies with my friends in the backyard. I also remember that as a child I watched the making of "Jurassic Park" and "Star Wars" on VHS over and over again. At the time I was most interested in how it was made, the kitchen of all that magic. My taste in genre may have changed a bit, but I still get goosebumps standing next to the camera dolly because I feel as if someone transferred me to that world from the VHS tapes.

How much has your approach to your films changed since you started making films?

I think I realized that with movies it's exactly like with music. Listening to a record and playing an instrument are two separate worlds. In the same way, when making a film I think I feel something similar to playing. I try to focus on what I can give from myself, what I would like to say even on an unconscious level and what I would like to share. And film, like music, gives me the opportunity to share things that I wouldn't want to talk about in any other way.

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Should filmmakers continue to push the boundaries of the stories they want to tell?

It seems to me that yes, as long as it is sincere and not harmful. You can talk about difficult, painful, important things in an innovative and groundbreaking way, you just have to remember about the boundary behind which there is harm to another person. If something is sincere, good and brave, let it be so, because then it will probably be beautiful! If it is only flashy and calculated for effect, then no efforts, whether in terms of script or cinematography, will mask the falsity.

 

For anyone out there thinking about getting into filmmaking or going to film school do you have any tips or advice you would offer them? 

 

I got into school at a fairly late age by putting everything on the line. And I would recommend that to anyone who is able to answer the question of whether this is something they will never be able to function normally without. If someone feels that they really want to make films, that it will help them then let them make them, let them go to school or let them do something independently. I think it has to come from a deep need and some general discomfort that without it a person can't communicate with others.

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Stagnant?

I hope that everyone will find something different in this movie for themselves. I am not saying that this film is universal in its message. What I mean is that I would like the viewer to feel the emotions of this world and complement them with their own experience. I would like him to feel that he knows these brothers from the screen as well as I do. Maybe he will want to hug them at the end and be with them for a while. In silence.