TNC Archive 2017
Director Marysia Makowska grabs the viewer by letting them ease in to the video building a longer lasting connection that is both visually stunning and beautiful to watch. Makowska's films are remarkable in the way they bring out a delicate narrative that leaving you feeling somewhat pleased that when a video is finished you can simply replay them.
Hey Marysia, thanks for talking to The New Current, how is everything going?
Thanks for having me. Everything is great - you caught me in between a commercial shoot and editing a personal project.
Where do you begin when you are about to start a new project?
It depends if it’s a commercial job, narrative, or a personal project. Each is different.
With commercials, I work closely with the advertising agency to really get into the deep tissue, bones and blood of the brand. I have an agency background, so it comes somewhat naturally to me. I like the process of translating the essence of each brand into a 30 or 45 second story. It’s like taking something that has a retail or online presence and making it culture-relevant, sexy, attractive, giving it a personality… It’s fascinating.
When I’m working on a personal project, a short film, or a music video, it all starts with an idea. It has to move me first. And then I look for images; I create extensive mood boards for the particular idea - that feeling that is in my head. It’s a very personal process, finding images that reflect what’s inside me.
What, in your view, makes a great commercial or music video?
The idea is always most important to me. In music videos especially, the idea is almost everything. Pretty visuals don't matter if there’s not much of a story behind it. Also, I don’t like feeling bored, and my attention span is very limited. So I like music videos that are short, that tell a compelling story.
Commercials are a different, more contained kind of filmmaking simply due to the typical time restrictions, but the idea is still the most important element to me. I like commercials that evoke an emotional response. For example, there was this beautiful commercial from Volvo a couple of years ago called The Swell. It’s a story of a woman going surfing. Everything involved from casting, cinematography, light, voice over, all of this made me want to go to the nearest beach and swim, surf, meditate. I sometimes watch it to remind myself that the story can be told in a simple, humble way, and still evoke lots of visceral emotion.
You recently released LASS music video Dreamers, how did this come about?
A friend of mine introduced me to LASS, a super talented, up-and-coming synth-pop artist from Poland. She was living in NYC for a couple of months last summer, and she was looking for a director to shoot a music video for her new EP, Dreamers. I met her at a bar, and we immediately had great chemistry. She gave me total creative freedom with just a short brief: make a story about love.
"I got lucky on this one; I had the support of a super pro production company - Papaya Films - and I had a great director of photography working with me - Todd A Somodevilla."
What was the inspiration behind the story you wanted to tell?
I wanted to treat this video as a short film and use LASS’s original seed about love. I imagined a hypothetical situation in which a woman meets up with two guys, and she gives them an ultimatum: if you love me, fight for me. I won’t say what happens next; I don’t want to spoil the fun of watching it, but it's definitely a twisted love story.
What was it about this song that worked so well with the narrative that you created?
The song is a story about hopeless love with a dash of self-doubt.
Here are the lyrics:
"I am human
blood flowing through my body
I’ve got only one life
I wanna spend it with you
my heart still beating
you say that I am sad
maybe tomorrow I will die
maybe I am not good enough
but you won't see fear in my eyes
I want to be real for you
forever until the end”
When I first read the lyrics, I envisioned it as the voice of a man - not a woman. It’s the guy who is in love and who is sad, and maybe he thinks that he is not good enough. So when his love interest approaches him and asks him to fight for her, he doesn’t hesitate. His lack of self-worth is compromised by his love for her.
What was the most challenging part of making this music video for you?
The most challenging part of this production was definitely working with a micro budget. How do you pull off two locations - exterior and interior - in one day with very little money? How do you make the music video look good? I personally really dislike videos that look cheap, when you can tell that the crew had a small amount of $$$. I got lucky on this one; I had the support of a super pro production company - Papaya Films - and I had a great director of photography working with me - Todd A Somodevilla. So I worked with a very small budget, but with a very experienced, top-notch crew.
Your latest short film Dahlia won the Jury Award Runner Up prize at Nitehawk Shorts Festival, what did it mean for you to get this type of recognition for your film?
Getting recognized for my short films gives me confidence and propels me forward. As a filmmaker I need this type of response to keep moving, to keep exploring, to create. There’s no better feeling than people praising your work, and I don’t believe in art without audience. If the audience likes my work, I find that very rewarding. My short film “Dahlia” was also included in Nitehawk’s full length theatrical release which was in cinemas in the US. It definitely made me want to create more short films and narrative pieces, and not only commercials.
What was the first film you made?
My first film was "Sea Pavilion". I shot it in Cape Town, South Africa back in 2011, with director of photography Todd A Somodevilla and two of our friends, Colleen van Rensburg and Stefan de Clerk. It’s a fantasy-thriller short film about a couple getting lost in a mysterious abandoned structure in the dunes. I did it just for fun, and, surprisingly, it got into amazing film festivals and won some awards. We met great people through the film festival circuit. It made me think that I would want to become a director in the future once I was done with the advertising business.
How much has your approach to your work changed since your debut film?
I still am very curious and excited about filmmaking - this has not changed. What changed is that I am aware of budgets now, and I value relationships much more than at the beginning of my journey.
What would you say has been the biggest lesson you've learnt since you started out?
There’s nothing more valuable for a director than a supportive producer / production company. If you don’t get enough production support, then you will find yourself over-stressed, inefficient and unable to put your full energy into the creative side of the project. I’ve been lucky to work with really great producers who make me sleep better at night.
What has been the best piece of advice you have been given in your career?
My previous creative director once told me: “If you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it”. Back then he meant me asking for a pay raise, but it applies to everything. Want a commercial job? Hustle for it. Send emails. Meet new creative and interesting people who want to collaborate. Want a camera package but don’t have any money? Ask around for favours. Ask a friend of yours in exchange for something he/she may want. If you just sit on your butt waiting for opportunity to present itself to you, you won’t go far.
Do you have any advice for any up and coming directors?
Do your hustle. Watch old films. Read books; read everything. Be curious and don’t judge.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from your work?
I hope they enjoy watching my videos.