Stephen Tobolowsky
25th Anniversary Screening & Conversation 
‘Groundhog Day’
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

On Monday 9 April actor Stephen Tobolowsky, Ned Ryerson in classic 90s comedy Groundhog Day will join Trevor Albert - Producer, John Bailey - Cinematographer, Danny Rubin - Writer & Pembroke J. Herring - Editor in the 25th Anniversary Screening at Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Samuel Goldwyn Theatre moderated by Nia Vardalos.

Ahead of the 25th Anniversary Screening of Groundhog Day tNC spoke with Stephen Tobolowsky ahead of tonigths screening.

You've recently become a Papaya Roster Director what does it mean to you as a director to be joining Papaya Films?


It's like being a part of something best - this crew every year wins the tittle „production house of the year” on KTR award, makes the most commercials every year, and does it really well. 

And Kacper constantly looks for many different way to grow, and is not only focused on making money.   


You are currently touring film festivals with your films, do you ever get nervous about screening your films at festivals?


Always. Always the confrontation with the audience, especially from different countries, is a moment of truth - What will happen? Do they understand it? Is the culture code universal? My films are a part of me, of my heart so it's always stressful what people say and they will react to them;)


Can you tell me a little bit about your films Bandmasters & Universam Grochów, what was the inspiration behind your films?


Bandmasters is a music movie about Polish traditional music, it's a magical trip around Warsaw, where we meet musicians such as Warsaw Village Band or Prusinowski Trio. I have always been close to this circle, because I come from the family of musicians, and one day I got a proposal to make a bigger movie about them, and obviously I had no objections!


Universam is a different story. It was the first shopping arcade opened in Praga Południe district in Warsaw in the 70s.  My documentary depicts last months of the Universam Grochów before its closing. It's a story of passing, of seemingly excluded people for whom there's no place in the modern metropolis. This is also a story about my childhood, I lived close from this place so I talk with myself. 


 "Watch out for that first step – it’s a doozy."

What was the most challenging part of making these films for you?


Bandmasters - to shoot this movie within 5/6 days. It was totally crazy, 10 bands, about 150 people, 16 locations and 40 minutes to shoot. 


Universam Grochów - to finish this project.  It took me 5 years, I was scared that I would resign. Thanks God I didn’t!


Universam Grochów has already won some awards, has it surprised you how well received your films would be?


This is very kind and I am very greatful. This gives me and my crew power and certainty that my way and my film language is a good direction and is interesting for some audience. 


How important a role do people, places and their stories/lives play in your work?


This is the most important thing - the fact that this is a real story, a real problem, a real passion, a real life. What can be more interesting than this? The biggest problem is that when I started work with some issues / characters, I start to life their lives and it can be little dangerous;)


Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?


Of course. Film or die!


"I think the part reminded me of my childhood in Texas where any talk of sex was very awkward."

How much has your style and the approach to your filmmaking changed since your debut film?


Since my documentary debut I have definitely changed my commercial way. I started to specialize in this form. I love short movies, and started to think how to create a world and tell something during 30/60 sec. And to do this in a believable/credible way. 

On a movie level, for sure, I have evolved, too but my sensitivity hasn't changed, and this is the most important for me. 


How would you describe Bandmasters & Universam Grochów in three words?


Bandmasters: Dance with our tradition and look how many punks there are there!

Universam: Go into the PRL world which doesn’t exist, and go into the story about loneliness and senior lives, but always with a smile!


Do you have any advice or tips for any fellow filmmaker?


Make a lot of movies, even you don't have money, call friends, take a camera and tell the story. Follow your intuition.This is hard work but this has a deep meaning/makes sense.


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


Universam - sensitivity about elderly people. 

Bandmasters - love for our traditional music.