Wednesday 5 June 2019

"At the Beginning of the Road": Łódź Film School Actor Interviews (i): Piotr Pacek

Piotr Pacek (Photo

As the place that produced the likes of Wajda, Polański, Kieślowski and Skolimowski, Łódź Film School remains the most storied and prestigious of such institutions in Poland. Recently featured in Variety's 2019 list of Best Film Schools, under the current Rectorship of Mariusz Grzegorzek, Łódź continues to nurture new talents in cinema and theatre. This was evidenced by the three terrific Diploma Shows (Fever, Angels in America, Slippery Words) presented this year at Teatr Studyjny and featuring this year's contingent of graduating Acting students. I had the pleasure of interviewing some of the actors over the last few months for pieces that will be published in full in my book of actor interviews next year. In the meantime, though, I wanted to share some shorter versions of the conversations here, as the actors reflect on their time at the School and look forward to future opportunities.

First up: Piotr Pacek, who features in the great Diploma show, Pomysłowe Mebelki z Gąbki (Fever), directed by Mariusz Grzegorzek (for which he won two prizes at the 37th Polish Theatre School Festival last month), and in the Diploma film Nic Nie Ginie (Nothing is Lost), directed by Kalina Alabrudzińska.

Alex Ramon: Tell me a bit about your background and when your interest in acting started.

Piotr Pacek: It was at school. I grew up in a small town near Bydgoszcz, where I was born. I was part of a theatre group in my class, when I was 15 or so. But the main thing was that I always loved movies and I remember many films from my childhood and adolescence that were really important to me: Tim Burton's Batman, Taxi Driver, Amadeus, Dr. Strangelove, The Deer Hunter, The Shining, Mean Streets, Midnight Cowboy, Goodfellas, Platoon. Seeing these films, it was just... pure love.

AR: So it was film rather than theatre that inspired your interest in acting?

PP: Yes, movies moved me so much. Watching them, analysing them, I felt: "This is my world." They were the place where I was looking for myself. It wasn't until I came to the school in Łódź that I really fell in love with theatre as well. The training here focuses more on theatre than film, which is a shame in some ways, but it's also through that that I got into stage work and began to love it.

AR: Who are some of the actors that inspire you?

PP: Answering about favourites is hard because there are so many great actors. But for me Robert De Niro is number one. I love Brando and Clift too, and Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman. When it comes to Polish actors, I admire Zbigniew Cybulski, Janusz Gajos, Bogumił Kobiela, Leon Niemczyk. In terms of the younger generation, I like Tomasz Kot and Borys Szyc. We have a lot of great actors here. I was lucky enough to work with Łukasz Simlat on a TV series and that was great. He's a great actor and a great person.

AR: Is there such a thing as a Łódź Film School actor or "method"?

PP: I think you make your own method. You're free. The best thing here is that you're getting all these different experiences and that you can experiment and discover things. For me, that's what's counted most in the training.

Anna Paliga and Piotr Pacek in Fever

AR: I love the Diploma show, Fever, so much. It really tests you all as actors in making you take on multiple roles, and incorporating elements of comedy, drama, singing, dancing, parody, the grotesque... How was making the show for you?

PP: It was a great time, and it still is. What I like is that it's a modern play. Some people say that theatre is over; this play shows otherwise. I very much like the Boss [Film School rector Mariusz Grzegorzek]. He's a great artist and I learned so much from him. He valued our input; it was a real collaboration and I think we made a good show. Every time we perform it it's a great adventure, you know.

Mateusz Grodecki and Piotr Pacek in Fever 

AR: Do you have any favourite moments to perform in the show? 

PP: I really like the Hutsul stuff; it was something I didn't know about before and I fell in love with it. The "Four Miles from Warsaw" sequence at the end is always powerful and challenging to do. I love the quiet scene that Mateusz Grodecki and I play as father and son. He's great and it's a very sensitive moment in all the craziness. At the beginning with "Swollen Problems" [a reality TV show parody], it was hard for me to catch the form, but I think that after a few performances I got it and now I enjoy it more and more.

Poster for Nic Nie Ginie (Nothing is Lost)

AR: And how was the experience of making the Diploma film Nic Nie Ginie (Nothing is Lost)?

PP: Along with Fever, it's been a highlight for me. Like I said, we don't have so much time with the camera at school and I learned a huge amount from Kalina [Alabrudzińska]. She's a great director and working with her was something special. We had a script but improvisation was encouraged too, and I felt very comfortable. Kalina and the crew really created that kind of atmosphere. Growing up, movies meant so much to me; now, my dream came true: I made one!

AR: In fact, you made two: you're also in Lech Majewski's Brigitte Bardot Cudowna (The Wonderful Brigitte Bardot).

PP: Yes, that was a crazy experience! I was kind of nervous because it was the first feature film I made and I was acting in English. But I learned a lot and I'm really curious to see the result.

AR: Do you think it's a good time for Polish film generally? 

PP: I think it's getting better, I think it's coming up. The success of Ida and Cold War was very important. We have some great directors, both from new and older generations: Smoczyńska, Szumowska, Holland.

Piotr Pacek (Photo:

AR: Have you enjoyed living in Łódź during your studies? 

PP: Yes, I've felt very much at home. It's a weird city, just walking around you feel this different vibe: buildings from before the war, from the Communist times, then the revitalisation... It has that multi-culti element.

AR: Do you feel you can tap into the film history of the city, too?

PP: Yes, it's important. As soon as I came here I felt I was in a good place. I'm working on something now with rehearsals in Warsaw... almost everything is made there and it's necessary to be in the centre. At the same time, I don't feel like Warsaw is my place. It's a totally different city, faster-paced.

AR: Personally, I prefer Łódź.

PP: Me too, me too.
Piotr Pacek (Photo: Tomasz Wysocki) 

AR: What is your upcoming project? 

PP: It's an adaptation of Szczepan Twardoch's very popular novel Król (King) that Jan P. Matuszyński [The Last Family] is making into a series. It's exciting to be part of. I see it this way: I'm at the beginning of the road. And the best thing for me is meeting and working with people who love the craft.

AR: Are there international filmmakers you'd like to work with too?

PP: Kubrick... but he's dead! I always love Martin Scorsese.

AR: And any dream roles you'd like to play?

PP: (laughs) A drug addict!

AR: A drug addict for Martin Scorsese, right? 

PP: Of course! After school I'd definitely like to go to New York and try stuff. That whole scene meant so much to me, Strasberg, De Niro... So I'd like to go there, for sure. Just to touch it, you know. It's one of my dreams.

Fever is performed for a final time at Teatr Studyjny, Łódź, on 17 June. Nic Nie Ginie screens at TR Warszawa, Warsaw, on 8 June and is presented in competition at Młodzi i Film Festival in Koszalin, 10 -15 June.

NIC NIE GINIE /////// teaser ////// scenariusz i reżyseria Kalina Alabrudzińska from LODZ FILM SCHOOL on Vimeo.

Fever photos: Filip Szkopiński. 

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