Tuesday 18 June 2019

"The school helps you to open your mind": Łódź Film School Actor Interviews (v): Karol Franek Nowiński

Karol Franek Nowiński (Photo: Aleksandra Pawłowska)
Karol Franek Nowiński plays multiple roles in Fever (Pomysłowe Mebelki z Gąbki) and the character of Leo in Śliskie słowa (Slippery Words). He also features in the Diploma Film Nic Nie Ginie (Nothing is Lost), directed by Kalina Alabrudzińska.

Alex Ramon: Was it always your ambition to be an actor?

Karol Franek Nowiński: It's funny you should ask that because just the other day my parents sent me a message. They were clearing up my room and had found some old notebooks from when I was 11 or 12. In one of them I'd written down my dreams for the future. The first one was "To be an actor on the stage." This was followed by "Become a lawyer" - a classy alternative! - and "Become a chef."

I'm from Warsaw. We have some fringe stages there, and when I was 16 I auditioned for a part in Grease and got the job. I'd been in some drama groups before that, and played some roles, but this was my first professional job. Later, at school, we did a version of Miss Saigon. I enjoy musicals very much; and when I've visited London I've always made sure to see some West End shows. More recently, with my colleagues here, we put together a show based around songs by Agnieszka Osiecka. I'd originally thought of going to Gdańsk where they have a good school for musical acting. But my friend told me about Warsaw and Łódź so I auditioned. I got in here, and forgot about my original plan!

AR: How has your time at the School been and what are some of the most important things you've learnt over the four years?

KFN: It's a huge question. I could write a book about it! But overall I feel positive about the four years: what I got from my professors, my friends, the guys from other departments. One problem, and its not unique to Łódź, is that the school is "closed" in the sense that you can't go to auditions while studying. I didn't have such problems but some of my friends had to make hard decisions about whether to stay at the school or not if a job opportunity of some kind came up.

I guess that "Trust yourself" is one of the big lessons I take away from the training here. It's easy to say it, but it took me four years to really develop that belief. Before school, I thought I was stronger and more confident than I actually was. So it was a good, hard lesson. The school helps you to open your mind, to look deeply inside - not in the sense that you're "raping" yourself - but in a careful and supported way.

Filip Warot, Karol Nowiński and Mateusz Grodecki in Fever
(Photo: Filip Szkopiński)

AR: How was the experience of making the Diploma shows, Fever and Slippery Words (Śliskie słowa)?
KFN: Very interesting because I'm in two shows which are not typical dramas made from an existing text. With Fever, Mariusz Grzegorzek didn't know exactly what the end result would be but he came with texts and ideas, also wanting our input. He has an amazing brain and knows so many things - from classics to the very latest music.

At our first meeting for Śliskie słowa, Artur Urbański  said to us all: "We don't know each other. Tell me a story." He was observing us, seeing our energy. I'm very grateful to Artur and the atmosphere he created, which gave us a chance to experiment and try things. I love writing as well, and it was great that we could create our own scenes and characters through improvisation. We were inspired a lot by material we found on YouTube, and by the writing of Dorota Masłowska, which fed into Ola Skraba's character, Ala, in particular.

AR: How did your character, the chef Leo, evolve?

KFN: Originally I was thinking to create a character based around Mikey Walsh's memoir Gypsy Boy  but it happened that I made dinner for everyone and Artur was rather inspired by this! I like cooking, and, as I told you, being a chef was one of my ambitions, but I wasn't sure I wanted to play one. However, I trusted Artur, and I'm happy with the direction we went in. Again, trust is so important in this job - trusting yourself and your colleagues. I also watched Marco Ferreri's La Grand Bouffe, which proved to be a big inspiration for me.

(Photo: Aleksandra Pawłowska)

AR: How was making the Diploma film, Nic Nie Ginie?

KFN: I don't have a huge part but I really enjoyed the experience. Kalina [Alabrudzińska] is a good person and the energy on the set was great. We didn't have a lot of time, but she created space, things never felt rushed. Our cinematographer, Nils Croné, was excellent and so was the whole crew. I had a great time.

AR: What are your future plans?

KFN: I'm going back to Warsaw and thinking about auditioning for the music Academy there. I feel like musicals are getting stronger and stronger in Poland, and it's exciting to be part of that. As for dream roles... well, anything from Cabaret! I saw the production at Teatr Dramatyczny five times. I like American drama and I'd love to perform in Tennessee Williams plays, in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf...

AR: Is it a good moment for Polish culture, in your opinion?

KFN: Well, the political situation isn't good, and we're all ashamed about that. But there are some positive things, too, with the first Polish Netflix series and some interesting directors coming through with different visions and ideas. So it's getting better, but with small steps, and the government doesn't help. What I like about Fever is that it reminds us of the richness of Polish culture, and that there are many things to be interested in and inspired by in our cultural history.

AR: Will you miss Łódź?

KFN: Yes, I really like it here. The city centre has a great vibe, with many good venues, clubs, and restaurants with vegetarian and vegan food. It's very cool. It's slower paced than Warsaw, but there's a lot happening, too.

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