“The way cinema functions is changing”
Industry Report: Documentary
Karolina Śmigiel • Producer, Uni-Solo Studio
The 2022 Emerging Producer from Poland tells us how documentary film can sensitize us to reality and the way we function with others
Why do you produce documentaries? Do you understand documentary film as an instrument of social and political change?
Karolina Śmigiel: I believe in the stories that life brings. They can sensitize us to reality and the way we function with others. This is what attracts me the most to making non-fiction movies. I want to tell ordinary, small stories about ordinary people so that you can see yourself in them like in a mirror. I believe that such stories can be touching and can influence social and political reality, even on a micro-scale, they do matter. My mission is to convince the industry about this. Making movies is a way of communicating with the world, but not in the sense of a message to others, but in the sense of openness to dialogue and ability to listen to someone else.
The pandemic had an impact on the entire sector. How did it influence your work as a producer? Have the projects that you work on changed?
The pandemic has had an impact, or actually still affects my work and the films I make. A few weeks ago, we had to cancel shooting in Poland for a French-Polish documentary. We were preparing it for a long time, but the situation did not allow for the project’s implementation. Similar situations have happened before – especially if you have films in development: canceling shooting, difficult contact with the protagonists, prolonged documentation, and, in addition to that, the repeatedly canceled or constantly changing formula of industry events, which makes it difficult to establish relationships and search for partners for projects, which is especially important in the development stage.
What do you think is the future of the distribution of documentary films?
This is basically the positive aspect that the pandemic brings about, in my opinion. Until now, the main distribution channels for art house documentary films have been festivals and TV, and this has greatly limited reaching viewers who are looking for artistic content. Mainstream VoD platforms rarely showed such films. Now it is changing – many independent VoD platforms are created, which specialize in, for example, documentary and art cinema. I see it as an opportunity for the films that I produce. On the other hand, I strongly believe in the power of the cinematic experience and hope that despite this situation, cinemas will survive. It seems to me that the way cinema functions is also changing. People will look for a personal, intimate experience in the cinema as a cultural center. That is why small, local cinemas organizing special screenings and meetings with filmmakers will develop. I hope they will.
What projects do you have underway?
I am currently working on two documentaries which are in development. Nanga Dream is a story about the friendship of two Polish mountaineers who are outsiders in the world of professional mountaineering. They have a dream of climbing one of the most dangerous eight-thousanders in the world in winter – Nanga Parbat in Pakistan, called “The Killer Mountain”. The second is Playing with Time. Returns – a continuation of the director’s original film from 10 years ago. He revisits his protagonists and tells a generational story about their dreams, problems, and expectations. This film is a very personal story about today’s 40-year-olds.
I am also developing two documentary co-productions – one historical project discovering the history of a Polish Jew who immigrated to France before the war. The second project is an Italian-Polish co-production about theatre. In both, my company is a minority co-producer.
EMERGING PRODUCERS is a leading promotional and educational project, which brings together talented European documentary film producers. The programme is organised and curated by the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival.
Deadline for applications to the EMERGING PRODUCERS 2023 edition is 31 March 2022.
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