Europe Film Festival U.K. spoke exclusively with Damian Matyasik

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Hi, first of all, congratulations, you are one of the winners of the Europe Film Festival U.K. What do you feel?

It feels really, really great. When you have to put your dreams aside because of the hardships of everyday life (mine and those closest to me), no one after 10-15 years believes that you will be able to do what you wanted to do since you were a kid. I always believed it would happen eventually. It’s amazing.

What gave you the inspiration to write and direct this story?

From the moment I finished reading Rafal Niemczyk’s short story „Mom dies Saturday” I was quite sure this is the perfect material for a short film. Strong, original story, with an interestingly complicated main character. Rafal is my longtime friend, so we decided to make a film in one afternoon. And one year later here we are. 

What skills do you need to be a filmmaker?

You need to have many skills like creativity, imagination, visual sensitivity, and all-around sense to make many decisions during the whole filmmaking process. But in my opinion, the most important abilities to achieve anything as a team are: always have an open mind and have an ego in check.  

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life creating film/acting?

The same advice I would give for anything you want to achieve. Just never surrender. It took me 10 years to get the possibility to make a movie. And don’t listen to people who tell you that something is impossible or that you never do it. They are talking from their perspective or they are just spiteful.

What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?

“The Matrix”, simply because there is no spoon, therefore be always open-minded. “Blade Runner”. No Geforce RTX300, no 300 million dollars, and the movie is visually stunning to this day, therefore the idea is everything. “Pulp Fiction”. Don’t be afraid to make something completely different and yes, it is possible to write a screenplay that good. “Fight Club” We buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like. It took me 10 years to understand that this is not only a smart quote from a movie. “Taxi Driver”. Simply how to write and direct a perfect drama. 

When you get angry at a movie, what sets you off? Are there common qualities in cinema today that you dislike? Is there something you try to subvert or avoid or rebel against in your work?

I don’t like when the director treats the viewer as if he is not intelligent enough to draw conclusions on his own by explaining to him at the end what the film was about. We tried very hard to avoid this in “Mom dies Saturday” and will try to avoid it at all costs in the future. I am also not a fan of 3D, especially when 3D is artificially implemented during postproduction (not planned and filmed with dedicated hardware). I don’t like action scenes without any real footage, completely shot on a green screen. That is why I am a big fan of the Mission Impossible series. Of course, this is pure entertainment but if you watch carefully these movies you gonna see the highly skilled cast and crew, tons of dedication, and extremely hard work.

Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking was not just a hobby, but that it would be your life and your living?

I think I was 12 years old when I saw Terminator 2 and I wanted to make movies since then (I was mind blown for days after watching it). Unfortunately in Poland in the nineties without any help, it was simply impossible. I was raised (with my brother) by a single mom and sometimes it was really hard to just have a normal condition to live. After overcoming many adversities and obstacles, I finally managed to do what I had been dreaming about for 25 years. Filmmaking is still my hobby because I only made 1 film so far but I truly believe that it’ll be my life and my living from now on.

Is filmmaking a good career choice?  

For me, it’s too soon to have a strong opinion and I don’t want to be another wise man who is telling others that A is better than B without checking any. Most of the careers require (besides skill) the believe in your own ability and strong will to fight until that happens. I am pretty sure that mental strength is more important than pure skill.

What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?

Every piece is important but If I have to choose two of the most important ‘components’: characters and music. If I’m going to be emotionally involved in the story, I need to get the right information about the characters, their motivations, their emotions, their past, etc. A well-written and well-played main character can carry a mediocre film. I have seen it many, many times. “It’s possible to make a bad movie with a good script but you can’t make a good film with a bad script”. If I remember correctly these are George Clooney’s words. It’s like 2+2 of the cinema. On the other hand, music is the ultimate emotions maker. Try to watch Bladerunner or Gattaca or Inception without music. Completely different movies. When Artur Majewski composed the main theme for “Mom dies Saturday”, after I listened to it a few times I knew exactly how we going to edit the scene. This is how it works in my mind and I am sure I am not the only one. 

How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

Most of the crew are friends or friends of my friends, so it wasn’t that hard to talk them into it. The cast is a different story. We asked potential actors to make a video with some parts and that was more than enough for me to make decisions. Pawel Monsiel (leading actor) is a different kind of beast, we clicked instantly on set, and right now, after we finished “Mom dies Saturday”, we have plans for our next projects. How do I keep a strong relationship with them? I have no idea how they can stand with me so long 🙂

Do filmmakers have any responsibility to culture? Do you feel that being a creative person requires that you give back or tell a particular story or not do something else? Why or why not?

I have always believed that the task of the conscious individual is to help make others aware, so of course, I think our responsibility as filmmakers is to not only entertain but also highlight important issues by telling a story. It doesn’t matter how, there is always a way to point out something that matters. In the documentary, I plan to make this year I will point out big issues with one of the largest industry we have today.  

 Are you working on a new project at the moment or are you planning to? Is there anybody you’d like to thank?

We finished the screenplay for the second short film 3 weeks ago and we are making pre-production at the moment. We plan to shoot in August this year. In the fourth quarter of this year, I plan to make a documentary about an industry that I know very well and have been actively involved in for 24 years. At the moment, I am writing the script and looking for financing. Coming back to our film debut. I would like to thank the whole cast and crew for being calm and forgiving at times when some logistics weren’t top-notch. Special thanks go to Rafal Niemczyk (for everything), Pawel Monsiel (great energy and attitude!), Bartek Jasnowski (very professional, great advisor). Infinite thanks go to the person closest to me, without whom all this would be impossible (she knows who she is ☺).