Maria Blicharska • Producer
“Sometimes it’s better to wait”
by Ola Salwa
- We interview Polish producer Maria Blicharska, one of European Film Promotion's Producers on the Move for 2017, and a co-producer of Šarūnas Bartas' new film
Donten & Lacroix Films’ Maria Blicharska is based in both Warsaw and Paris, and says that in the past ten years, she has worked on all of the important Polish films that were shot in France, including The Mole [+see also:
film profile], the feature debut by Rafael Lewandowski. But her experience is much broader than just Polish-French films: she has worked as a production manager on the American documentaries One Day in Auschwitz by Steve Purcell and March of the Living by Jessica Sanders, as well as the Austrian-French-Turkish drama For a Moment, Freedom [+see also:
film profile] by Arash T Riahi. Blicharska also produced the acclaimed short Esterhazy by Izabela Plucińska and Raging Rose [+see also:
film profile] by Julia Kowalski, presented in the ACID section of the 68th Cannes Film Festival.
Cineuropa: Frost [+see also:
interview: Sharunas Bartas
film profile] by Šarūnas Bartas will premiere in the Directors' Fortnight. How did you become a co-producer of this film?
Maria Blicharska: It was through the French co-producer, Janja Kralj, whom I’ve known since 2010. We met at the EAVE producer’s workshop, and we have been keeping an eye on each other’s work ever since. Janja worked on Šarūnas' previous film, which was presented at Cannes in 2015, also in the Directors' Fortnight. I was at the festival with the first feature I co-produced, the Polish-French film Raging Rose by first-time director Julia Kowalski, which had its premiere in the ACID section. We actually had screenings of our films at Cannes on the same day. I met Šarūnas through Janja some time later, and when his new project involving Poland came up and Janja reached out to me, I had no doubt that I wanted to be a part of it. Interestingly enough, the Ukrainian co-producer, Olena Yershova, is also our EAVE classmate. So, along with Jurga Dikciuviane, a Lithuanian producer, we formed a dream team of women producers. Each of us already had co-production experience, and we already knew what it took to work with partners from different countries. It is a pleasure to be part of such a team.
The film follows a Lithuanian who travels to Ukraine to provide humanitarian aid. How did the Polish contribution come about?
When Šarūnas was writing the script for the film, he already had Polish actor Andrzej Chyra in mind for one of the supporting roles. Also, some of the scenes were shot in Poland because the protagonist of the film travels from Lithuania to Ukraine via Poland. So Frost is a natural co-production, not a financial one. It is also the fastest project I’ve ever worked on. We applied to the Polish Film Institute for a subsidy in August 2016, and by late March 2017, the shoot had wrapped and some initial post-production had already been done.
You have worked with film crews from all over the world: the USA, the UK, Iran, Egypt, France, Ukraine and Lithuania. What is your decision process when it comes to choosing projects?
I just want to state that my company, Donten & Lacroix Films, is involved in two types of activities: service production, and our own productions and co-productions. As a service producer, we have worked for American producers in Poland, for French ones in Eastern Europe, and for Polish ones in France. Very often we've been recommended by one foreign crew to another because, as you know, in film production, you don’t get hired from the ad. And what I've learned over the years is to choose a project I know I can do well, instead of accepting every offer that comes along. Sometimes it’s better to wait. As a co-producer or a leading producer, I am looking for projects that have strong artistic qualities that address important issues from an interesting perspective. I am convinced that I should board the film when we share a common vision with the auteurs and directors, and when I feel I can defend it.
What are your goals for the next few years?
As a leading producer, I’m currently working on a project that will combine animation and live action. We have already received development grants from the three national funds - Polish, French and German. Additionally, we received support from the MEDIA Creative Europe programme. Also, my company is currently preparing a new minority European co-production. That’s not all: I’ve just come back from Los Angeles, and I’m hoping to be working more with American crews as their European partner and co-producer.
You say that in Poland you’re considered a French producer, and in France a Polish one. How would you define it yourself?
I’m definitely… a European producer. I can’t imagine not working on an international level. The co-operation between countries gives a film so many opportunities in terms of distribution and the scale of production.
What do you expect from your participation in the Producers on the Move programme?
I see it as an amazing opportunity to promote our work, and I am very excited. Producers naturally work behind the scenes, so it feels good to be “on the move”. Of course, I’m hoping to find new partners and new, outstanding projects for co-productions. I firmly believe in the power of European networking.
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