by Dorota Hartwich
- Polish producer Klaudia Smieja is currently working on films by Agnieszka Holland, Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson, Janis Nords and Sofia Exarchou
Klaudia Smieja, of Polish outfit Madants, made a name for herself working as a line producer on Rams [+see also:
interview: Grimur Hakonarson
film profile]. She is currently co-producing Agnieszka Holland’s Gareth Jones, Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson’s Under the Tree, Janis Nords’ Foam at the Mouth and Sofia Exarchou’s Park [+see also:
interview: Sofia Exarchou
Cineuropa: Your production company, Madants, is a small business, exactly how do you operate?
Klaudia Smieja: There are three of us in the company: Beata Rzezniczek, Agnieszka and me. We enjoy working as a small team, but we collaborate with a lot of different people, most notably with Eliza Oczkowska, with whom we are currently finishing up a Turkish-French-German-Polish co-production: Clair-Obscur. We also worked together to produce Agnus Dei [+see also:
interview: Lou de Laâge
film profile] and Rams.
You’ve worked on comedies, but, for the most part, your editorial policy seems to focus on more challenging themes. What is the motivation behind your decisions?
Essentially, as a producer, I’m interested in challenging themes. I also love genre films. When making choices I always take the script into account, but I obviously also look at who is directing and who is producing, because they are the people with whom we will be sharing all the hard times and the risks.
You’re not tempted by more mainstream productions or box office potential?
We focus on films, the distribution for which will be as wide as possible. We look at the quality of the film, but also that of the audience. When you talk about the box office, you could just as start asking about Polish audiences… If you take a look at Agnus Dei, while taking into account the fact that it is a true Polish story, with a partially Polish cast, you’d think that attendance would be higher in Poland than in France, but the results show the exact opposite! The film was a great success In France with close to 800,000 viewers, while in Poland it struggled to attract an audience of 60,000.
What appeals to you about co-producing with several central and eastern European countries like Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia and Lithuania?
We are currently finishing the Polish-Greek co-production, Park, as well as working on a Polish-Icelandic-Danish co-production Under the Tree. We are also working on a project that will take place in the Pakistani Himalayas. The locations aren’t what appealed to us, however, we were drawn in by the themes and the teams, although, I will admit that it is always a great pleasure to go back to Greece and Iceland often, as we have very good relationships with the producers there and we find interesting themes and directors there as well.
Is it hard to get a gauge on the potential distribution in countries with smaller markets than it is in western territories? Is there a greater risk?
Film production is a risky sector, regardless of the country. It just makes it that much more important to have good partners, support and confidence. Local distribution does not ensure high returns, and what save us are the international sales.
You often work on rather complex co-productions, involving partners from very different countries, culturally speaking.
And for that I am very happy. Not only because I can satisfy my curiosity, but because it’s the perfect chance to form creative bonds that are not as obvious as at first glance, to find new themes, and to travel. Technically speaking, this kind of work is a little different from local co-productions, but we can count on greater support and stronger involvement from co-producers, as their investment is not solely a financial one.
What are the main difficulties you encounter as a Polish proudcer?
Every film is different and has its own, unique problems. In economical terms, the hardest thing is finding funding alternatives outside of the Polish Film Institute and the lack of tax credits.
What are you hoping to get out of your participation at Producers on the Move at Cannes?
I think it will be a great opportunity to exchange experiences. I already know one of the participants, Anamaria Antoci, whom I worked with on Adrian Sitaru’s Illegitimate [+see also:
interview: Adrian Sitaru