Polish filmmaker ALEKSANDRA TERPISKA is a director and screenwriter of short films, documentaries, commercials and music videos. In 2016 she graduated from Toronto Talent Lab at the International Film Festival in Toronto. Her latest film, The Best fireworks Ever premiered in Cannes 2017 in Critics Week and won there Canal + Award and Rail d’Or.
She has made 3 shorts films – Chicken, All Souls’ Day and America – and a documentary – Czech Swan.
Her short film America has received 22 awards including Golden Horseman of the Youth Jury at Filmfest Dresden, Best Short Film at Sehsuchte International Student Film Festival in Potsdam, Golden Tadpole at Camerimage IFF, Early Bird Grand Award in Bulgaria and The Flaming Faun at Shnit International Shortfilm Festival.
Her previous film “All Souls’ Day” was shown at over 100 film festivals among them San Sebastian, Palm Springs, Los Angeles, Edinburgh, Clermont-Ferrand. It received 19 awards, including Grand Prix at Short Film Festival in Drama, Best Short Film at Cottbus Film Festival and PFI and Mastershot Award at Camerimage IFF.
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Here we talk to Aleksandra about the making of her short film, America, which was awarded a Special Mention at the Winchester Short Film Festival 2016.
What training did you undertake to become a filmmaker?
I have graduated directing at the University of Silesia in Katowice.
Where do you get your inspiration for your projects?
I’m inspired by people around me, their stories, but also by reading books and newspapers. I’m always looking for immersive stories and interesting characters.
How do you go about financing your projects?
If I know I have a good story I need to tell, I always find a way to finance it. Someway. Somehow.
How do you cast your films?
I usually make long castings, and think a lot who should star in my films. I watch my actors at castings, but also in theaters, in other films to try to know them better.
What cameras do you use, and why?
I have worked already on 16 mm, Red, Alexa, Alexa mini, Amira, Canon, and to be honest – I use the camera I can afford, and the one which is available in the rental which supports my current project. I’m not very picky.
What size crew do you have on your sets, and what roles are the most invaluable?
It always depends on the type of set – I worked on music videos where the crew was 4 people (incl. me) and on my last project there was one day when the crew was 50 people. But honestly I don’t like big crews, because everything goes slower and is more hierarchical. I like to have personal contact with the people in my crew, and have this feeling that we work on something together, as a team or better yet as a family. The most important roles for me are: the director of photography, the set designer and the producer.
How did you go about setting the soundtrack for your film?
I’m usually looking for independent musicians on the Internet, who can license their music for free or for a small fee.
How do you split your time for pre-production, production, and post-production, and which is the most important for you?
I’m a directing screenwriter (or screenwriting director), so the film starts for me with the script’s first draft, which is the most difficult job in the whole process. I like pre-production very much – searching for locations, thinking about framing, rehearsing, because film at this moment slowly starts taking a real shape. I love shooting, because of the adrenalin and exceptional atmosphere on the set, and physically making your film a reality. And then comes the sad process of editing, where you have to face all your decisions, and build the film again. During post-production I like to allocate additional time to let the project sit alone to look at the film with fresh eyes after some days have passed.
What’s the best piece of filmmaking advice you’ve been given?
Love your actors.
What other filmmakers do you most admire?
Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Wojtek Smarzowski, Andrea Arnold, Jane Campion, Krzysztof Kieslowski.
How important are film festivals and competitions to you?
Festivals are the best and only possibility to present my films on big screen and have meetings with live audience. Getting feedback is very important for me, because I make films for people and not for myself. On the other hand I hate competitions, because I don’t make films to compete. Every good film will find its place – filmmakers don’t have to compete. We tend to compare ourselves anyway in life, so why do that on festivals?
What advice would you pass on to burgeoning film makers?
Finish your projects. Even if you know it’s a failure. Always finish your films, and present it to audience. And be ready to receive critique. And then make another film.
What are your future plans?
I’ve just finished my latest short film entitled The best fireworks ever and now I’m starting work on my feature length debut.
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