When filming Poland’s Oscar entry Never Gonna Snow Again last February, the filmmakers and production team would have the bizarre physical and emotional journey the indie title would take in the next eleven months of its completion and unveiling amid a global environment, can never predict pandemic.
The film, which competed at the Venice Film Festival in September and was due to premiere before the event’s cancellation in Telluride, hopes to give Poland another spot on the Oscar nomination table, much like Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War and Jan Komasa’s Corpus Christi Dies happened in 2018 and 2019, although this year’s seat will be a virtual one.
The duo “Never again snow” broke into an affluent apartment complex to tell their film “Class Tale – Contenders”
Born from an idea of the established Polish helmet Malgorzata Szumowska and the cameraman Michal Englert, who worked together on films such as the Berlin Silver Bear winner Mug and the English-language title The Other Lamb, Never Gonna Snow Again from last year, the duo is that for the first time wrote and directed a project together. The story plays Alec Utgoff as Zhenia, a calm but hypnotic masseur from Ukraine who changes the lives of residents in an affluent neighborhood outside Warsaw.
The Polish-German co-production worth USD 2.8 million (EUR 2.3 million) was produced by the duo together with Mariusz Wlodarski and Agnieszka Wasiak from Lava Films, Viola Fügen from The Match Factory and Michael Weber and by Kino Swait , Di Factory, Bayerishcer Rundfunk co-produces / Arte, the Mazovia Warsaw Film Commission and supported by the Polish Film Institute, the Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, the DFFF and the German Polish Film Fund.
“It was fairly easy funding from European funds,” says Fügen. “We were glad we didn’t have to find equity because we could finance it with soft money. In addition, we have all benefited from an equal partnership throughout the process. Usually in co-productions built like this there is a main producer and minority producer, but in our case we really made it an equal partnership. “
The title was filmed in Poland and Germany from December 2019 to February 2020 and was about to start the editing process before Covid-19 brought European countries to a standstill.
“We were incredibly lucky to have finished shooting and blocked a picture when the first bans took place in March in Poland and Germany,” recalls Wlodarski. “We hooked up with Malgo and Michal with Cold War editor Jaroslaw Kaminski, and although they worked remotely in two different cities, we managed to organize this very quickly. It wasn’t the most ideal situation, but everything went smoothly. “
Solid post-production was planned in Germany, but it turned out to be too risky amid travel restrictions. Therefore, all post production was relocated to Poland. “That was the only important thing we had to do in the process. [which was] All in all great, ”he says.
But Wlodarski, who is also the producer of Greek Oscar competitor Apple, admits it has been a difficult journey for non-English language independent films like his, which rely so heavily on festival presence, audience engagement and enthusiasm.
“There is something that you definitely think will be taken away from you,” he says. “I dreamed of being in Telluride – it was one of those festivals that I’ve always wanted to go to and feel the atmosphere. I was absolutely over the moon when my two films were selected, but when they canceled the festival it was the first moment I knew how strange and tough this year could be for these films. When the physical premiere actually took place in Venice, we were so happy to meet people and see their reaction. It was so stimulating. “
Venice Film Festival
Szumowska and Englert agreed that the premiere in Venice was an unforgettable experience. “It’s so important for filmmakers to have this chance,” said the duo. “It was intimate and although we were obviously disappointed that we couldn’t be in Telluride, London and many other fantastic festivals, we understand the situation. It is a painful experience for filmmakers not to be able to present their films in theaters. However, given the reception of the films so far, we are optimistic and hope that art house and indie projects will thrive if we defeat this virus. “
On the back of Venice, Never Gonna Snow Again benefited from excellent reviews and brisk sales for the title. Match Factory sales manager Thania Dimitrakopoulou says the physical event was “a gift to the cinema world”.
“Everyone longed for the moment to discover films in theaters and meet talent, exchange opinions on the films and the live excitement that only a physical festival can offer,” she says.
Füger adds: “We had great revenue with the film and great offers. It felt like it couldn’t have gone much better considering how tough the past year has been. “
Kino Lorber won the title in the US with sales also in Great Britain and Ireland (Picturehouse), Italy (I Wonder), Germany (Real Fiction), Benelux (September Film), Palace Films (Australia / New Zealand) and the CIS – States have been completed (Capella Film), Taiwan (Hurray Films) and Brazil (Imovision). The IFA cinema has acquired rights for Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay.
Promoting Oscar entry films doesn’t feel surprisingly aloof, notes Wlodarski. As the first assistant director for Pawlkowski’s Oscar winner Ida 2013, he saw the enthusiasm and dynamism that a film can have on the other side of the coin. “I remember this process of being part of a global environment, speaking to people around you, and it felt like there were so many options,” he says. “This whole thing about zoom and conference calls doesn’t really make up for that, so it’s emotionally difficult at this level.”
“We’re all a bit blind,” says Fügen. “We work hard to get the movie in front of people and get their attention, but never being with people in the same room or getting a reaction makes it so much harder to understand. I can’t get the same emotional response with Zoom that I could get if I was with people in the same room. It leaves an uncertainty about what is real and what is not. “