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“We Could Have Easily Ended Up Without Any Protagonists” | Jakub Piątek, Pianoforte

Marcin Wieczorek in PianoforteMarcin Wieczorek in Pianoforte (photo by Darek Golik)

Every production faces unexpected obstructions that require creative solutions and conceptual rethinking. What was an unforeseen obstacle, crisis, or simply unpredictable event you had to respond to, and how did this event impact or cause you to rethink your film?

One of the obvious obstacles for us was lockdown. We are telling a mosaic story with different protagonists and, during the process, we found out that we couldn’t visit some of them because of COVID and really long quarantines in some countries. 

We asked our friends from the Film School in Łódź for help and built local teams to replace us in China, Russia and Japan. We shared some assemblies of particular protagonists with them and tried to plan shooting days carefully. Every night, we watched dailies and discussed them with our crews to keep our film contained. 

I remember two particular days before the Chopin Competition started that we had a huge overlap. Filip Drozdz (DP), Anna Rok (sound) and myself being in Italy, while in another part of the world Shuxuan Mei was shooting in China and Kei Ishikawa in Japan—with all the time differences, we ended up sleeping almost nothing for two days during that overlap.

Another thing was our main assumption for the film. We chose our protagonist young pianists using our gut feeling and documentary intuition, not judging them by their music. The Competition itself has four stages, so every couple of days half of the participants go back home. With our assumption, we could have easily ended up without any protagonists in the Competition after just a few days. But we didn’t. You need to trust your intuition, and risk is a part of filmmaking.

See all responses to our annual Sundance Question here.

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