Interview: Adrian Panek Talks Directing, ‘Werewolf’November 2, 2019
Recently, we had the chance to talk with director Adrian Panek about his new movie ‘Werewolf’, which played at the 2019 Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
Was filmmaking something you always wanted to do or did you discover it later on, like a happy accident?
Adrian: I remember as a kid when I watched Star Wars, I thought it was a good idea to do something like this but when I was a teenager there weren’t any Polish film schools, in the seventies, so in the eighties when you wanted to study directing, you had to finish other studies. Because of that, I went to study architecture before this, then I passed exams in film school, so I wanted to be a filmmaker but thought I should get a real job before this.
So you did think of doing something else besides filmmaking?
Adrian: Yeah, I did have a moment where I wanted to be an architect but it was only a few years. I think deep down I always knew I was going to be a filmmaker.
You’ve done writing and directing. Do you have a favorite or do you enjoy both equally?
Adrian: When you’re a young filmmaker it’s easier to write something down, a script, than direct something. I think I prefer making movies, the directing part, it’s like when you do a movie, you do it three times. The first time you write it down, the second time you shoot it and the third time you edit it. When you are shooting the film you see earlier mistakes in the writing, and so when you are editing you are trying to correct this and all mistakes.
Do you write, direct and edit because you want to or because it’s more practical?
Adrian: It is practical, yes, but also I don’t do the editing alone. There is this tradition in Poland where directors very often write for themselves but I think when I’m older it’s a good idea to have someone who is writing for you or some kind of partner. It’s good to have some feedback and having someone around is good.
Let’s talk about Werewolf. Where did the idea come from for this movie?
Adrian: I had this idea to make something close to a horror movie or thriller, it’s not a popular genre in Poland. When you watch an American movie you believe in everything, for one hundred years we’ve been taught to believe in the Hollywood dreams, stuff like this. When you watch European movies, horror, it’s not like this, like Italian movies from the seventies, it’s not so scary and sometimes it’s joined with comedy and some erotic stuff. When I was thinking about this it’s hard to find some kind of domestic you can believe in…when I made my debut I was talking to a friend who is an actor, he was in the Hungarian movie Son of Saul, about Auschwitz, and he was a kid in the eighties in a small town in Poland called Oswiecim, German name was Auschwitz, which was in the shadow of this terrible camp, so he was telling me about his childhood, very happy, normal, doing things other boys his age were doing and I thought this could be some sort of theme for a movie, something very terrible and alive, but there was no plot in this. When I was reading more about concentration camps, I thought it might be a good idea to join all of these things, the genre, and these holocaust stories, and I tried to create a real horror story, like man turning into an animal, some kind of dark fable. I started writing with this in mind and that’s how I ended up with Werewolf.
As a director, what were the biggest challenges in making Werewolf?
Adrian: In film school, the professors always said do not work with kids and animals, they are the most difficult to work with, and I had both. (laughs) I did work with animals before doing commercials and kids as well, but on a much smaller scale, so I was actually quite well prepared for this. We were looking for these kids for two years, we had a lot of rehearsals and we had some special teams from Hungary who worked with the dogs. When we had the kids and the dogs together rehearsing in this palace, so I think overall we were quite well prepared. However, working with kids and dogs, sometimes they are not in the mood, mostly kids, not dogs, so we had a special girl taking care of the kids, especially during the breaks in filming, so it was a lot of fun but a lot of work, also.
The kids in the movie are excellent. Was it tough finding the right kids to fill these roles?
Adrian: It was hard finding kids, yeah, it was tough. We wanted kids with character, from tough neighborhoods, who could kind of understand the horrors of these camps and how it changes you. We searched for them around all of Poland and after two years we found our group of eight and started to work with them, especially through some specific scenes and ideas.
Werewolf tackles some tough subject matter. Have you found it hard to market this movie, to film festivals for example?
Adrian: No, not really. I couldn’t travel with it because of my schedule but it has made it to many continents, won some prizes. Someone says it’s a horror, someone says it’s a thriller, someone says it’s a drama, it depends on what you’re afraid of. I think the combination of the genre and the serious topics in the movies works well for the curiosity of fans.
So what projects do you have coming up next?
Adrian: I’ve got this idea about Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem, he has written Solaris, which was made first by Andrei Tarkovsky and then Steven Soderbergh, so I have some ideas, he was a very interesting character and there are some great stories about him, surrounding him, so that is my next project.
I want to thank Adrian for taking the time to talk with us