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netribution > features > interview with pawel pawlikowski > page two


Was it all a mistake for Tanya in the end? Or did she need to go through it to turn her life around?
It's definitely a turning point because she learns not to be so sentimental and dependent on men and although her relationship with Alfie seems to be blossoming she still doesn't trust herself and she doesn’t trust him totally. She knows she has to go back and start again, especially because of him - he's a complicated guy.

The porn baron seemed like the classic manipulator but did you ever want to take him further than that - have him be a pimp?
I wanted to do something completely different, I wanted to make him relatively nice guy. You know that he's a real pornographer don't you? Ben Dover.

Is that him?!
Yes, this was his first acting role and he really wanted to be directed, I mean he does his own thing but it was a pleasure to work with him. The BBC couldn't pay him obviously because he has a criminal record but he was incredibly competent and he's great material to work from. Then I wanted to take him a step further, push the story a bit so that he becomes a real character.


Do you think he deserved such a beating?
It was an emotional outburst by Alfie.

I just didn't expect it.
Well he's a bit of a violent thug. He ended up there because of previous problems and fights, he's a very generous and warm-hearted guy but he has a very short fuse.

What did you plan for the pornographer originally?
Not originally but at some point after I'd shot the first scenes between him and Tanya, I realised that he was a really magnetic character so I thought why not establish a more rounded relationship between them. Not a love affair certainly not but something more but I understood his limitations as an actor.

Where have you taken the film?
Well I haven't taken it anywhere but it's been around the world. It won the best British film at Edinburgh, it won best film, best actor, actress and the critics prize at Thessaloniki and it won the critics prize in London.

You haven't been travelling with cast to these places then?
Well no because there's no money, it's still treated as a small film and the Beeb are still surprised at its successes.


A bit late on the uptake perhaps?
Well we don't have a perfect print because it is being shown all over the place all of a sudden, it's even being distributed in the States - it's amazing. It's been distributed in Germany, Spain Poland, Russia - all over the place but had we thought of that success after Edinburgh we'd have made a really good print then but now we are constantly behind. If people don't invest much up front then they are rarely keen on putting more money in afterwards. It did very well in Venice, not in competition, and then it won at Best film at the Gijon festival in Spain.

Was Tockers a festival film
That was a 50 minute film so it didn't qualify, it was between 2 schools. I did it with a very good friend of mine called Ian Duncan, as a partnership to try to short circuit the feature film world and the drama department of TV. We went to the drama department of the BBC and told them that if they gave us a certain amount of money then we'd come back with an interesting film. I'd done a lot of documentaries that had won a lot of awards before so I had kudos. Anyway we went away and came back with a drama but if you want to be successful you need to have an executive who believes in the thing and will push it - whose career depends on it. The guy who commissioned the thing left the Beeb just afterwards and then the guy who replaced him didn't really know what to do with it because it wasn't his baby.
Sorry, I tried to short-circuit the system. When you make a film here or in any western country it's all about rewrites and script editors, it becomes a collective effort but the more people get involved the more formulaic it becomes. So we just tried to get a small amount of money and make the film without getting other people involved.

I suppose walking in the back door like that costs you the promotion of the film if it succeeds.
Well that's the way I've always done it but I'm very happy with the film. The funny thing is the way the media works, it's more important to have a media image than to make a good film.

What would you have done if the BBC had given you double that amount?
They would have been looking over my shoulder. As I said I have a certain reputation so it wasn't a huge risk for them and it wasn't a huge amount of money. It was good to work with them in a way because there wasn't this huge producorial presence and because it's this strange bureaucracy, I can work my way around it - it's a bit like communist Poland where you can get a lot done by things being pretty vague. The price you pay is at the other end when the film needs promoting and they become lukewarm!

Are you still in touch with the Polish film scene?
Very much because I am always going back there but Polish cinema has almost disappeared now. It's not the money it's that the society has changed, for a long time there was a taste for art but now there is a populist mentality and a taste for American film. The only Polish films that are making any mark are historical epics, cloak and dagger stuff which make Poles feel better about their history and about themselves.

Who were your directorial influences?
Lots but the key moment was my encounter with the Czech new wave, Milos Forman's early films and then early Altman films that were kind of organic and had an element of improvisation. I loved Kes, I'm not sure about Ken Loach's other stuff but that was a special film. Neo Realism, Rossellini and Goddard, early Goddard. Anachronistic taste, it's funny, they are all looking back and people say my film is so contemporary and forward looking when in fact it's a throwback to the ethos of the early 70's! Another director I love is Scorsese with his Meanstreets and Taxi Driver, films where there is a strong authorial voice, authentic expression and with actors who are almost autonomous on screen. Well cast to the point of almost being documentary, that's what I love. That's what gives me a hard on when I'm filming, there's something happening here and it's a piece of magic and if I don't feel that on a film it's really depressing. For me filmmaking is not just technical storytelling, it's not a load of shots that fit into a puzzle that then becomes a story.


What's your academic background?
It was literature and philosophy. I did a post grad in German literature at Oxford. It didn't mean anything to me and I was just writing.

You co-wrote this film didn't you?
No I wrote this myself to be honest, he (Rowan Joffe) was put on the case by the BBC because they thought Tockers wasn't dramatic enough but the only dramatist they could afford was someone who had never done anything before. Rowan is much more into genre films, he was bred on American cinema and he's into romantic comedy.

How did that work then?
Well it didn't. He became a kind of transcriber of our workshops really, the co-writers were the actors. They created the personalities and they started believing, they became the test for every scene, just by looking at Dina or Paddy I could tell when a scene wasn't working. They weren't the sort of technical actors who would just make it work. We rented this house to save money and so we could be together and Dina would come to me in the middle of the night saying 'I don't understand this scene, can we just imagine it again'? They became partners and a lot of the scenes were invented the day before or on the day.

What are you doing now?
I'm developing 3 different ideas. One is in the spirit of this one but set during the second world war, different story though. It's set on a Scottish island, the MoD try to make a porn movie to raise spirits on the front and they give the task to this clapped out director. By accident the director, the actor and the actress who is a prostitute…well not by accident but because they don't know what they are doing they actually end up making quite an interesting film - that nobody wants! It's a psycho drama that favours my methods of working as long as I can get the right actors. I'm developing for a while.


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