Imagine: the start of the 21st century, Poland. A young student at Łódź Film School is tired… of his own etude. The film is, to quote the director, “some existential babble about a guy in the desert who finds a pile of junk.” The filmmaker jokingly adds that his short perfectly fits the school mainstream since pretty much every student’s first-year movies are heavy, ambitious and dark. That’s why he chooses an entirely different direction for his next project.
This young artist is Damian Nenow, future winner of a European Film Award for Best Animation and member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. So, what will the next film of this up-and-coming director be like?
“Ambitious. With someone running and someone shooting. I wanted the protagonist to keep running away from the movie, from the screen. Out of a variety of absurd, silly, perverse and vulgar options, I chose the most outrageous one: the icon for partly cloudy weather,” recollects Damian.
THE GREAT ESCAPE
And that’s how The Great Escape was born. This fun and creative animation tells the story of a cartoon sun escaping from a television weather forecast. Comedy is what helps Damian find his own film language.
“Before I drafted the script, I storyboarded, in full detail, the scene with the sun showing its butt. I have witnesses,” Damian laughs.
The Great Escape turns out to be quite a success. It’s picked up for distribution by Platige Image, which elevates it to something more than just a student etude. The comedic story opens the door to a great career for Damian, who, after graduating, joins the studio and starts working on commercial projects. In the meantime, he begins working on something entirely different. Once again, something serious.
PATHS OF HATE
Paths of Hate is a tale of fighter pilots completely consumed by hate. This bold animation proves that Damian has no problem finding himself in different genres and is able to masterfully craft emotions.
How does a young director move from a light-hearted story to a serious work of art? As it turns out, the switch isn’t easy. Moreover, Paths of Hate has a great impact on Damian.
“The energy and dynamics of Paths of Hate are a more or less conscious expression of my own emotions. Still, to this day, I feel a real connection to this movie. It defines me on an emotional level, even though I can’t really say how. The hardest part was shaping emotions into a digestible visual form. The feelings had existed within me, but I had to sculpt the movie. Designing it was a delicate process. It was easy to go overboard and get overly pompous, or the opposite: make a primitive anecdote that screams WAR IS BAD. The circular narrative structure, from the white lines in the sky to the bloody scars in the snow, took shape at an early stage. But the details, or the universal ending (which I don’t particularly like) took a long time. This film had to mature over 2-3 years,” says Damian, clearly lost in his memories.
Damian’s Paths of Hate and, later, Fish Night open the door for Platige Image to collaborate with Electronic Arts on the Apex Legends series. One of the world’s leading video game publishers, when planning to expand its flagship game title into animation, takes notice of the director’s distinctive style.
Read more about Paths of Hate and the making of the film on our BEHANCE.
CINEMA SPEAKS IN EMOTIONS
Emotions are the essence of cinema. They’re present in every single movie, whether it’s a funny and silly comedy or a touching, serious drama. And also in animations. From the director’s standpoint, which is the better vessel to carry and convey emotions? A living, breathing actor, or an animated one, not necessarily a human?
“Animation, creating worlds, manipulating reality – all of these give you a lot of room for manoeuvre. In an animated movie, the director is as close to his digital actor as he is to the scenery or lighting. When I design scenes, when I load them to the RAM memory in my head, they are 100% complete: fully cut and with sound. I express emotions through everything in the frame. It seems easier to do in an animated movie than in live action, where the end result often depends on the human factor, other people, and their random chemistry,” Damian explains.
With his subsequent projects, Damian proves that he feels confident in any genre. He creates City of Ruins, numerous video game cinematics, the feature film Another Day of Life and Fish Night, an animation within the Love, Death & Robots anthology.
After all of this, does Damian want to return to comedy at some point? Or would he rather keep dealing in deeper emotions?
“The animated films that I find the most satisfying are the ones that allow me to play with surrealism, manipulate space on an epic scale, and give the viewer a bomb of condensed energy. This is possible in any film genre,” says the director.
Damian dedicated many years to making his feature-length animation Another Day of Life, based on the book by Ryszard Kapuściński, and the film received a number of prestigious prizes, including a European Film Award.
“The movie came with a price,” the director admits. “The burden of this experience is what’s stopping me from attempting something new on this scale again. But, on the other hand, a smaller scale now seems much less appealing.”
HISTORY HAS COME FULL CIRCLE
Just like in his student years, Damian is tired. However, now he has the experience and knows what to do to vent his emotions through film. When asked about his greatest dream, he answers with a smile, and somewhat mysteriously:
“It depends on the time of day, and how much time has passed from my last snack.”
Now you can get acquainted with the beginnings of Damian’s career with Platige Originals: Long Story Shorts as both The Great Escape and Paths of Hate are available on our Vimeo channel: LONG STORY SHORTS.