In this digital age, more and more photographers and filmmakers are getting charmed by technologies of the past. Those who prefer working with tangible medium move from manipulating pixels to tinkering with rolls of negatives and vintage film cameras. Film director and scriptwriter Jan Okulicz-Kozaryn is one of them.
In this interview, he talks about shooting a music video with a Super 8 camera, his filmmaking philosophies, and the place of analogue in this modern world.
Hello Jan! Please introduce yourself to the Lomography community.
I am a film director, scriptwriter and founder of the talent team formula website, TLUMTLUM, for audiovisual artists and brands.
Your music video for Leepeek’s “No One Knows” captured our attention with its nostalgic atmosphere. Tell us the story behind it. How did you come up with the concept for this video? And why did you decide to shoot it with a Super 8 camera?
The story kicks off in a bar in winter, which is strange because this is where you usually end up at night on the weekend. I did so many times, too. The bar was called Huśtawka (Swing). It is the middle of the week and there is hardly anyone there. I meet Piotr Lipka, the club’s owner, who is also the singer and songwriter Leepeck.
“I’m launching a new crowd-sourcing film portal. What’s up?”
“I’ve recorded a few tunes on my iPhone. Have a listen.”
It sounded great. It was just vocal, guitar, and sometimes a foot thumping the rhythm. It was very raw and true.
“You know, they are all about one girl. Just like Bob Dylan: ‘If you go to the north country fair, please see for me if her coat is so warm…’”
A month later our platform was ready and I was looking for something cool to open our new website TLUMTLUM. A video clip competition “Girls from the North” for one of Leepeck’s songs sounded like a good idea.
After this adventure, we still like filming that way. We used elements of Super 8 in the clip for the 30th anniversary of Discovery TV, which was nominated for PR SABRE Awards 2016.
We get the ball rolling with new projects where the Super 8 is going to be important. This time, we’ll be shooting in color. Leepeck will release the record in autumn. Winter is coming and see if his coat is warm.
Walk us through the filming process. What was the most challenging part of the shoot?
We agreed that we will make one video clip as an inspiration for filmmakers and as an invitation to the competition. At this time Leepeck recorded the first song of his project “No One Knows” in the studio. I invited two great guys, who I knew they would dig it, to work on this video: Grzegorz Wierzchowski, a brilliant cameraman with a documentary mindset and a man who can do something out of nothing, and Jakub Sladkowski, a documentary film editor with a great picture sensitivity and discipline in building the story.
Wierzchowski, who we worked with on the script, came up with the idea to film with a Super 8 camera. Nostalgia, the vintage atmosphere of the song, and the fact that Leepeck also recorded the tune on analogue—these all were good arguments to go for it. And so we did.
After the first script check, without the participation of the songwriter, we were sure Leepeck should play a part in the video. We didn’t want him to act. He was supposed to be the way he really is: a guy who has a club and spends his time in it. A guy who takes a guitar from street musicians and plays his favorite tunes (Elvis Presley).
We bought a Rollei Movie 6 Macro Super 8 camera and a Russian projector RUŚ. This great almost unused equipment, as it turned out, cost not more than €1,000. We decided to go for black-and-white film to boost the nostalgic tone. We spent two days shooting with a plan and the outline of the story which we verified as we went along. And there were some limitations…
We decided we should fit everything into five reels of film. One reel is about three minutes of clip. This really motivates one to think what is really important. There is no coincidence but the coolest shots just came here and now. At the end of shooting we were happy, curious, and worried if we got the right exposure.
Of course, we could have sent the film for professional editing but the idea was to create the spirit of film showing at home. That is why, we bought a RUŚ projector where we’ll play the developed film. We entangled the negatives a bit with clumsy fingers, wound it onto the reel, joined all films into one reel and played it. Once. Twice. It looked really cool. It was magic. We played the song. It went together well.
We were sure we didn’t need professional editing. Pictures from the projector with their raw and scorched look will be perfect. We recorded the film with a digital camera and started editing. A few post-production tricks made it to the clip which made the narration more lively. And the story has been told.
Do you have plans to explore other analogue movie cameras apart from the Super 8? What do you have in mind?
It would be great to use the potential of 16mm and 35mm. Larger film formats offer room for shooting like this. Both for the Internet and cinema. But I am thinking about 16mm mostly in the context of documentary-based film, documentary series, including a lot of improvisation and home shooting.
If you could film a famous personality with the Super 8 camera, who would it be? What would the concept of the video be?
There are a lot of people like that. I don’t know if they are famous. I make friends with someone, start to dig their way of thinking, and I can see a hero. I believe a film makes heroes, not the other way round. Reporter’s background drives me to look for people who are suitable for films. I’ve been recently to an emergency ward at the hospital. It was just one evening but there were a lot of great characters. The master of pictures in a documentary, Bogdan Dziworski, is currently making a film about Andy Warhol and the next one will be about Keith Richards. I think they are great heroes. Revealing relationships between nature and culture is always intriguing.
Describe your filmmaking style in three words.
Punctum is always better than studium. To be honest, I don’t give a shit about studium. Done with boring imagination of the Enlightenment. I like pictures and shots which you can feel. There must always be a story in such shots. There is no coincidence in film.
Nature is always more important than culture. Culture can only be a background to what really matters, what is biological and constant.
I like photos where this simple truth can be seen. This shows contrast. There is no film without contrast.
A dog is friendlier than the cat. A man who wants to be in a film is more honest than the one who has doubts. I like it when the protagonist feels at home in the photo. There is no film without friendship.
So punctum, nature, friendship.
In this digital age, why still film?
When you move your eye to the lens, you can see something truer, more different, and stronger. Your eye likes it. This is why it is worth it!
What’s next for Jan Okulicz-Kozaryn and TLUMTLUM? Any plans on shooting another music video on film soon?
This is great that so many brands have a history they can boast. A story in the form of content video about the importance of brand value is crucial for many brands. The words like traditional, reliable, impressive or even ecological may be close even to new brands, just like the Super 8 film. This is how I understand the phenomenon of retro modernity in practice. Retro is fascinating. It is conservative but it draws from best examples. In this way it is selective. Modernity is just boring. Retro restores it and adds flavor to it. Generally, it has a history and this is a great advantage in the audio video creation.
We make stylish, beautiful, timeless videos based on the solid framework of values for brands which take pride in traditional quality. Videos on fashion and cars made in the analogue format. Naturally, I’m also thinking about music forms. The video for Leepeck will surely not be the last one made on film.
All images and information in this article was provided by Jan Okulicz-Kozaryn to Lomography and were used here with permission. To see more of Jan Okulicz-Kozaryn’s work, follow him on Facebook and Instagram or visit TLUMTLUM’s social media pages (Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube).