Michal Chacinski shakes up Gdynia

Gdynia, POLAND — Two of Hollywood’s top screenwriting gurus are helping transform Poland’s national film festival in the Baltic sea resort of Gdynia into a platform for promoting and developing the national film industry.

Syd Field and Christopher Vogler — whose books and seminars have helped countless Hollywood screenwriters develop their craft over the past few decades — have been sharing their expertise at the 37th edition of the Gdynia Film Festival this week as part of a festival shake up initiated by artistic director Michal Chacinski.

Chacinski was appointed last year after telling a selection committee made up of Poland’s top film industry funders and institutions that the festival was dying for lack of new blood.

For many years the festival was simply an annual review of Polish feature films, and the competition program had expanded to a bloated 23 film by 2010.

Chacinski halved that number and has set about revolutionizing the festival’s concept and purpose.

“I decided the festival should promote Polish film and bring the filmmakers in to allow people to meet them,” Chacinski told Variety.

The result is a festival where training events are running alongside screenings and the public can talk to filmmakers about their craft as well as watch movies.

This year’s workshops with Vogler are intensive daily sessions with the directors and producers of five carefully selected projects that are already in pre-production. The Syd Field seminars — screened by live video link from Los Angeles because Field was, at the last minute, unable to travel to Poland — have attracted an audience of around 100 would-be screenwriters, some of whom have flown into Gdynia specifically for the event.

Next year Chacinski plans to add more events designed to help improve the quality and international reach of Polish films.

The festival, which this year is screening 13 films in competition including Agnieszka Holland’s wartime drama “In Darkness,” closes Saturday.

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