Lynch rallies Lodz for Art Center

Director developed plan for new film studio

WARSAW — David Lynch’s relationship with the Polish city of Lodz, where he shot much of “Inland Empire,” started in 2000 at the Camerimage Film Festival, where he picked up a special award for his work with cinematographer Frederick Elmes. In a way, the metropolis, with its reconstituted factories and famous film school, and Lynch, an avant garde filmmaker with art-loft sensibilities, formed a perfect match.

Having taken to Lodz’s industrial architecture, Lynch accepted a proposition from the Camerimage fest director, Marek Zydowicz, to approach the city with plans for organizing a film studio. They partnered with Andrzej Walczak, co-owner of Atlas Group, one of the country’s most successful business holdings. In January 2006 the trio started a foundation, the aim of which was to establish the World Art Center, to be housed in a century-old power plant in the city’s center.

Collection of funds for the project is ongoing, with contributions from Arri, Panavision, Kodak, Sony and Technicolor, among others. The project also benefits from the support of Polish regional authorities, including the Ministry of Culture and the Polish Film Institute.

The complex consists of two main buildings in which the studio will be located, plus another building in which exhibition facilities and the Camerimage festival will be headquartered (the latter to be designed by Frank Gehry, whose parents originally came from Lodz).

The studio will comprise a small (approximately 8,600 square feet) production set, a symphonic recording hall and post-production facilities. The investment is estimated at $70 million. It is jointly financed by World Art Foundation, the City of Lodz and the European Union.

“I fell in love with Lodz,” says Lynch about settling on the former textile capital of Poland. “Its architecture is exceptional. I felt inspired from the first moment I saw it. This city is like a dream.”

Apart from being an industrial center, Lodz touts a rich tradition of filmmaking with the first Polish film school established there in 1948. Among its graduates were Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Kieslowski and Roman Polanski, one of Lynch’s heroes.

“We wanted to sustain the Lodz values, which David picked up on very well,” says Zydowicz. “It is the magic of the people and the places, where very important Polish films were made. We want to bring people back to those places and use that magic.”

Construction is to begin this year, with the studio scheduled to be operational in 2009. The festival center should be ready by 2011.

Production plans, however, are already taking shape. Zydowicz and helmer-cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak are jointly producing the latter’s Merian C. Cooper project. Talks are also under way with German investors on a biopic of the painter Edvard Munch, as well as with conceptual artist Matthew Barney on his new project to be produced in Poland before the end of the year.

Barbara Hollender contributed to this report.