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Polish Co-Productions Continue Apace as Film Incentives Wait for Final Legislation

Polish co-productions are clearly on the ascendant even with the country’s planned 25% cash-back incentives not yet in force. The sweetener package, similar to ones in effect in the neighboring Czech Republic and Hungary, is still wending its way through the legislature as local producers continue to compete for business.

“In general, there were around 15 co-productions in 2017, be it minority or majority,” says Film Commission Poland’s Tomasz Dabrowski.

You might be hard-pressed to say the incentives delay is hurting the production sector, at least for the past year. Polish-U.K. co-production “Loving Vincent,” with each frame hand-painted in the style of the film’s subject Vincent van Gogh, recently grabbed an Oscar nomination for animated feature.

Hugh Welchman, based in Poland, co-directed with Dorota Kobiela and sought out U.K. participation in the partially Kickstarter-funded film to widen its appeal.

“We decided to make it a Polish-U.K. production because we wanted to make the film in English using a high-level British cast to maximize the reach of the project worldwide,” he says. “The painting animation talent on the film was majority Polish, and almost all the animation was done in Poland.”

The city of Lodz has also proven itself a sought-after resource for Poland.

In the summer the locale became a set for Moroccan-French-Polish documentary “The Director’s Chair, Mostafa Derkaoui,” directed by Sophie Delvallée. The German-Polish road film “Whatever Happens Next,” directed by Julian Porksen, was also shot in Lodz, with the help of co-producer Agnieszka Dziedzic from Koi Studio, responsible for set design, costumes, sound, lighting and production management.

Meanwhile, Warsaw-based Opus Film produced crime series “Ultraviolet,” commissioned by Sony Pictures Television Networks Central Europe. Inspired by Deborah Halber’s novel “The Skeleton Crew,” the series is directed by Jan Komasa (“Warsaw 44,” “Suicide Room”) and Slawomir Fabicki (“Loving,” “The Crime 2”).

In February, Lower Silesia hosted “Der Hauptmann,” directed by Robert Schwentke (“Red,” “Insurgent”), a fact-based WWII story about the feats of a faux captain and a group of deserters. It was filmed over three months in the area of Wroclaw and Zgorzelec for Berling producers Filmgalerie 451 and Poland’s Opus Film and Tempus Film.

One long-term project just wrapped following an eight-year collaboration: The 3D animation-doc mix “Another Day of Life” is a Spanish-Polish-Belgian-German-Hungarian project focusing on the life of foreign correspondent Ryszard Kapuscinski.

In addition, historic tales making use of Poland’s landscapes continue to roll in: The upcoming production “The Painted Bird,” starring Harvey Keitel, Udo Kier, Stellan Skarsgard and young Czech Petr Kotlar, is an adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s Holocaust novel of the same name, a Czech-Slovak-Polish-Ukrainian co-production; “My Name Is Sara,” meanwhile, is an American fact-based tale based on the life of Sara Guralnick, a 13-year-old Polish Jew who lost her family to Nazi death squads, produced with Poland’s Watchout Prods. Led by Polish actors Eryk Lubos and Michalina Olszanska (“The Lure,” “I, Olga Hepnarova”), the film will use Polish post-production facilities before release in fall.

Another co-production, Israeli-Polish “Scaffolding,” a gritty father-son story by Matan Yair taking on the entrapment of working-class life, screened to warm reviews in Toronto last year. Meanwhile Greek-Polish comedy “Pity,” by writer-director Babis Makridis, just screened at Sundance, turning on parallel reality of the kind his co-writer Efthymis Filippou created in “The Lobster” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.”

Poland also hosted two sci-fi projects in 2017: Claire Denis’ English-lingo debut “High Life,” with Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche as passengers on a prison spaceship, is a French-German-British-Polish project that filmed in the Bialystok region, while Scandinavian fantasy TV skein “Thannanaya” used multiple seasons and Polish landscapes, working with Warsaw-based No Sugar Films.

Two more international projects planned for Polish production are Netflix projects: an adaptation of “The Witcher” series created by Andrzej Sapkowski, and an alternate history TV series directed by Agnieszka Holland that is yet to be titled.

Polish settings will also frame three projects still in development: German-Polish-Canadian film “Adventures of a Mathematician,” directed by Thorsten Klein; the U.S.-British-Polish “Gareth Jones,” directed by Holland; and Israeli-Polish “A War Has Ended,” directed by Hagar Ben-Asher.

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