When casting for “The Dress” (Sukienka), Tadeusz Łysiak emphasized how Anna Dzieduszycka was perfect for the role of Julka.

“I wanted this protagonist to be strong, to be direct — not afraid to give you a middle finger if you insult her — to listen to death metal, to be… [an] independent woman. And Anna is like that,” Łysiak, the writer and director of the short film, told senior artisans editor Jazz Tangcay in the live action short panel for Variety FYC Fest: The Shortlist.

“The Dress,” on the Oscar shortlist for best short fiction film, emerged amid Łysiak’s studies at the Warsaw Film School. It follows the story of Julka (Dzieduszycka), a young woman who works in a motel in rural Poland and finds herself consumed in loneliness.  The film dives into Julka’s longing for intimacy while following interactions with a truck driver she meets and comes to strongly admire.

Dzieduszycka, who spoke through a translator in the Variety FYC Fest panel, noted that it’s unfortunately too rare to see stories like Julka’s represented on screen. She added that she and Łysiak worked together to create the character and that Julka’s friendship with her co-worker called her most to the role — as the women supported one another through the film’s emotional journey.

“I immediately knew that I wanted to make a story about some universal emotions — like love, or more specifically, lack of love, intimacy, desire, loneliness, rejection,” said Łysiak, who acknowledged that the production and visual style work, notably using a handheld camera, made the story feel more personal.

Watch the full conversation above.