Filmmaker Interview: Mariusz Brożek – (Orbiting Without Sugar)

Stuck in an emotionally abusive relationship, Rachel quickly decides she’s through waiting around in a dirty motel for her boyfriend Vince to return. When he finally does, he comes baring big news, large sums of cash and promises of a better future together.

Their relationship escalates nearly to its to breaking point until suddenly they’re interrupted by a knock at the door – thugs looking to collect their losses and take revenge. Now the two must decide if their relationship is strong enough to withstand anything, or if this is where they part ways.

Orbiting Without Sugar” is a dark love story that tests the bond between lovers destined for failure. A gritty (and sometimes corky) romance drama, this short film explores the question of what’s more important; love or money?

We spoke with writer/director Mariusz Brożek about micro-budget filmmaking, finding inspiration and creating a trademark style.

From a production standpoint, how challenging are small-budget films? 

As per usual, you have to prioritize. A tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t shoot your film, it just means you probably won’t have all the gear you’d want. I shot my films on many different types of cameras; from cellphones, to DSLR’S with wired set-up and lenses, to RED Dragon and Arri Alexa. Sure, I would like my film to be the best possible quality, but it’s more important that it has a story. For me it’s never about the equipment, what matters it’s the substance and what makes the story. I couldn’t shoot a story that I don’t believe in 100%.

How did you find and convince your crew to work with you on the project? Did you pay them or was it pro bono? How did you get the equipment?

It started in theater. I was participating in the Lyle Kessler master class acting workshops and I had an opportunity to work with actors on a theater piece. It was there that I met Mark Thomas and Nina Burns, terrific actors who each played a role in my short film. That was my first experience with acting and directing for theater, which made me realize how valuable it is to work within such a small space. I decided to write a short film that takes place in one location and was structured similar to a one act play. That limitations were extremely challenging and changed my thinking about the film in terms of its logistics. It forced me to focus on the actors and the small space, much like in a theater. The whole story is set in one location, a motel outside of town. This kept things simple and it cut costs, so that I could produce a financially viable film. Most of our micro budget was spent on transportation and location rental. Despite such a small budget, I think we were able to produce this short with a fairly high production value. Koshi Kiyokawa, our cinematographer, granted us access to his Arri Alexa, which is an amazing camera. My friend Sheru Arora was our line producer. Ismyrne Geffrard was both our set designer and costume designer and she contributed everything herself. Everyone on the crew worked for nothing. It was the unified passion for filmmaking that brought us all together. I was really lucky that I met those people. From the beginning they all liked the story and were enthusiastic about making it happen. I realized there are people in this profession whom I can share my ideas with, they understand them and will work their asses off to make it happen because they love this art-form. I hope the momentum we’ve created with this short film will help us secure a larger budget to produce our dream film, and that it’ll find an enthusiastic distributor.

Which films/filmmakers have influenced you and why?

I’m a total film geek. In my free time I’m digging into film history, watching oldies. I also read a lot of essays, publications and articles about films. I enjoy video essays which are becoming increasingly popular. It’s hard to say which filmmakers have influenced me the most. I think the most direct influence on me would have to be Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless. After seeing that movie I literally ran out on the street and shot my one minute film Thief and Love which is a pastiche of Breathless and tribute to Nouvelle Vague. It’s because of this film that cinema became fresh like never before. Maybe it impresses me because they crossed the barriers and it was one of the first low budget productions which came out of the studio. They were shooting in real locations with natural sound and utilizing city crowds and random people in the background and this is something I can totally relate to. Also, because of the long list of limitations, it totally revolutionized film language. Jump cuts, non linear story structure, improvised dialogue or going beyond the 180° axis are some of the French New Wave discoveries for cinema. Perhaps something like that is also happening  right now. Cameras are smaller and lighter that ever before, and everyone can edit footage on regular laptop. It seems that technical aspects of filmmaking are no longer a limitation. One of my favorite more contemporary films is Groundhog day, directed by Harold Ramis. The funny part is that I was born on February 2nd and each year I watch this film on my birthday.

How do you find stories that inspire your film projects? 

That might be the most difficult part of filmmaking. It’s a real challenge to find a story that you can’t get out of your head, one that is pounding inside your skull for weeks after you heard it. To make it worse, I’m a hell of a skeptic and picky. There needs to be strong arguments so that I become committed to turning a story into a film. I go through a long process each time I decide on a script, but once I make a decision there’s no going back.

How did you start making films?

When I started my degree in journalism, I only knew one thing – that I really love telling stories. Orbiting without Sugar_4However, I quickly noticed that I’m not comfortable expressing myself through facts. Reviews, interviews, and the rest of the news feed were just too stiff. At first I tried some non-fiction writing but it wasn’t satisfying. It’s hard to describe this, but I was immediately drawn straight to film, and then I realized that film has been in the center of my interests ever since I can remember.

I’ve noticed that your short films ISO200, Thief and Love and Narcoleptic Man Meets Sleepwalker Girl, are visually very different from each other. Why are you not trying to settle down with some specific style that can become your trademark?

Short films for me are a good way to experiment. If you are making an independent film it means you are passionate about it and money is not the important part. Having one specific visual style is not my goal at the moment. I want to try out a few things, find out what suits me best. I believe it will come with practice. Also, when I start working on a new project, I want to be able to adopt a completely new perspective. There is no ultimate recipe to make a good film. Visual concept for the film has to be tailored for each story separately and that’s also the fun part of filmmaking.

Is there a self-distribution plan in place for Orbiting Without Sugar, ie Vimeo or VHX?

Yes, at first I’m submitting Orbiting Without Sugar to film festivals, short film sections. My goal is to achieve as much as I can from that. Any nomination, honorable mention or screening will be a step forward toward building a budget for the feature version, which is the main goal. We may self-distribute the short via Vimeo or similar platforms. One of the great things about online distribution is that people are free to post comments and opinions about the film. I’m anxious to receive feedback from viewers. It will help us in preparation of the feature length script.

What will be your next project?

Currently, I’m developing a feature script that I wrote myself. It’s currently under the working title Orbiting Without Sugar. It’s a drama/romance, with reference to characters from old movies and values like love, bravery and doing the right thing. Visually, I plan to reflect a neo-noir style.

Orbiting without Sugar_2

How do you plan to get it produced?

For now I selected some material and pulled it together as a short film. We are currently in the post-production process and next month it will be ready to be submitted to festivals. My aim is to use this short as a springboard to a bigger idea and demonstrate the visual style of the feature length film that I would like to create. I’m then hoping to find producers to bring it to fruition. There are some very successful films that travelled a similar road, like the recent Whiplash or little older Desperados, and it gives me confidence. I hope during my next interview and I’ll be able to tell you about how it was a success.

For more info on Orbiting Without Sugar, check out it out on Facebook.


About the filmmaker

Orbiting without Sugar_4In the last few years, his works have been streamed online and screened at film festivals and independent cinemas. Mariusz Brożek, a Polish native, attended Jagiellonian University and Krakow Film School. He studied journalism with the goal of launching a career in media, but after undergrad decided to shift focus to a career in filmmaking. He believes one can tell a more complete story with film, even with short format content.

 

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