Polish Cinematographers are some of the most skilled and highly regarded filmmakers in the world. At the top of the list is Janusz Kaminski , the two-time Oscar winner, who has photographed all of Steven Spielberg’s films since 1993’s Schindler’s List.
Determined to eventually reach that level is Montreal raised Pawel Pogorzelski. Here is his profile…
Name: Pawel Pogorzelski
Education: MFA Cinematography American Film Institute (AFI)
Location: Los Angeles/Montreal
What are you working on now? Participating in an internship with world-renowned Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Brokeback Mountain, Alexander) on a new film starring Twilight’s Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon called Water for Elephants.
How did you get into filmmaking? I was studying sciences in CEGEP (post-secondary education system in Quebec) and hated it. I took a photography class as one of my alternative classes and fell in love with it. One day I saw La Haine and Baraka and I knew I wanted to change from still photographs to moving images.
What drives you in your work? Storytelling — I’m driven to create cinematic moods that evokes emotional responses. I love creative collaborations with people who can enhance my work. Also, I’m fuelled by the adrenaline and challenge of being on a film set; meticulously working on one lighting setup at a time, knowing, that there is never enough time to get everything done but finding solutions to make it happen anyway.
What are your future plans? Working professionally as a Cinematographer on films that are meaningful to me (fictional or documentary) and shooting my first studio feature film.
Major Accomplishments: I’ve received two “achievement scholarships” from AFI. The internship with Rodrigo Prieto was a huge deal for me. Also, my thesis film The Strange Thing about the Johnsons was selected for the Slamdance festival as well as the AFI Showcase one month after completion.
What little things in life do you enjoy the most? Good food, good wine and great company.
Favourite TV Show: Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire
Why are your Polish roots important to you? Even though, I was raised in Montreal, I believe that my Polish roots are a big part of who I am and are reflected in my work.
Pawel Pogorzelski in his own words…
Moving to Los Angeles was a rather interesting decision.
That summer, in Montreal, I was offered a job on a Television Show, which would have given me work for six months and great money. But, I also got into the American Film Institute (AFI), where I could pursue my dream of shooting movies. The money was really compelling and working with friends for six months would be great. On the other hand, the unknown possibilities, the allure of Los Angeles (the Mecca of filmmaking) as well as the AFI, the warm weather and most of all, the chance to develop my career as a Cinematographer ultimately won me over.
…(Los Angeles) does not compare to Montreal. I realize now that Montreal is not that big of a city. For our business, LA is definitely a good place to be. You are surrounded by film and entertainment. The office of Technicolor, the headquarters of Panavision and KINO, massive film studios – they’re all here. It’s impressive!!! It’s a great motivator to know that the dream is close and accessible.
However, the films I am interested in making are far from what Hollywood has to offer. I love filmmakers like Michael Haneke, Stanley Kubrick and Terrence Malick and such recent films as Revanche, Thirst, Enter the Void and Summer Hours, which are not Hollywood Blockbusters. Despite this, it feels good to be here and to learn by being in the right place and meeting interesting people.
…you never know who you are about to meet here. There are genuinely great people and those that talk themselves up. I learned to take everything with a grain of salt. What is interesting is the dichotomy of the population. The mega rich live among the mega poor. A lot of crazy, interesting and challenged people walk along these streets.
Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto
…working with and learning from Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto was something I never imagined. It was great watching a Hollywood blockbuster being made and realizing that it is not much different from the work we do on student films. The big difference is that everyone is at the top of their game. Rodrigo is one hell of a talented cinematographer. It was great to see him work and understand the lighting decisions he was making. It was an inspiring experience.
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