Get Up and Go Like Sonia Wargacka
February 13, 2018
Filmmaking needs a certain amount of proactive, can-do attitude; a will to create. It's easy to let projects pass you by, with numerous day-to-day distractions ready to pry you away from your creative goals. Projects need time, graft and a whole lot of hard work. Sometimes it's just easier to stick to your daily routine of dozing, eating cereal and watching Homes Under The Hammer.
But if you want an example of someone very much accustomed to actually getting stuff done, look no further than today's spotlight: Bristol-based director and producer Sonia Wargacka. At the age of 22, Sonia Wargacka has racked up an impressive array of credits on a host of interesting projects. She is constantly on the go, so if you have a film idea that you're looking to get produced, you'd better act fast and catch her before before Hollywood snatches her away.
Currently crowdfunding her graduation film (go here to support that), Sonia has even done her own TED talk, which you can watch at the bottom of this page.
Read her interview below, in which she outlines some of her exciting projects.
Hi Sonia, give us some info about yourself, what you do and how you started doing it.
Hi there, my name is Sonia Wargacka and as you can guess from my tongue-twisting surname, I am not from here. I was born in Poland and always had a keen interest in films, though money was always an excuse not to make them, hence I thought I was only interested in media and journalism.
However, when I was 17, I was awarded with a scholarship to study in an international high school in India. For the first time ever, I had an access to digital lab with all the gear one could dream of to begin their filmmaking career. This no-excuse situation was how I started as a director - by making a documentary about the community of my school where every year 20-30 shave their heads completely bald in order to donate their hair and money to charities. I was trying to describe this event to many of my friends at home in Poland, and no one would understand why would anybody do such a thing. So I took a camera, put a team together and we made a film that did quite well on YouTube.
5 years, many mistakes, one university degree and hours spent on a film set later, I am 22, living and working in Bristol as an Assistant Producer at Screenology Film School. I'm also a Bristol-based producer and director. I was the first student ever accepted to Screenology (which started in Bristol in 2015), and I must say it was all I needed to kickstart my filmmaking career! I have now produced various projects across Bristol (from feature film "The Day That Broke" to short Star Wars fan film: Eternal), directed and produced a bunch of short films that did quite well on festivals (receiving numerous nominations, including Royal Television Society Student Award for factual and comedy content) and got quite good in commercial filmmaking.
What do you enjoy about filmmaking?
Music and film are two most universal things I can think of. If you take any story from anywhere, and make a film about it, it is likely to interest many people from all around the world as long as it's told well. And that ability to tell stories, that spark that does not age and remains regardless of happens to me and where I choose to go, is something I am truly in love with. I can connect with so many people with my films, like I did with "I'm Still Luke", which is this short documentary about cancer. People don't need to know me, see me, listen to me or even know what my name is, for me to be able to connect with them. And I think that is the greatest thing about filmmaking - it's so personal yet so distant.
In 2016 I followed Bristol Quidditch Team, Brizzlepuffs, to Italy for them to attend European Quidditch Cup (yes, this is a thing). It was my first attempt to direct and produce a documentary about not one person, but a group of 40 people, and oh, what a challenge it was! But what I remember the most was the love and support that was given to me by the team, and how much they appreciated it. We made DVDs for the team as a souvenir, had a Bristol premiere and then I showed this film in New York when I was working on a international summer camp. The kids absolutely loved it and wanted me to teach them how to play quidditch. What they did not know is that I am much better at filmmaking than I am at sports... But that's a separate story!
What attracted you to the producing side?
I have started my career as a live-in Personal Assistant to Leslee Udwin, BAFTA-winning film director and producer (“India’s Daughter”, “East is East”). I was only 19 when I met Leslee and working for her was a great experience. Soon, however, I realised that I really enjoy organising and managing projects, but I felt like I want to do it on a bigger scale, not for one individual. What's the most powerful thing about film is the teamwork behind it, and producing allows me to be in the centre of the film from the original idea to the point where we go for film festivals with it. I find it very rewarding - when I was getting experience on sets as a runner, 1st AD and production assistant, I always felt so sad when the shoot was over and there was nothing else for me to do! But when I produce, it's much more lengthy and rewarding process. I also get a lot of joy from organising spreadsheets, answering emails and making phone calls, which I know is unusual! So all my interests and talents are summed up nicely by all the duties of a producer.
What are your ongoing and future plans?
Short term plans include directing "Song of the Open Road", my graduation film at Screenology and hopefully my best work yet. It is a story about a performance artist in style of Marina Abramović, who, after being diagnosed with Huntington's disease like most people in her family, decides to take her own life in a form of a very artistic UV lights performance. It is controversial and quite heavy, but we aim to make it beautiful, in styles of "Amelie" and "Duke of Burgundy" with a little mix with "End of The F***ing World". This will keep me busy until April this year! More info here: www.gofundme.com/song-of-the-open-road
My long term plans include Hollywood producing as I have quite a lot of connections in the US film industry. I would like to establish myself in the UK first, and then, depending on Brexit regulations towards immigrants like me, we shall see what happens!
And finally, do you have any snippets of wisdom to pass on to young creatives out there?
All the wisdom I had I have put in my TEDxYouth talk that happened in 2016 in Holland! It's called "How to fail a gap year gloriously" and you can check it out below...