Saturday, 24 May 2014

INTERVIEW: Cinematographer Kuba Kossak talks about shooting THE WINTER

Kuba Kossak, the talented DOP of 'The Winter' shares his experience on the production.   'The Winter' was Kuba's debut feature film as the Cinematographer, and first time working with director Konstantinos Koutsoliotas.  Based in Warsaw, Kuba works internationally in features, commercials and music videos.
You can see more of his work at

What did you think of the script? What drew you to the project?
I read the whole script on the train from Warsaw to Kiev. The night was long and I was sitting on my bunk and just reading one page after another. There are infinite ways of telling a cinematic story and I cannot tell from reading the script how the director wants to direct the film. But I can tell if the script is good or bad. And this one was good. I felt like I can trust the people behind the writing about their artistic and esthetic choices. I wanted to get involved. I was very interested in how it is going to turn out.

What was your approach to the cinematography of “The Winter”?
I absolutely loved working on the feature for over twenty days almost in a row. You become a family with the people you work with. It has its good and bad sides also. But one thing you just can’t beat, working on a long project like this one, is turning your mind, your brain and your eyes into a frame-searching-machine.

Waking up in the morning and going through the storyboards with Kostas, then going to at least 10 hours on set and working really hard at trying to put the story visually together has made me wonder at the frames we managed for months after we had finished shooting.

You just can’t stop after awhile. And it is a very productive and creative process.
I very much miss that atmoshpere. It was something I will not ever forget.

What was the craziest part of the shoot for you?
When we were shooting the basement scenes, after taking a closer look at the walls I have found marks of crossed days that the prisoners that were kept there had made. And that made me realize even more that what we are dealing with and experiencing there is real. That it all has been a part of history of this place and what we were doing is very special.

How did the location in Greece affect you (light, scenery, culturally)? 
Over the whole period of twenty shooting days in Greece, most of the time we spent in one single house. It was a very special house. The house played a role in the film like no other house in any other film I have ever seen. And over the period of time it became clear that what I am dealing with there is trying to show this house each day in a little different way. It might have been the frame, a different room, different lighting. But every day we were getting to know the house a little better. Every crack on the wall. Every hole in the floor. Every wonkiness of the walls. The house became our mantra, our meditation.
Maybe this was actually the most demanding and the hardest part of the shoot. Coming back to that place every day. In very hard conditions. Sometimes in very low temperatures. Some of the rooms had their floor filled with pieces of fur whenever touched exploded into clouds of dirt. So, I guess everyone had developed certain kind of a love/hate relationship with the house at some point.

The quality of the sunlight in Greece and the natural surroundings that were accompanying us at the shoot where absolutely amazing. I have been fortunate enough to have spent my vacation in Crete a couple of months before the shoot taking a lot of stills so I had a good idea of what I want to get out from this light. The oranges, browns and the greens around the area of our shoot were absolutely breathtaking. The house interior also had a magnificent palette of colors. Each room painted differently. With amazing architectural, geometric shapes.

What was it like working with the Director?
I have found working with Konstantinos Koutsoliotas an extraordinary experience. I donʼt know if it was because both of us were shooting a feature film for the first time and both of us were putting our whole hearts, minds and souls into the project or the fact that we have found ourselves working together in a very special situation and conditions made us develop a very special Director/Cinematographer relationship, but also a human-to-human We didnʼt have a chance to meet in person before the shoot and only spoke briefly over the phone, a month before the shooting.  The night we arrived in Siatista, the whole crew went to see The House and the next morning we went straight into shooting. And strangely enough, after a few days I felt like we have been working together for many many years. It is amazing when you meet someone in work that you completely share your deepest sense of esthetics with. During the day, after seeing the storyboards and breaking down the scenes I would come up with ideas for frames and talk through them with Kostas. The more I tried and brought to the table, the more he liked what I was doing. It sounds very obvious. But on a creative level it is very hard to find a person who will understand you completely and who will give you absolute freedom in your decision-making, knowing that he will get your best work and also what is best for the project in return. I felt extremely satisfied working with Kostas.

What would you do differently?
From the cinematography point of view I feel like the camera crew have done all their best on this project in the given circumstances. I wouldʼt change much at all. I wish that in the future I will have as much strength and excitement to film another film like this one.

What was the most rewarding part?
The most rewarding part for me is always the work itself. Being fortunate enough to be able to do what you love is one of the most rewarding things of all. After you press ʻrecordʼ and hear ʻactionʼ you enter what I call the realm of now and that experience is one of the most rewarding of all. I remember our evenings in the local church where we have been eating lunch and dinner. And every evening having dinner together with the whole crew, being tired as a dog but really, really happy because of what we have had in the can from the day. These were the most rewarding moments for me and these are the moments I live for.