At the 55th Krakow Film Festival, we had the opportunity to talk to Robert Sowa, who has now led the Animated Film Studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow for almost three years.

PA: Animated films by the students of Animated Film Studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow are present in the programme of Krakow Film Festival almost every year. For some years, I noticed a lot of activity of students at the events organised within the frames of Industry Zone, dedicated to industry representatives. Does this follow from the need to establish closer co-operation with the festival, which is located on the spot, or it is a part of a wider strategy? 

RS:  I believe it is both. We are glad that this year two student films are shown in the festival competition - "Where'd the ghosts go?" by Łukasz Biernat participates in Polish competition, and "Domestication" by Sylwia Gaweł additionally is screened in the international competition.  So much for the competition - as far as Animated in Poland is concerned, of course it is a part of a certain strategy, to take the students outside of the university at the preparatory stage of their work on a project, to get them in touch with producers. Current situation makes it necessary to enter the market rather quickly and dynamically. Animated in Poland is such an event, which allows presenting the films, gives the opportunity to get acquainted with the right people and make them interested in one's projects. 

In the animation community, it is believed that the the curricula of Polish artistic universities do not sufficiently prepare young people for work in the film industry. Many producers say that the universities educate artists, for whom it is very hard to find their place in the studio structure after graduation. 

I would always insist that the role of university is to support, educate and help students who have interesting artistic personality. Of course, it is also important for students to have the knowledge and skills necessary to work in this profession. However, first and foremost, art schools educate and promote people who have something interesting to say. All leading authors of Polish animated film are graduates of art schools. They win awards and create the contemporary animated cinema. This is the aim. 

Don't you have the impression that the curriculum lacks subjects which would make it easier for the graduates to find their way to the market? Do you believe that the roles of the university and the producer should be strongly distinguished?

I deliberately separate these two roles here to make us realise that it is not difficult to prepare, in a relatively short period of time, efficient "soldiers" as far as film-making is concerned, to work in film production. However, it is a difficult thing to help someone develop artistic personality in a few years, someone who acts consciously, has their own language and knows what they want to say. During their studies, students learn various techniques, make a series of exercises, film studies, workshops, learn how to work in a team etc., they also have to prepare production packages and, contrary to what is said, I believe that the graduates are well-prepared for their profession. Such meetings like this one today show that they are doing very well. Last year, two our films were presented within the frames of Animated in Poland, and now they are shown at the festival. This is the best comment on the subject of their being prepared. 

To stay within the subject matter of today's events, this morning there was the student project market. Are the students interested in participating in events of this type, or do they believe that these are matters which can wait, for which they still have a lot of time. 

There is a lot of interest, and at the same time fear and anxiety. And this is exactly the  matter which has to be worked out. The university protects the student in some way, creates atmosphere for work and searching for one's own solutions in a safe environment. But the same time, it is important that the student is confronted - just like it was this morning during individual meetings.  Confronted with questions and requirements.  In discussions with students I learnt that for them it is very difficult to specify verbally what they are doing. At the time when one already functions professionally on the market, matters of this sort are rather natural. For a student it is not self-explanatory, and this causes anxiety, but I know that they did very well. 

However, in the case of this type of meetings, the conditions are still very favourable. They allow to have calm conversation.  This is space which is a kind of an incubator. 

Exactly. I believe that such meetings should take place regularly, as they are motivating and inspiring both for students as well as promoters and producers. 

At the end, let us go back to the festival films. At the moment, "Domestication" by Sylwia Gaweł made itself known; at the end of April, the film had its international première at the Portuguese festival Indielisboa. What are festival plans for the coming months? I know that the Academy of Fine Arts closely co-operates with Film Promotion Agency of Krakow Film Foundation.

Co-operation with the Krakow foundation is perfect. I am very satisfied with this support. I myself co-operate with the Foundation as an author and it is always an important support. At the same time, in the case of students it is a great help for the university, which places young talented people under the wing of the foundation. The Academy does not have, at least at present, a promotion unit, and that is why the co-operation with the foundation is of particular importance. The film by Sylwia Gaweł really wins popularity.  In the nearest future, it will be shown at the festivals Animator and T-mobile New Horizons. There have already been signals about plans of inviting the films abroad, but they are still unofficial. 

In turn, the film "Drought" by Sara Divjak participates in the International Animated Film Festival in Zagreb.  Last year, there was an exceptional number of diploma films made, in addition to aforementioned ones, among others "Where'd the ghosts go?" by Łukasz Biernat, "The Matter of Taste" by Alicja Rokicka, "Nie rób scen" by Paulina Kapusta and “Your favourite part of the body” by Daniel Kordek.  Now I keep my fingers crossed for them. 

The interview with Robert Sowa was conducted by Zofia Ścisłowska