In Katarzyna Ros’ “Mall Girls,” “Alicja (Anna Karczmarczyk) is a newcomer and an outsider, an ordinary, conservatively attired teenaged girl who quickly finds herself mocked by the sexualized, hip group of schoolgirls who essentially walk the walk and talk the talk, both at school and in the streets. Crude, belligerent, cocky and fearless, this group of fourteen-year-olds soon starts to make Alicja’s life a living hell. Next to them, Alicja looks plain and commonplace, but it is not long before she is slowly invited into the group, undergoing a tough initiation along the way. She soon discovers why her new friends look so trendy and stylish: they hang around the local malls after school and give strangers casual blow jobs. The money earned allows them to buy the latest in fashionable jeans and cellphones. The choice Alicja faces is stark – to become part of the group and be accepted, or to try to go her own way. When she meets a shy, introverted boy, she finds herself in the middle of a power play for her emotions: as the leader of her gang reaches out to her for affection, her male love interest struggles with his feelings for her” [Synopsis courtesy of TIFF]. indieWIRE gave Ros and others a free-form style interview to gather their thoughts on their careers individual projects.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a series of interviews indieWIRE will be running with the filmmakers screening in the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival’s Discovery program.
I played with dolls a bit longer than other kids. Actually, much longer… Even in high school, I’d lock myself in the room so no one could see, only to lose myself in the pleasure of dividing the dolls according to various characters and features, granting them roles. The thought that one day I’d have to give it up (it was becoming a little too embarrassing) was very upsetting. But it turned out I did not have to give it up at all; I just traded the dolls for…actors!
Your Filmmaking Career and Process…
It took me a while to find out who I’d like to become once I “grew up”. I studied Economics, as well as Law, considered Psychology and The History of Arts. I absolutely adored Stanislaw Przybyszewski (Polish modernism writer).
Finally, during my third year of College, I met someone involved in the film industry. We held deep discussions and I realized that film was the thing I wanted to do!
That’s when I made a decision to enroll in a postgraduate film school. In order to do so, I needed some practical experience. A few months later I started an internship with a local TV station–howdy news department! Soon, through connections, I got a gig with an independent movie, becoming its production manager. Only during the first day of shooting I lost a couple of important accessories and then missed a few important dates and places… My mind was elsewhere–I wanted to direct!
Not a long time after that, I went to a private film directing school, where from the beginning I used my memories and experiences inspired by various people I met throughout my life and implemented those features in my short films.
The idea came when I watched a documentary one night: a shocking story about “mall girls” who seek “sponsors” in shopping centers, offering sex for cool items and gadgets. The world today is overfilled with cruelty, weirdness and shocking things happening every minute; people became immune to all that. Nevertheless, this story touched me deeply and if something leaves a trace in your heart it’s definitely worth to be told further–in a movie.
For the whole next year, I became a “journalist” and searched for such teenage girls, talked to them and gradually learned to understand their world. Being more than a decade older than them didn’t stop me from becoming their peer. I got to know their slang, daily schedules, fears and hopes.
The script evolved so naturally from that. And everything followed smoothly with hard work, determination and a bit of luck. I managed to find an incredible producer, who gave me a generous amount of freedom and trust, despite me being a total beginner. His experience and fame on the other hand, gave me a great deal of self-confidence. Frankly, there were no horrors involved after all! Oh, maybe except the never-ending casting, since the main characters in my movie were chosen amongst regular high school kids, not professional actors. It took a while to go through hundreds of them to finally pick the four girls and 3 boys that perfectly fit into the picture.
My school was mainly teaching just very practical skills. We shoot lots of short films, but somehow I was missing real influences, spiritual gurus. I tried to find them somewhere else then, following fashion. I think I tried little too hard.
Of course there’ve been several movies that I considered phenomenal and great directors that constantly impress and inspire me. And by loving and admiring their style I still think I should not copy it since it’s THEIR style. Today I’m glad I never followed anyone, developing my very own style. “Mall Girls” is a full-length debut, it’s my style, coming straight from my heart.
I’m absolutely honored having my film in the Toronto Festival. I have great hopes that it will be well understood by people from different countries, because the main problem included in the story is international, gracefully summarized by one of the main characters in it: “Love doesn’t exist anymore. You have to do your thing and not let yourself give in.” It is not just Polish. It’s truly universal. As a proof, I should mention my British cameraman, who had no problem in understanding the whole concept.
At the moment, I’m working on another script. I came upon an idea while reading a British magazine. Soon after, I found out that many other countries struggle with the same problems: teenage mothers, kids having kids. It’s a film about a 16-year old girl who became mother, because it’s cute, because she could dress her baby in adorable tiny clothes. Just like Britney Spears or her sister! The real reason for her early motherhood is the search for love, to finally have someone she could love and be loved, unconditionally. Part of the story takes place in London. And again, it’s not a typical British thing. It’s not Polish either. It’s a very universal social aspect.