Marysia first became a full-time director three years ago. Before that, she spent more than a decade with advertising agencies and used filmmaking as a creative outlet—her efforts at the time included documentaries and short forms screened at film festivals. Today, she’s a director working on three continents, shooting for brands such as Unilever, Estée Lauder, Kate Spade NY, L’Oréal, Ulta Beauty, Calvin Klein, Volkswagen, BMC, S-Curve Records, Atlantic Records, and producing non-profit projects and music videos in her spare time. Meet Marysia Makowska, another Papaya Films-represented filmmaker.
She began her career in advertising with BBDO Warsaw, later moving to local agencies working in Cape Town, and, finally, a string of big advertising shops in New York City. Only after The Huffington Post wrote about her short film in 2016 did she begin considering a career change. Her first commercial project involved three ads for Estée Lauder, produced by Papaya Films in New York City, which she directed in the spring of 2017.
Her work often explores femininity and a range of associated issues, such as emancipation, beauty, and identity. Makowska likes to advocate for imperfection, despite the fact that as a filmmaker she’s focused primarily on commercials for beauty products, which require specific framing and impeccable beauty on the screen. She sees drafting treatments, looking for references, and creating moodboards as absolutely essential to a successful production process. Makowska also tends to make much of the directing decisions that will shape the final result early on in the process.
Her credits also include a handful of films produced during the pandemic, which in itself was a new and very demanding production environment. Some involved user-generated content, remote direction, working directly with acting talent and without the support of a film crew. Examples include her work for Vaseline, based on content captured by the actors themselves at home. “I shot two projects for Vaseline, one in South Africa, the other in Indonesia. I briefed the actors extensively, gave them detailed storyboards, and sent them on their way. A project like that is definitely an adventure for a director, but you have to be open to any and all surprises that might happen,” Makowska says.
Her other remotely-directed pandemic projects were shot with a crew on set. “The client and I were in New York City, while principal photography took place in Europe, with the cinematographer and assistant director physically present on set. In projects like these you have to rely on good casting and your assistant director, who ends up being your eyes, your hands, and your mouthpiece. In this case, I stayed in constant communication with the crew and had a live feed from the camera. Key challenges, however, including not being able to use body language and gestures to communicate my intentions directly to the actors,” the directors adds.
In her own words, this new production environment feels a bit like the Wild West right now. “We don’t know for sure how long this will take and you have to relearn some things, come up with new solutions and tinker with the old ones. But it’s an incredible experience, and definitely an opportunity to grow as a filmmaker, to learn new skills and patience,” Makowska explains.
Asked about her inspirations, she mentions conversations with friends, discussions, personal experiences, deeper inquiries into specific subjects, and living life between three cultures. Spends her time between Poland, where she’s from, the United States, where she’s been living for the past decade, and South Africa, a land of great contrasts and the home of strong, tough people. Her artistic inspirations include Spanish photographer and filmmaker Carlota Guerrero and the Knowles sisters, Solange and Beyoncé. Makowska also likes to draw on tales of futuristic utopias, the science fiction genre in general, the films of Alex Garland, as well as the films and comic books of Alejandro Jodorowsky.
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