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Production Essays: A polish production

Poland has high levels of production expertise, a rich cinematic heritage and competitive prices.

World-class post-production skills at Eastern European prices are clearly an inducement - but cost is not the only reason to come to Poland. Whether you're positioning a brand or a country, trust is always part of the equation. And Poland's rich film heritage undoubtedly inspires confidence.

The history of Hollywood is studded with the names of Polish directors, composers and cinematographers. The latter include Janusz Kaminski, who won an Oscar for Schindler's List, and Andrzej Sekula, who worked on Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. A number of well-known movies have been shot here, from Polanski's The Pianist to The Chronicles of Narnia and David Lynch's Inland Empire.

Some of the country's largest film studios, animation studios and production units were originally state-owned. This constant support resulted in a high level of expertise at all stages of production, from casting to editing. Accession to the European Union in 2004 brought with it European standards and equal rights for foreign businesses, which meant that non-Polish film-makers no longer required special permits to shoot in the country. As a result, foreign film crews became a familiar sight. Most overseas producers chose to work with Polish partners, further boosting the industry.

But let's talk animation. At the London International Animation Festival last summer, a section headed Masters of Polish Animation was introduced as follows: "Polish animation holds a very special place in the hearts of all fans of classic animation. Any 'best ever' list of animators is going to have a strong contingent from Poland embedded in it."

The list of Polish "master animators" includes Zbigniew Rybczynski, Aleksandra Korejwo, Piotr Dumala and Mariusz Wilczynski. From the original hand-drawn epics to today's computer animation, Polish artists have been shaped by the country's traditions of graphic art, avant-garde theatre, puppetry and dark, satirical humour.

As one of the biggest post-production outfits in Poland, Platige mainly works on commercials, but it also provides special effects for movies. In addition, we make short animated films that stretch our creativity and act as a showcase for our skills.

We actively seek out creative talents and encourage them to embark on their own projects using our resources. Beyond the fact that we possess the necessary equipment and infrastructure, many of our employees and freelance animators aspire to developing their personal creative visions. And the experience we gain during the production of these films helps tremendously when we're working on commercial projects.

For a start, the films have budget constraints, which has helped us to develop cost-effective working methods. And, as they're made in between our commercial assignments, they have taught us how to effectively manage our time.

Two of the films have been acknowledged at a global level: both of them directed by Tomek Baginski, one of our founding employees. In 2002, his film The Cathedral was nominated for an Oscar; in 2005, Fallen Art won a Bafta for Best Animated Short.

Our commitment to Polish film has helped us attract clients from the UK, Italy and Portugal, among others. Overseas agencies are getting the message that Poland has an alluring combination of remarkable skills and low prices. Platige has collaborated on ads for Lego (with Wil Film), Airwick (with Aardman and Euro RSCG London) and Listerine (with JWT London).

Baginski directed the two Listerine films, which feature animated men made of liquid. The ads plunge us inside a user's mouth. When he swills the liquid, small but powerful men emerge from the vortex and hose down his teeth and gums with high-pressure jets. The effects were achiev-ed by smashing water against a specially designed "ski ramp" and capturing the result at 250 frames per second, using a Phantom camera. The wave front, its edges and whirls, were mixed at the composition stage with 3D images.

Although the results do not showcase Baginski's own creative style, the ads are an indication of Poland's ascension to worldwide recognition. "I've been working in Poland since the start of the commercials market, and I can see how far we've come," Baginski says. "Clients are now demanding highly creative ideas. I'm sure this will be the case with foreign clients too."

He directed a recent ad for Reporters Without Borders, criticising press censorship at the Beijing Olympics. He's also working on a series of commercials for an Atari video game, The Witcher. Baginski designed the opening and closing animations within the game, which inspired the ads.

Although directors such as Baginski strive to have a universal appeal, their completed work often reveals their own signature, as well as traces of Polishness. Baginski likes to combine animation with "a more painted texture".

"I think pure animation is too clean," he says. "And I also like to include dark humour in our works. That is very Eastern European."

He has turned down offers to move to the US because he's keen to see how the Polish scene will evolve. "One of the things that sets us out from other markets is that a lot of Polish animators are self-taught. This means that although they may not have a deep knowledge of art history, they're drawing on many different experiences and influences. They think in a different way and are capable of creating something unique - not something that's come straight out of school."

Clients who wish to draw on Poland's resources need not deprive themselves, given the competitive level of our prices. And, of course, technology means we can work remotely.

But many other countries can boast ease of communications. Talent is a different matter. Agencies all over the world now have easy access to decades of Polish animation skill.

- Marcin Kobylecki is a film producer, Agnieszka Furmaniak is the head of production, and Piotr Sikora is the president of Platige Image.

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