Marek Kawula is a filmmaker with a far-sighted vision. Not only does his Time is the Enemy film gaze beyond the stars, but he’s also charting daily life for 10 year’s time. We caught up with him to ask how he made Time is the Enemy and what the future holds
D&CFilm: Time is the Enemy is a film about how the human race is basically spinning on a rock in space. It could be quite pessimistic, instead there’s an aspirational quality to it. What gave you the idea, and how did you make it?
Marek Kawula: The idea has been stuck in the back of my head for three years now. When I was a student at South Devon College, I had the opportunity to borrow the college DSLRs and play around with them in my own time.
Back then I was an amateur photographer, I discovered that pointing the camera to the night sky was the best idea to learn the ins & outs of photography as you need to tinker with the shutter speed, ISO and aperture settings. After hundreds of trials and errors. I eventually figured out how the DSLR camera works at manual settings – and that’s when I started to fall in love with taking pictures of the night sky, as I couldn’t believe that under the right conditions and the correct settings I could produce a picture that our eyes would never be able to see.
However, the night pollution has been always a problem. Living in Torquay (at the time) was a problem as there weren’t any areas I could go to avoid the harsh lights of civilisation. The best place to do astrophotography in Torquay I could find was Hope’s Nose – a popular spot for fishermen. However, that was not enough, I always wanted to do astrophotography in Dartmoor, as I know that place has barely any light pollution. I never had the chance to go there though, due to many circumstances regarding transport, work commitments and school – Torquay was my only choice for taking pictures of the night sky.
In 2018, I decided to do something a bit different. Rather than take one single image of the night sky, what if I take 240 photos to eventually make a 10 seconds video of the stars moving across the sky? This is exactly what I’ve done. Using my current knowledge of cameras, I set the camera up and left it still for 80 minutes to take 240 photos of the night sky, and later at home I’d make it into a 10 second video. It was perfect. I loved it so much. However, others saw it just as a 10 second video and it not being long enough to make a huge impact, and I agreed with them. It’s just a 10 second video, but in reality it took 80 minutes of me standing in the cold to make sure the camera takes pictures properly. A 10 second video wasn’t long enough, and from that moment the desire to make a longer video was born – to make something exactly like this in Dartmoor, but longer.
In 2019 for one of our university modules, “negotiated project”, we had to create anything we’d want in essence when it comes to filmmaking. I figured that this was the perfect opportunity to do what I wanted for some time now – to make an astrophotography video that’s longer than 10 seconds, in Dartmoor. This is where my pre-production started for this project. I have created this film by having a great access to the equipment that’s found in Plymouth College of Art, by borrowing 3 Nikon DSLRs (2x D800e, 1x D810) that shoot in 36MP, 5 incredibly expensive lenses, 4 tripods, 8 batteries, and a lot of time and patience.
I shot all of the night sky sequences in Dartmoor, precisely on Sheepstor – with really beautiful views of Dartmoor and Plymouth from above. The ‘day’ sequences were shot on the Plymouth Hoe and from my university classroom overlooking the busy Plymouth traffic.
At the end of all of this, I had over 4500 photos to work with totalling up to nearly 500GB of memory being taken up on my hard drive. Then, I have edited the photos on Adobe Lightroom, then saved the edited photos to put them in Adobe Premiere Pro where I did the final edit. I managed to get to 3 minutes of footage… but it felt like I was missing something, I was missing a narrative to the film.
I’ve had inspiration from Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and from many other sources, I just didn’t know how to put them into words. That’s where Matt Atkinson comes into play. I gave him my list of ideas and asked him politely if he could sort out a script for my film – 1.5 days later, he did and it was amazing. This is when I realised all of this was finally coming together.
D&CFilm: The script, written by Matt Atkinson and narrated by Sam Tordy is engaging. How did you and Matt work together on the film and how did you find Sam?
Marek Kawula: As mentioned before, I’ve approached Matt to write me a script after I’ve finished all the filming, it was a “bit” last second considering normally people make a script then shoot, but hey, it all worked out in the end! So about the story with Sam Tordy – he’s in fact one of my best friends and attends the same course as me at Plymouth College of Art. Someone has used Sam’s voice in the past for a project and a lot of people praised his voice in that film, and that’s because he’s got a perfect voice that’s easy to understand. I’ve recorded his narration in the sound studio in just 30 minutes. Sam is great, he’s easy to work with.
D&CFilm: Time is the Enemy is a powerful film – those three minutes make an impact – what’s been the reaction to it?
Marek Kawula: Before the submission deadline and classroom screening, I’ve shown the film to four of my closest friends (including Sam!) and they all were flabbergasted – not sure if that’s because the short film is great or because it looked pretty on my TV, but they were all complimenting me how great it turned out.
A few weeks later we were showing our films in the class, I think my film was like the fifth one to be shown, and by that point people were fidgeting in their seats and perhaps not paying that much attention. After all, I don’t blame them, it was hot that day and the viewing conditions weren’t the best, although I remember my colleagues giving me praise as well.
I wanted to expand my target audience to Poland, so thanks to my dad, I manged to translate the script to the Polish language so my Polish family can also see. They were all amazed that I created something like this. Then over the summer I didn’t have much opportunity to do anything with the film as I was abroad for 14 weeks, but now that I am back in Europe, I’ve started to submit this film festivals around the world, and I was selected for it to be screened at English Riviera Film Festival! At the time when I was select I kept it to myself for two weeks, but when my friends including my lecturers at the university have found out, they were all ecstatic!
D&CFilm: In another of your films, Seconds of the Day, you compiled a collection of one-second videos taken from each day of the of the previous year. What are the topics and themes that draw you to make a film and are you attracted to a certain visual style?
Marek Kawula: Seconds of the Day has become some sort of an expectation from others every time it’s the beginning of the new year. It originally started as an experiment when I saw someone else’s Seconds of the Day on New Years Eve in 2015 as I thought “why not?” as I had the opportunity to do it starting from January 1, 2016.
It is also a beautiful way to show progress of time, of my editing skills and of my life. After completing the first one in 2016, my friends loved it – as they would sometimes make an appearance on it. Each day when something interesting happens I try to record it and then back it up for me to eventually edit it at the end of the year. Sometimes nothing interesting happens on one of the days, sometimes four interesting things happen and I struggle to choose which video I use in the final edit. As long as I am motivated and able to film, I’ll continue to make seconds of the day. Think how cool it’d be to sit down one day, and watch 10 years worth of ‘seconds’ of each day in 60 minutes. Watch 10 years of your life go in 60 minutes. I am not sure if that’s exciting or scary, ask me in 2026 and I’ll have a clear answer!
D&CFilm: What is the role of the filmmaker / artist in society?
Marek Kawula: Good question, that depends on what sort of a filmmaker you are. For instance, you could be Quentin Tarantino and make films for entertainment. You could be David Attenborough and try to spark inspiration with the Planet Earth documentaries. You could be working for some company/government and make propaganda.
Filmmaking is a beautiful medium that can be used to for good and bad. It’s like yin yang – filmmakers have a lot of power if they have the right tools to show their message, wherever it is for entertainment or for malicious reasons. I personally would see myself as a filmmaker making films for entertainment, I’m grateful when someone takes time out of their day to watch something I’ve made.
D&CFilm: You took part in the Camp America Storytellers 2019. What was that and how did it go?
Marek Kawula: Camp America was a summer program in which you go to a summer camp in America to work with kids – and my role was to teach kids on how to operate the camera, how to take pictures, film some short films and edit it all. I worked there for 10 weeks. The part in which the Storyteller aspect failed, was that my summer camp restricted the usage of mobile phones. I didn’t have access to my phone for 20hrs each day, and I didn’t have any opportunities to take pictures with my phone about how much fun I am having at the summer camp. I am glad I did it – it was something definitely outside my comfort zone and it was lovely to teach children filmmaking.
D&CFilm: With Time is the Enemy making waves, what else are you working on, what can we expect in the future and where can we follow your work?
Marek Kawula: Currently I am working on graduating with a film degree at Plymouth College of Art in 2020 and hoping to work somewhere in the film industry. At the moment, I am in the stages of experimentation that eventually will go towards my final grad film – at the moment it’s all ‘ideas’ just how like Time is the Enemy was, but let’s just say it involves space and some interactive aspect to it :) .
D&CFilm: Cheers Marek!