In April, Fresh Coast Production Resources had the opportunity to provide U.S. production management, local crew, equipment, and location support for the Chicago filming of “Smolensk” - a Polish feature film being produced by PICARESQUE Maciej Pawlicki in Warsaw.
Directed by legendary Polish director, Antoni Krauze, the film deals with the conspiracy theories surrounding the April 2010 crash of a Polish government plane in the town of Smolensk in western Russia. All aboard died in the crash including President Lech Kaczynski and 95 other members of Poland’s political and military elite.
Smolensk DOP Michał Pakulski watches as Camera OP Marcin Gąsiorowski films a scene at the Polish Highlanders Alliance. Much of the film was shot hand-held.
The film has sparked considerable controversy inside Poland and around the world for its suggestion that the Russian government was somehow responsible for the crash. We’ve placed a number of interesting links about the film at the bottom of this posting.
Smolensk filming along the Chicago River.
While most of the film is set in Poland, the main character is a journalist who’s investigative reporting leads her to Chicago. And this is where Fresh Coast Production Resources comes in.
Pawel Mantorski, PICARESQUE’S Field Producer in Poland first contacted Fresh Coast in March seeking local production support for the Chicago filming. It was our first experience working with an Eastern European production company, and PICARESQUE’S first time filming in Chicago. It was a “learning experience” for everyone, but ultimately a rewarding one.
1st AD Bartosz Paduch (right) and camera crew wait out the rain on Columbus Dr.
Fresh Coast Production Manager Ralph Pabst went to work lining up the Chicago crew, obtaining the requested camera package and G&E support, and figuring out how to transport the 19 person Polish crew around the city.
Meanwhile, Fresh Coast’s Chicago Location Manager, Brittany Pawlowski went to work obtaining the necessary City of Chicago filming and special parking permits, arranged for catering, and worked out all the other logistical details of shooting a feature film in Chicago. Together Brittany and Ralph scouted for suitable filming locations, and periodically sent photos to the director and DOP in Poland.
Waiting out the rain again on the Norwest side.
G&E crew “making sunshine”
Filming a scene at “Nina’s father’s house”
An even a bigger challenge was obtaining production insurance. It was questionable whether PICARESQUE’s own insurance (through an underwriter in Belgium) would cover the Chicago filming. And finding a U.S. insurance company willing to write a policy to a Polish film company was not easy. With only days remaining before the scheduled filming, Ralph found Patrick Kuhnmuench at Robertson Ryan & Assoc. who came through with a policy from Philadelphia Insurance.
North American Camera in Milwaukee provided a RED Epic-Dragon 5K Ultra HD camera package with a full compliment of Cooke prime lenses and camera support. Tim Moder took responsibility for the gear, and acted as 2nd AC to the Polish camera crew.
Andrew E. Cook, Inc. of Harvard, IL supplied their 3 Ton Grip Truck (or as they like to say “almost a 5 Ton”) packed with an array of ARRI and Mole-Richardson HMI, Tungsten, and LED fixtures plus Kino-Flo’s.
All the audio gear - Sound Devices mixers & multi-track recorders, numerous Lectrosonics Radio Mics and a Denecke Smart Slate - came from Cream City Sound of Burlington, WI.
Problems in obtaining U.S. visas delayed the arrival of the Polish crew, and meant all filming had to be completed in three days! This, combined with Chicago’s unpredictable weather, made for a stressful shoot. But everyone pulled together, and we got it done. Much of the credit goes to the film’s First Assistant Director, Bartosz Paduch, who somehow managed to keep his cool throughout.
But none of it would have been possible without our great Chicago and Milwaukee crew. Many thanks to Tom Beach (audio), Tim Moder (2nd. AC), Andy Cook (Key Grip), Jeremy Christen (BB Electric), Andrew Yuncza (BB Grip), Bill Lindgren (Grip/Genny OP), Joel Labahn (Asst. Location Manager), and PA’s Jose Rivas and Dan DeSalva. And a special thanks to Location Manage Brittany Pawlowski who did an amazing job. (Now if she only spoke Polish).
Check out the following links to articles about the film. We think you’ll find them very interesting.
Director Antoni Krauze (center) with Actors Marek Probosz, Beata Fido, and Maciej Góraj (L-R)
Smolensk actors, crew, and the Fresh Coast team at wrap.