The future of adventure film and television: Jerzy Porebski, the Polish outlook

Posted: Dec 14, 2012 05:44 am EST

(Tina Sjogren) He fancies his dog, travel, film, and music. He eats Italian and his favorite movie is Cabaret. Polish climbers stood out in early Himalaya for their simple and exposed style. Bon vivant Jerzy Porebski has devoted much of his time to them.

From his home base in Warsaw he uses various means to bring back to life big adventures: he'll write books, shoot movies, script cartoons, crowd source and utilize flip book technology on the web.

As for the future of adventure film and television he says it brilliantly in one simple phrase: "The time has come to make money on that which does not exist."

Here goes.

ExplorersWeb: You did an award winning film about Kukuczka - what other movies have you produced?

Jerzy: I did 14 films and a few documentary comic books, all originating in the 'Polish Himalayas' era. It's a summary of the entire history of Polish Himalaya climbing divided into 5 topics. It was a major edition with related books and a lexicon of Polish Himalaya climbing. I used materials received from over 100 people.

Then followed "At every call" - a film about the Tatra Rescue Voluntary Service (TOPR) spanning a century of history. The TOPR backdrop reappears in my three subsequent films.

I also produced a few educational movies devoted to mountain safety (Thunder Storms, Avalanches and Skiing) in cooperation with the rescue service. Titled 'Mountain Academy of TOPR' these productions are non-commercial, available online and shared free of charge with TV channels.

ExplorersWeb: Why did you choose to do a movie about Kukuczka?

Jerzy: Kukuczka is a legend in Poland and I was interested in his story. I became convinced after a conversation I had with Reinhold Messner (related to the "Art of Freedom" movie). My aim was to show Jerzy Kukuczka as a role model in our increasingly commercial times. The film is rather ideological than biographical.

ExplorersWeb: What has been the most surprising about doing the film to you?

Jerzy: I really like doing interviews. They often bring out surprising statements - Kurt Diemberger's mountain mysticism is an example. My favorite surprise though is a phone call from a sponsor or a festival award :)

ExplorersWeb: You illustrate adventures too, where did you learn these skills?

Jerzy: I can not say that I have learned. I am still learning. Continuous learning is very important to me.

ExplorersWeb: What modern tools do you use for your art today?

Jerzy: I love history, current events, expeditions, and the use of technical innovations. Perhaps means of expression is something new in mountain events.

ExplorersWeb: Are you a climber/adventurer too?

Jerzy: I used to climb many years ago. Now I like to travel, spanning anything from jungle treks to hiking New York's 5th Avenue. Visiting new places and meeting new people is like discovering myself.

ExplorersWeb:Has Youtube made an impact on adventure film making?

Jerzy: Definitely for non-commercial educational films, but not my other projects. I think YouTube is very important for young people who want to report on their expeditions.

ExplorersWeb: Really cool videos posted by expeditions on YouTube often have very few viewers. Why do you think that is?

Jerzy: Because there are millions of clips and it discourages people from searching. The watched ones are the promoted ones. I think YouTube is a forum like any other and you have to know how to attract attention.

I just checked for instance The Holy Mountain, a great film by Arnold Franck. It has been watched by slightly more than 1000 people. It's a very complex problem. Certainly the world is accelerating and more people are going to watch a film about an accidental decapitation by rope than about the head being sewed back on by a rescuer.

ExplorersWeb: Adventure reality shows - do you see a future for them?

Jerzy: They definitely have a future, and they are supported by large companies. They promote an active lifestyle and that's OK. That the large number of those reality shows are a nightmare for festival juries is another story.

ExplorersWeb: Interestingly, adventure is no 2 top grossing genre (after comedy) in box office movies. Only it's not OUR adventure, but Batman, Lord Of The Rings etc. Reality usually beats fantasy, so how can real adventure films beat Men in Black and Harry Potter?

Jerzy: I don't think they can and I'm happy for that. One can ask what should Beethoven compose to sell more records than Michael Jackson? Or how to make a climbing course on DVD that would break sales records among teenage girls?

Even if somebody manages to climb K2, Nanga Parbat and Broad Peak in one month, in winter, without oxygen and solo - world news will still be occupied by a princess who got pregnant. So for me it's all good.

ExplorersWeb: Print media in US have experienced a sharp drop in advertising; broadcast TV may stand before a similar situation. What's the situation like in Poland?

Jerzy: It's worse, because it has already happened to broadcast TV. The time has come to make money on what does not exist.

ExplorersWeb: Revenue at movie theaters is generally also down here (last year reported the smallest audience since 1995). Rising ticket prices and competition from other forms of delivery are blamed (bigger TV screens, internet TV etc). Is it the same in Poland and what do you think is going on?

Jerzy: Movie theaters are doing well in Poland, because they show romantic comedies. It seemed that video-on-demand would be competitive, but it did not come true. At least not in Poland.

ExplorersWeb: Demand is up for Indie, foreign and documentary films here. What's it like in Poland?

Jerzy: The number of documentary film festivals, large and small, is increasing and so is the number of films presented.

ExplorersWeb: Quality Web TV productions (short and episodic videos created specifically for YouTube, etc) are popular but have a hard time to get exposure and are difficult to monetize. Any ideas what could be done? Product placement?

Jerzy: There is no solution at the moment. One is dying while the other has not been born. Product placement is mostly a weak help to make movies.

I think that the time of conscious sponsorship and PR is passing too, and marketing is winning. It can be generalized to other problems of civilization. It looks that most of the people in the world meant well but did wrong. We want good mountain films, but how do we finance them? Product placement means long and not necessarily good video ads. In my opinion foundations should be established to support good projects concerning mountain culture.

ExplorersWeb: So called second screen providers offer viewers a loyalty program where they can earn rewards on their smartphone while watching TV. Do you have any experience of this?

Jerzy: No, but I don't think it will help promote adventure and mountain culture.

ExplorersWeb: Some believe the change in cinema will come from experience, i.e. giving fans something new they can't get at home. How could that translate to adventure? Rock climbing documentaries with mobile climbing walls? Dinner-and-movie ticket serving Sherpa stew?

Jerzy: You could, but why? An adventure film will never be a BIC ballpoint. There is a specific market known by all in their own countries. There are distribution channels. We are all looking for new distribution solutions, but we can not forget the product itself. It is the product that has to be good, and if it is outstanding, then it won't need a free hamburger.

ExplorersWeb: Skilled pro docu-makers for the outdoor lifestyle tell us it's increasingly harder to finance projects. "Nobody buys documentaries anymore." Why is that and what can be done?

Jerzy: If no one buys a DVD for $19.90, then maybe someone will buy it at $ 9.90? You can put sponsored films free of charge on the web and make money on production.

ExplorersWeb: What would you say is the biggest difference between Poland and US in terms of adventure/climbing film? And is it hard for film makers without the right connections to get their movies screened at Banff and other "big" events internationally? How much is art and how much is politics/advertising money?

Jerzy: The difference between Poland and the US when it comes to adventure film is the same as in everything else. It doesn't mean that good movies can't be made in Poland and other countries. Such films are made and they are successful at festivals. Then they face the same distribution problems, because the problems have become global.

ExplorersWeb: What about the new online platforms (EpicTV, WildTV, etc). Often well funded some even sponsor productions: will they be the new specialty channel giants (like Discovery) online?

Jerzy: They don't produce revenue for film producers.

I like solutions with a good budget and free availability on the internet. That pleases each sponsor. It disrupts distribution channels, yes, but if they can't meet needs then they'll have to change.

ExplorersWeb: How will they hold up you think vs. YouTube channels, Vimeo, Hulu, Netflix?

Jerzy: It they are free, they will hold up.

ExplorersWeb: The most interesting internet media platforms you've found?

Jerzy: All of them are similar. None of them is a BIC ballpoint.

ExplorersWeb: Anything cool on mobile?

Jerzy: Sandwich delivery.

ExplorersWeb: What about 3D? It's spiking in feature films, have you considered it for your adventure productions?

Jerzy: Then even fewer people will watch them.

ExplorersWeb: What about personalized TV (single-viewer units, mobile, pads). How hard/expensive is it to adapt to all the new platforms?

Jerzy: It's not technically difficult, but financially un-justified for the producer. It makes sense only in case of sponsoring.

ExplorersWeb: A polar skier recently told us kids don't watch adventure video because they don't go outside but stay indoors to play computer games. Is this the situation also in Poland? Can we create adventure cinema that is as exiting as computer games?

Jerzy: It depends on the individual. Personally I find a lot of films more interesting than games, because I don't like games. Poland is no different in this respect.

ExplorersWeb: New kind of tools are emerging: drones, contour cams, various robotics with built in cams for extreme shots - what cool gear do you know of out there?

Jerzy: Certainly such things will make expedition films more attractive, I don't use them but every boy likes cool toys :)

Jerzy Porebski is a multi-awarded documentary film producer, scriptwriter, screenwriter and director.

In addition to 5 documentary films on the history of Polish Himalayan mountaineering he produced or co-produced The First Conquerors, The Ice Warriors, The Great Climbing, Women in the Mountains, The Great Tragedies, At Every Call and several related TOPR sequels, Kukuczka, and Art of Freedom (about Polish Himalayan mountaineering).
His cartoons are The Ice Warriors; Water Warriors - Amazon; The Lho La Tragedy; and Jan Karski.

Born 28 February 1956 Porebski resides in Warsaw, Poland. He's married and has a son.

Book: "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov
Quote: John 12:24 New International Version (NIV)
"Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."


More info about Jerzy on Wiki

Mountain Film Festival: Chicago remembers Kukuczka

First Amazon kayak run documented in comic flipbook

The legend: 5 stars out of 5 for new Kukuczka documentary

#Tech #Mountaineering #topstory

Roman army officer Horatius: "Brute force without wisdom will collapse under its own weight." Image from Porebski's movie about Kukuzcka, which he says is rather ideological.
Image by courtesy Jerzy Porebski, SOURCE
Crowd-sourcing is a new word for old ways. The Oxford dictionaries had volunteers sending in thousands of notes every day for decades (top contributor was a convicted murderer). For his 5 documentary films on the history of Polish Himalayan mountaineering Jerzy Porebski used materials resourced by over 100 people.
Image by courtesy Jerzy Porebski, SOURCE
"At every call" documents 100 years of the Tatra Rescue Voluntary Service (TOPR) activities. As for the impact of Youtube on movie making, "certainly the world is accelerating," Jerzy said. "More people are going to watch a film about an accidental decapitation by rope than about the head being sewed back by a rescuer."
Image by courtesy Jerzy Porebski, SOURCE
Image from his movie about his namesake Jerzy Kukuczka. Movie theaters are doing well in Poland, Jerzy says, "because they show romantic comedies."
Image by courtesy Jerzy Porebski, SOURCE
"My aim was to show Jerzy Kukuczka (in image) as a role model in our increasingly commercial times," Porebski said.
Another of Jerzy's skills: making comic books about significant expeditions.
courtesy Jerzy Porebski, SOURCE
Jerzy's favorite surprise in film making: getting a call from a sponsor or a movie award. This film festival runs Porebski's film "Kukuczka" this very weekend in Chicago.
Image by Jerzy Porebski courtesy, SOURCE
"I used to climb many years ago," Jerzy said. "Now I like to travel, spanning anything from jungle treks to hiking New York's 5th Avenue. Visiting new places and meeting new people is like discovering myself."
Image by Jerzy Porebski courtesy Jerzy Porebski, SOURCE