One-on-one with Phillip Kaminiak, director of award winning music video CASS & LEX
Phillip Kaminiak (°1982) is a German-Polish cinematographer, who graduated from the Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin in 2013. His short films and documentaries were screened at film festivals all over the world. His debut feature Film 'The Woman behind the wall' was nominated for the prestigious german „Grimme“ TV Price. After his second world wide screened feature film 'The Weather Inside' he realized more than 150 Commercials and music-videos until today and realized another TV Feature, coming along with the cinema production 'Die Zerstörten' in 2018. His 2020 film 'Cass & Lex' won Best Music Video at the Brussels Independent Film Festival.
iFilmFestival: Tell us a bit about your most important film so far.
Kaminiak: It's kind of always the last film you did that brings you forward. I work mainly as a cinematographer in commercials and feature films. 'Cass & Lex' was a personal project that I also directed. So in that sense it was very important to me because I did everything myself: directing, cinematography and produced it as well.
iFilmFestival: What were the key challenges making it?
Kaminiak: It was a completely self organized production with a small budget. We shot it on 10 very loose days. Some hours here, some hours there. Everything was improvised except for the dance sequences. On a daily basis I needed to find someone who could do focus and on another day someone who would help with lights. It was mainly friends that would say: “Yeah today I am free. See you in an hour.”
iFilmFestival: What’s one aspect that you’re particularly proud of?
Kaminiak: As it's a real life reflecting / semi-documentary story, I think what I am proud of the most is that it really conveys this couple's struggles and feelings as they really experienced it, in an artistic way. In that way it's kind of a documentary if you want.
iFilmFestival: How did you get involved in filmmaking?
Kaminiak: I studied film at DFFB in Berlin. Before that I had no clue about anything. When I was accepted and in the process of applying I actually started to watch films more consciously.
iFilmFestival: What new projects are you working on or are you hoping to work on in the future?
Kaminiak: I am trying to write another feature film screenplay and thinking of what I could do next as a personal project like 'Cass & Lex'.
iFilmFestival: What role do film festivals play?
Kaminiak: They are the ultimate place to get direct response. In older times before Corona, when a film was screened at a physical event and you where sitting in the theater with all these people that you don't know personally, you could get the best feedback just by listening to their reactions. Sometimes people laugh at a moment which you never thought would be funny. You feel, hear the response of the audience. It's like a live concert almost. You can't get that by just showing your film online.
iFilmFestival: What is your advice to filmmakers tackling the festival circuit?
Kaminiak: Just do what you always would do and submit, submit, submit. Don't get demoralized if you get rejected.
iFilmFestival: How do you see the future of film?
Kaminiak: Shorter and shorter and shorter. Mainly series, and people falling asleep during feature films of more than 90min. Which is a huge pity. (I am so happy 3D failed to take over again after the fifties;-).)
iFilmFestival: Which filmmaker do you admire and why?
Kaminiak: I liked Andrzej Zulawski (which 'Cass & Lex' is partly a homage to) for his expressive acting and cinematography. Safdie Brothers for their crazy high pace. Bela Tarr for a kind of cinema that hypnotizes you and which has beautiful camera sequences. The Coen Brothers for their preciseness and crystal clear storytelling.
iFilmFestival: What film have you recently seen that you have admired in one way or another?
Kaminiak: The last film I saw was 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford' and I loved the cinematography by Roger Deakins. Maybe his best film next to 'No Country for Old Men'.
Thank you Phillip for answering our questions!
Interview by iFilmFestival on 18 February 2021