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The Inspirational Filmmaker Agnieska Lal

Poland's Agnieska Lal sailing her way through the world of Filmmaking
cta 2014

One inspirational young lady in the film world, Miss Agnieska Lal.

Please introduce yourself to the readers:

Alright, this is the part when I always have to take a deep breath! My name is Agnieszka [pr: Ag-nee-eshh-kuh] and pronouncing my traditional Polish name is always a challenge for native English speakers, so I have to get ready to repeat myself a few times every time I introduce myself! I was born in Warsaw, Poland and have been trying to bring together my two passions of film and travel into my life for as long as I can remember.

How and when did you first get into television?

I was lucky to grow up surrounded by TV sets and studios, because both of my parents worked for Polish television. It was a great adventure for me as a little girl to witness the biggest shows in Poland being made. Looking back, I think this experience not only inspired me to become a filmmaker, but also made me very grounded.When I was 14, a legendary youth TV show in Poland was looking for new hosts. I went for an audition without telling my parents because I was afraid they would oppose it. Soon after, I became the youngest presenter on the show. I remember that I had to do my homework sometime in between a rehearsal and a live TV show so it wasn’t easy for me, but at the same time I can’t think of anything better that could happen to my 14 year old self!

Who were some of your biggest inspirations?

I was always inspired by adventurers and free spirits. Having suffered from wanderlust from an early age myself, I loved reading stories of travelers seeing the world. Bear Grylls is definitely my kind of show. However, I love discovering many everyday heroes all over the world who keep inspiring me to become a better person. Some of them I've met here in California which is probably why I like it here so much!

You have had a lot of experience in front of the camera, but now you seem to be focusing on producing more. Why?

Well, I would definitely like to bring both producing and being in front of the camera together. However if I had to choose, then being a part of shaping a project from the very beginning until the very end is definitely more exciting and rewarding to me than watching myself on screen ;)

What has been your favorite project to be part of so far?

It was without doubt working on my own documentary Heading Liberty. I remember sitting in a park in Sydney staring at old sailboats on a sunny day in April 2012 and thinking ‘Why do I always limit myself to traveling on land? Sailing the ocean must be so much fun!’. The problem was that neither my husband nor I, have ever sailed in our lives, but that didn’t stop us from leaving everything we had behind and going to Mexico to repair an old sailboat so we could sail it back to Australia. It was absolutely the craziest thing I have ever done; we really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into! I loved the fact I could travel the world and be making a film; it was like living a dream for me. At the same time, during 10 months at sea we went through so many life-threatening situations including 50 knot storms and getting lost, I was very glad to be back on land.

What projects do you have coming up?

At the moment I am focusing on editing my documentary. I have over 100 hours of footage that I need to go through and create a finished edit by the end of the year.
I actually always seem to struggle to limit myself to work on just a few ideas I have in my head; there are just so many of them and there is never enough time! My next project should be to learn how to be more selective :)

Who would you like to work with and why?

In general, I love working with anyone who is passionate about their work and enjoys playing with filmmaking. I think that you can’t be creative without being playful. I think I would really enjoy working with Michael Moore. I admire him for making documentaries more popular among a wider audience. I am so happy to see documentaries becoming a commercial success, because I love the potential of a real story. I think it has more power than any feature film could ever achieve. A great example of it is Malik Bendjelloul’s ‘Searching for Sugar Man’. He is my inspiration not only for taking the audience on such an amazing journey, but also for creating an Oscar-winning documentary almost all by himself. It is unbelievable yet encouraging than one person directed, wrote, produced, edited and wrote additional score for one of my favorite films. I am also grateful to Bendjelloul for introducing me and wider audiences to Rodriguez’s music!

What are your plans for the future?

I want to be able to keep traveling the world and take the camera with me wherever I go. I would like to share with people how I see the world and what amazing things you can do without spending thousands of dollars. I think that after all those years backpacking around the world I have mastered a way to get to see the most amazing things in the world on a tight budget and I would like to create a show where I could share my secrets with others.

What is your advice to aspiring filmmakers?

I love the story about a Buddhist scholar and a Zen Master. The scholar came to ask the Master to teach him Zen. He introduced himself and explained that despite his extensive practice, he still hasn’t managed to achieve enlightenment. The Master listened and then started pouring tea into the scholar’s cup until it overflowed and the scholar said "Stop, stop! The cup is full; you can't get anymore in."The master stopped pouring and replied: "You are like this cup; you are full of ideas and your own opinions. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can't put anything in. Before I can teach you, you'll have to empty your cup". I love this story so much, because it reminds me to stay humble and open-minded as well, so as that I can’t grow as a person and as a filmmaker when ‘my cup’ is already full.

For more info on Agnieska's Heading Liberty, go to:

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