Young Hilo Filmmaker Makes Splash at Honolulu Film Festival
by Cynthia Sweeney
Sometimes, not knowing all of the reasons why you can’t do something is a good thing.
Take the case of a young filmmaker from Hilo who made a feature length film which ended up being shown at an international film festival alongside George Clooney’s The Descendants.
“Growing up I loved films, but didn’t think I was really capable of making one,” said 19-year-old Dominik Walczuk. “I was really clueless. I had no idea how much money, people and time was involved in making a film.”
So, he did it anyway.
Walczuk wrote, directed, and acted in the “Subjective Expressions,” which was shot over an eight month period in and around Hilo without a budget or any special equipment. In October, 2011, the film had it’s premiere at the Honolulu International Film Festival.
“The film is about how we look at things, and how we really don’t pay attention to the details,” Walczuk explained. “Beauty is right in front of us. (For example) the trash that we were not interested in now becomes a beautiful mask.”
The film tells the story of a wandering, homeless girl who is befriended by a theater owner and master puppet maker who creates intriguing masks out of trash, and how the theater affects the girl’s perspective on life. The 60 minute film suggests that we could be more aware of the beauty in our surroundings.
“Subjective Expressions” is a three-person production; Walczuk, his father and star Carly Antilla are the cast and the crew. Among the challenges, camera shoots required a great deal of planning and strategy, and at times, when Walczuk was in front of the camera, there was actually no one behind the camera. On another occasion, his mother held the camera for a 30 second stretch.
“It’s definitely different, and a great feat in that aspect,” he said.
Walczuk does have an advantage other young adults might not have, which is the support of his artistic family.
Hismother is a photographer, and his father, who plays a theater owner in the film, is Lee Michael Walczuk, a master puppet maker in real life. Walczuk and his father also teach a film class two days a week in Hilo, in an effort to bring the community together to support local filmmakers.
“It only seemed natural to take advantage of my father’s story, and to talk about unsupported artists in the community,” Walczuk said. “There are a lot of things that need attention in our community, but one is artistic (outlets) for our youth. One way to address that is, why not make a mask?”
Originally from Poland, Walczuk’s grandfather and grandmother worked behind the camera, as a news cameraman and artistic director. The family moved from Ohio to Maui, and four years later to the Big Island. On Maui, Walczuk participated in the family business, producing wedding videos. While this work taught him camera skills, it lacked the variety and artistic expression he craved.
“That was my film school. At first it was challenging, but weddings are repetitive and tell the same story,” he said.
In high school, Walczuk started experimenting with the camera. He wrote and shot a number of short films, but it wasn’t until a trip to Europe where the idea of telling a longer story took hold. Back in Hilo, he found small investors whose support in the film inspired confidence when he felt lost.
“Money is not the drive or the goal, but it helps pay for food and gas,” said Walczuk, who attends UH Hilo.
The alluring soundtrack for the film was provided by the Portland-based – and popular local band – Medicine for the People, who also make an appearance in the film. In exchange for music used in his film, Walczuk has filmed several documentaries and music videos for and about the band.
“I’m most confident about these projects than any I’ve ever made,” Walczuk said.
The young filmmaker had no intention of entering his project in the Honolulu festival; after all, the entry fee was $50. Upon closer inspection, however, Walczuk discovered that the fee for Hawaii residents is only $5. “Now I am interested,” he said.
Attending the film festival, and seeing his film shown side-by-side with big-budget Hollywood films, put things in perspective.
“It opened my eyes to what filmmaking really is,” he said.
One of the biggest lessons Walczuk has learned is the importance of writing. His goal, now, is to become a better storyteller.
“The difficult part is to come up with a good story. It’s very easy to put together the equipment, the sound, the food (for the cast and crew). When it comes to the moment of the story, that’s the problem,” Walczuk said. “When it comes to the day of shooting and your scenes aren’t figured out, everything else doesn’t quite matter. Lights, sound, costume, none of it holds itself together without some sort of known idea. I don’t regret a moment of it, but my next film is really focusing on the script and characters.”
Walczuk is in pre-production for his next film, which he is keeping under wraps for now, but he is looking for production assistants. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see trailers and movie clips and videos go to youtube.com/grototote.