The Witcher Proves Magical Showcase for Poland’s Rising Post

It was as early as 2010, so he loves to tell it when Polish animator and visual artist Tomasz Baginski urged his friend Andrzej Sapkowski to make a movie. Tomasz Baginski is known for his work in both animation and graphic art. Baginski, who had already been nominated for an Academy Award for his short film “The Cathedral,” had aspirations of adapting Sapkowski’s fantasy novel series “The Witcher” for the big screen. Sapkowski is the creator of the series.

The Witcher Proves Magical Showcase

Platige Image, a Polish firm specializing in animation, visual effects, and post-production, which Bagiski joined in 2004, was one of the early proponents of the project. As soon as Netflix made its move to acquire the rights to “The Witcher” in 2017, the streaming service was brought on board to serve as an executive producer with Hivemind, which is based in Los Angeles.

The Polish studio was also one of several firms that handled special effects for the series. The Polish company was nominated for an Emmy for its visual effects work on a show that went on to become one of Netflix’s biggest hits around the world.

Not only has “The Witcher” proven to be a success for Platige Image, but it has also been a boon for the rapidly developing visual effects and post-production business in Poland. Studios in this Eastern European nation are capitalizing on the increasing demand for remote post-production and visual effects work that has been generated by the pandemic. This comes amid a rise in production all across the world as businesses strive to make up for time lost to COVID-19.

According to Karol Bikowski

“There is most definitely a greater volume.” According to Karol Bikowski, CEO of Platige Image, “It is really noticeable.” “The market is really active at the moment.”

A surge in Polish production, fueled in large part by Netflix and other streaming services, has been the most significant factor in the country’s recent economic transformation. The streaming behemoth with headquarters in Los Gatos, California, made an announcement earlier this year about a slate of 18 original Polish feature films and television series. Also, the company will soon open its new Central and Eastern European headquarters in Warsaw, Poland.

“When Netflix came to Poland, they forced people to gain new information,” says Kamil Rutkowski, CEO of Black Photon, a post-production business based in Warsaw. “When Netflix came to Poland, they forced people to get new knowledge.” The streamer established a high bar for the technical quality of its productions, and in order to satisfy those criteria, it offered local studios free courses while also assisting them in adapting their workflows.

Netflix came to Poland

Rutkowski believes that Netflix has been the most influential in terms of teaching the industry. “In terms of skills, the industry has been growing at a pretty rapid pace over the course of the past five years.”

This growth is one of the reasons why the Polish Film Institute will this year introduce a $50,000 cash award at the U.S. in Progress. The U.S. in Progress is an event that runs concurrently with Poland’s American Film Festival and presents a selection of approximately half a dozen American independent titles that are currently in the final stages of production. The event for this year will take place in Wroclaw, Poland, from November 9 to November 11.

In addition to cash rewards totaling $10,000 and in-kind awards totaling $10,000 from top Polish post-production businesses, the PFI prize will be presented to one winning filmmaker to be used for post-production, picture, sound, and/or visual effects work in Poland. It is a step toward “encouraging small and medium-sized independent [foreign] producers to get to know us and see for themselves what we can offer,” according to Radoslaw Mikulski, the director of the Polish Film Institute (PFI). Mikulski pointed to a thirty-percent cash rebate that can be applied to post-production work done in the country.

The film business in Poland

The film business in Poland has a long and illustrious history, and the country’s cinematographers, supported by a powerful guild, have for a long time worked for the industry to retain high standards. “They demand quality, and firms need to match it,” says Uwe Ceranka, a partner at Warsaw’s Fixafilm and the director of the digital restoration department there. Cervenka is in charge of the digital restoration department.

The company has collaborated with institutions such as the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and New York’s Film at Lincoln Center to restore works by artists such as Orson Welles, Andrzej Wajda, and Dario Argento. In addition, the company has restored works by other directors, such as Dario Argento. According to Cervenka, Fixafilm was also the first post-production house in Poland—and among the first in the world—to adopt the Academy Color Encoding System (ACES). ACES is a color management system that has since become the industry standard for managing color during the production of films and television shows. Cervenka says Fixafilm was the first post-production house in Poland.

American filmmaker Joe Sackett went to Fixafilm

After winning an in-kind award at the U.S. in Progress event in 2020, American filmmaker Joe Sackett went to Fixafilm for post-production work on his debut feature film, “Homebody.” “Homebody” won the prize for best first feature at this years Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival in Toronto. Sackett went to Fixafilm for post-production work after winning the award.

“They essentially left the door open for us to let them know what we wanted, and they provided all those things for us without fail,” he says, referring to the festival DCP as well as the film’s titles and credits. “I knew that when we were in the later stages of post-production, we could go to them for anything, and they would help us out.”

Even while post-production firms all over the world have benefited from the epidemic, competition for top visual effects artists has been increasingly severe as studios have become more open to outsourcing their post-production work. According to bikowski, this competition has resulted in an increase in the cost of goods and services in Poland, a country whose relatively low salaries and production expenses have traditionally been a major selling point.

“Star Wars” or “Avengers” in Poland

Even if there were constantly more post-production firms entering the market, there is still a capacity issue that might potentially hinder the expansion of the sector. Rutkowski is the first to admit that it would be impossible to film “Star Wars” or “Avengers” in Poland. “There are not enough individuals competent in character animation,” he says, adding that many of the best visual effects artists in the country are instead being recruited by the rapidly growing video game industry.

Because of this issue, the manner in which Polish artists are educated and developed needs to undergo a complete overhaul. According to Alicja Gancarz, the director of one of the most successful studios in Warsaw called Orka, “there is no adequate education for people who wish to work primarily in the movie post-production industry.

Because he was “searching for information” that he couldn’t find in Poland, Rutkowski recently created the Polish branch of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, which is a trade guild that establishes standards for industry training all around the world.

Visual effects artists

Expanding operations is the only answer that makes sense, but doing so successfully is easier said than done. The training of visual effects artists is a time-consuming procedure. “The void can’t be simply filled in in such a short amount of time,” explains Bikowski. Platige Image has expanded its team in Poland, launched a studio in Los Angeles, and is constantly recruiting at industry conferences and events across the world. Currently, around 10% of Platige Image’s workforce is comprised of individuals from other countries, and this number is expected to grow.

According to Bikowski, “the greatest difficulty is not in identifying suitable projects; rather, it is in identifying suitable individuals.” He has a chuckle. “Having an issue like this is not a bad thing.”

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