Meet Paul Kowalski from London, who moved to LA three years ago to pursue a career in film directing.
Was there a particular reason you chose LA?
I am a writer and film director, and three years ago was invited to study on scholarship as a Directing Fellow at the American Film Institute (AFI). The offer was hard to pass up. The city’s film scope and community is second-to-none. I’m currently in LA developing several feature films. Also, my producing partner who I met at AFI, Christina Dow of Solo Five Productions, lives in Venice, so we are conveniently close.
What do you miss most from home?
Besides my family, I miss London’s culture, history, diversity, and – I can’t believe I’m saying this – the public transport! London is one of the few cities in the world where you can constantly reinvent yourself. That Samuel Johnson quote is true: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” I miss the small things, too: kicking a ball about in Regent’s Park in the summer, pub culture, feeling the seasons change, English rain, bundling up in the winter, the newspapers, free museums, nights out in Hackney, being a couple of hours from Paris and a short flight from other cultural European hubs.
What was your first impression of LA and has it changed since? If so, why?
I briefly lived in LA ten years ago just after graduating from Brown University, and had a drastically different experience. It felt like a long, frustrating holiday – I lived off the Sunset strip next to the Viper Room, and had a very different lifestyle. I had less specific of a goal, was pursuing too much (acting, writing, music) and things felt overwhelming and rushed. This time round, I’m a little older and wiser. I have a stronger sense of identity and purpose after AFI and setting myself up with a real filmmaking community, as well as choosing to live in Los Feliz, with its neighbourhood vibe and one of the few places in LA where walking is a viable alternative to driving.
What do you find the biggest difference is living here versus London?
It’s rarer to meet a true Angelino here, than a true Londoner at home. LA can be a very transient city, with droves of stargazers coming and going, chasing their dreams. Friendships and relationships can be more elusive, and perhaps people treat each other more dubiously. But once you get all that rubbish out of the way, LA is incomparable. I met Werner Herzog recently, who feels the same way, choosing to live here permanently. Each part of the city has its own mood. We have the desert, mountains, and glorious Pacific, but most preciously, the light. David Lynch talked about that quality of light when he first moved to LA to study at AFI, the same light that brought everybody to LA to make films in cinema’s early days: “It’s different from the light in other places… There’s something about [it] that’s not harsh, but bright and smooth. It fills me with the feeling that all possibilities are available.” I find London’s greyness equally as inspiring, and Northern European melancholia permeates my entire being and art and spirit, but that magical feeling here which can be found in the light, that anything is possible, is ultimately a very American ideal – and it’s infectious. That’s the biggest difference.
Do you have a hidden gem in LA that you want to share with us?
|Elaine and Marty Perform at the famous Dresden in Los Feliz|
There are many: the free tennis courts up Vermont Avenue surrounded by mountains in Griffith Park; Café Stella and the Chandelier Tree in Silver Lake; the newly-restored, Tarantino-owned New Beverly Cinema; the veranda at H Coffee; going running around the Silver Lake Reservoir; watching veterans Marty and Elayne play at the Dresden.
What would you suggest to others who are thinking about making the move here?
Have a specific goal you’re working towards, a network and a community in place. LA can be a vacuous, sprawling, congested wasteland, so you have to make sure you’ve set yourself up for stability and the long-term, so you can focus on what matters, and makes you happy – particularly if you are freelancing.
What are you working on currently?
My most recent film, “Breathe”, stars Alicja Bachleda and Kristof Konrad. The film just had its world premiere at the Beverly Hills Film Festival at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. It will also screen for BritWeek as part of the NewFilmmakers LA forum in Downtown LA on April 30th. Otherwise, I am also in pre-production on several feature films I am writing and directing: one is called “Another I”, a thriller with dark, psychological undercurrents; another is a drama about a New England theatre student who blurs the lines between the stage and reality, and descends into madness. Other than that, I’m shooting campaign videos for Korovilas, a fashion label, and I’ve also recently optioned two books I’m very excited about and developing into screenplays.
Lots of our members join our group Brits in LA seeking out words of wisdom – what is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
My father never fails to inspire me with his credo: “Stay strong, never give up, keep going!” My mother always tells me: “Slow down”. They’re both right.
Lastly, how can we find out more about you?
Official Site: www.paulkowalski.com