The 2011 Ten to Watch: Larysa Kondracki
The director's first feature, The Whistlerblower, stars two Oscar winners and has earned praise around the world for its recent premiere.
Each year, Playback puts out a call for the industry to recommend its best and brightest
up-and-coming talent for our 10 to Watch list. With over 100 nominations this year, including only 10 seemed impossible — virtually every nominee deserved to be on the list. The selection represented here is the culmination of careful consideration by Playback‘s editorial jury, in association with film, TV and interactive industry execs and organizations. Having already made a splash, these talented 10 are poised for great things.
Big break: The Whistleblower
Agency: United Talent Agency
The buzz: Toronto-born director Kondracki made big waves last year at TIFF with her still-unfinished feature, The Whistleblower, a film she started working on as her masters thesis at Columbia University. Fast-forward a year, and Kondracki is jetting around the world promoting the premiere of the thriller, which follows a UN worker, played by Rachel Weisz, who helps uncover a sex-trafficking ring in post-war Bosnia. Since she first started working on it as a student in 2003, Kondracki has been on a roller coaster ride, having her first feature attract not only two Oscar-winning actresses (Weisz and Vanessa Redgrave) but win international distribution and critical acclaim.
Tell us about debuting The Whistleblower at TIFF last year.
We got it as a very last-minute opportunity. We didn’t know if the film would be presentable but because Christine [Piovesan, the film's producer] and I are Canadian, we really wanted to do it. It was one of those 18-hour, working around the clock things to get the tape finished. We put it out three hours before it was due. It was all temp score, the sound wasn’t mixed — the picture wasn’t even totally locked either. But it ended up brilliant. The Elgin was packed and we sold the film.
Looking back, what have you learned during this journey that you’ll carry forward?
Everything and nothing! I’ve learned not to give up. That’s what a lot of people said to me: a lot of people are going to fall out along the way or won’t continue, but don’t give up. Everything about this was kind of a last-minute thing. After all those years it was suddenly a phone call on a Friday and Rachel [Weiss] said yes and I was packing on Sunday and we hadn’t even scouted Romania before we got there. You also learn that there are things you can’t control but in a weird way that’s where the energy comes from.
What attracts you to a story or a script?
It needs to be something you just can’t stop thinking about. Because if you’re not 100% committed, you’ll never get it done. And if for some reason you get the opportunity to do it, you won’t do a good job. So I think it just has to be something that grabs you. For me, I look for originality and a challenge. We’re now working on a kind of epic horror, set in the WWII-era Soviet Union. There are still fundamentally important scenes underneath [like Whistleblower] but this time I want to do something totally different.