Kazik Radwanski ascends at TIFF with debut Tower

The Toronto-born director's feature takes North American bow at the festival and follows a string of shorts screened previously in Toronto.

Kazik Radwanski, whose debut feature Tower is making its North American premiere at TIFF, is the first to confess that being a scribe isn’t something that comes naturally to him.

“I’ve always wanted to make the films on set, not before. I’ve always feared writing them and simply pushing the film through, or having a script and just executing it,” he tells Playback.

“My films are largely improvised, but there’s always a bit of a plan. We have this character and this character and if we put them in a room their conflicting viewpoints are going to lead to something,” he adds.

Tower, which stars Derek Bogart and Nicole Fairbairn, marks the fifth appearance at TIFF for the 27-year-old Torontonian whose past screenings there include the shorts Princess Margaret Blvd. in 2008 and Green Crayons in 2010.

Though his films are fictional, he likens his shooting style to documentaries – particularly the character-driven Tower, about a disconnected and ‘socially peculiar’ 34-year-old who fears commitment, but finds himself in an intimate relationship.

“Once I found Derek [Bogart] and chatted to him for awhile the film just came to life,” he explains.

“A lot of the shooting process was taking the script we had and re-adapting it constantly to Derek and other things that happened,” he adds.

Tower was financed mostly through arts council grants, and award money left over from Radwanski’s prior successes with his short films.

After its completion, Radwanski sought additional funding through a crowdsourcing initiative on Indiegogo to help get it around the festival circuit and eventually make its world premiere at the Locarno Film Festival.

Despite its challenges, Radwanski says making small budget films is what he loves to do.

“It’s hard to relate to some of the issues a lot of filmmakers are facing with bigger budgets,” he says.

“As a director, I’m not craving a bigger budget or fancy cameras and lights. What I really want is to slowly move into a way of filmmaking that can support the crew and cast,” he adds.

Circuit breaker?

Despite this, Radwanski was worried that the politics of the festival circuit would bar him from screening the film in Toronto.

“It was a bit nerve-racking after we premiered at Locarno. We weren’t sure if that ruined TIFF for us, because we weren’t giving them the world premiere anymore,” he says.

The same concerns, he adds, apply to the international circuit, meaning successfully making the rounds comes down to wise strategy on the part of filmmakers.

“If you want to play at a festival like Locarno you have to be strategic, and you can’t play anywhere else before it,” he says. “We ended up having a bit of a waiting game, hoping we could play at an A-list festival like that,” he continues.

He and Tower producer Dan Montgomery also advise other filmmakers trying to make it on the festival circuit to watch a lot of movies. “It’s a complex landscape and different festivals are good at programming different things,” says Radwanski.

“Be aware of the festivals that are out there and carve out a road map for your film that makes sense for it,” adds Montgomery.

Tower bowed at the Toronto International Film Festival Tuesday and has its final screening Wednesday Sept. 12 at 6:15 p.m.

Up next, Radwanski is hoping for a theatrical release through distributor College Street Pictures in Canada at the end of the year, and is looking to take Tower on festival circuit in the U.S. and internationally.