While in Warsaw, I befriended a man who introduced himself as, literally, a clown, and that he was in Warsaw for a few auditions. Bewildered, I ask for clarification. He pulls out a little advert. Turns out he’s a clown, an actor, and a casting agent, too. And his real name is Kamil. He invited me to an audition for a commercial in Łódź (pronounced “Woodge”). I figured, “Why not?” The city isn’t far from Warsaw, about 2 hours.
So off I go to the audition. The first time I’ve tried to act since making Coffee and Milk in Korea.
The task was pretty simple: I had to imagine standing on a beach with no one else around, sad and lonely, when all of a sudden a penguin walks up and gives me some ice cream. After that, I’m supposed to fucking lose it with happiness. The one note they gave me was to keep eye contact with this imaginary penguin. That’s a lot more difficult that it seems.
Next, I was supposed to imagine being a date with nothing to say (yeeeeaaaa right!!) when that same fucking penguin walks up and gives us ice cream. We’re supposed to lose it with excitement. My colleague (who might have been the co-director of the commercial) did well, but me? Not so much. I didn’t get the part.
The experience, however, truly exposed my ignorance of Polish cinema. Turns out Łódź, and Poland in general, has cranked out a few famous directors. You may have heard of Roman Polański (Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, The Pianist) and maybe Andrzej Wejda (Pan Tadeusz, The Promised Land and recently nominated for an Academy Award for his film Katyń) but Krzystow Kieślówski? No idea. (He’s known for a TV series titled The Decalogue and a trilogy of films, Three Colours: Blue, White, Red). Those folks belong to the Łódź Film School (Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Filmowa, Telewizyjna i Teatralna).
The studio I was auditioning in, however, was called Se-Ma-For. Turns out the studio has won a couple of Academy Awards for their work: in 1983 for Tango and in 2008 for Peter and the Wolf. The studio specializes in stop-motion animation (think Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas.)
After the audition, Kamil took me on a tour of the museum behind the audition studio, called the Museum of Fairytale. It was a neat little museum dedicated to their stop-motion work, complete with sets and props and a screening room for their latest work. They also had one of their Academy Awards on display.
Auditioning aside, I stayed only two days in Łódź so I didn’t get to see everything the city had to offer.
Though Łódź is mainly a student city now, it has been an industrial city for much longer, particularly for textiles and other manufactured goods. It has been dubbed the “Polish Manchester.” The factories used to be powered by underground rivers, apparently there are 19, but only one is visible.
I contented myself with visiting Manufaktura, a huge shopping mall made from renovated red-brick factories and warehouses. The mall is located at the end of the “longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe,” Piotrkowska Street. Along the way I saw the sculpture of Arthur Rubenstein (a famous pianist) and his piano near some stars on the sidewalk commemorating the film directors mentioned above.
I was told to try a restaurant called Bierhalle, a German-themed brew house and restaurant. There’s one in Manufaktura, so I stopped in. Not only does Bierhalle have some eye-popping marketing tactics, the restaurant chain is renowned for their naturally-brewed beers. So along with my meal I order a litre of beer. These Europeans seem to think serving a litre of beer is nothing unusual. I can recommend going to Bierhalle. The food was affordable and the beer was much better than the typical Polish beers you can buy (Królewskie, Warka, or Żywiec).
After my Bierhalle experience, I head on back to the club near the hostel. I meet up with some folks I met the night before to embark on another night’s escapade. A few shots of vodka, some beer and more craziness and I wake up in another apartment. Bad night to do that since I’m supposed to be on the first train to Bydgoszcz to meet up with a friend. I locate two of my bags, leave the third wherever it was (gifts for my host family!!) since I didn’t have time to get them, and I get myself to the train station.
If I had the chance, I’d visit Łódź again, but next time I’d be sure to do a little more sight-seeing, including the museum and the film school.