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Life & Work with Piotr Niemczewski

Today we’d like to introduce you to Piotr Niemczewski.

Hi Piotr, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I grew up in the countryside in Central Poland surrounded by many trees and not many people. As a kid, I was obsessed with two things: Turning every moment of my life into an adventure and documenting those adventures on video. Most filmmakers I know and admire started out with 8mm film cameras or VHS camcorders. Unfortunately, those times were over before I was born. My journey began with an early model of the GoPro camera and an action-packed tree climbing video shot in my backyard with the “Born to be Wild” soundtrack. The day I made this video, I realized that cameras give you this incredible power of capturing reality and turning it into something so much more exciting.

After discovering a small video-sharing website called YouTube, I didn’t wait long before I started sharing my videos with the world. By the time I went to high school, my little YouTube passion turned into a proper channel with monthly videos about urban exploration. Two of my friends and I would travel and explore the most haunted and unusual abandoned places in our area, and later across entire Poland, making adventure videos about it.

I was always drawn to unknown places. As soon as I understood that there is an entire world out there outside of my little hometown bubble I wanted to see it all and most importantly document it all on video. That dream quickly became a reality when I got accepted into a high school exchange program. At the age of 18, I left everything and everyone I knew, and moved to Oklahoma, where I lived for a year and where I graduated high school. During that time, I traveled a lot across the US and started a new YouTube channel called Trip Hunter, devoted purely to travel videos.

That one year has changed me a lot. For the first time I started seeing filmmaking as my career path, not just a hobby, and for the first time I dared to consider living and studying in another country. By the end of my exchange program, at the last minute I applied to as many film schools in the US as I could, hoping for a miracle.

Four years later, I’m a New York Film Academy alumni. I live in LA and work on film sets primarily as a director of photography. Somewhere along the way I fell in love with the art of cinematography and developed a never-ending craving for more knowledge in that field. I continue creating for my Youtube channel, which now consists of over 130 videos and should reach the 100 thousand subscribers mark very soon.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
It wasn’t a smooth road and it definitely wasn’t straight. The place where I am now is a result of many coincidences and unexpected opportunities which I either used or missed. Yes, learning a new language and moving to the other side of the world was stressful and challenging, but even worse was the pressure of having only one chance. The fear of wasting my only opportunity. Going to a film school in the US was a big financial challenge for my family and I knew I had to use every minute of my time here to learn and to prove myself. I wouldn’t be able to afford a second chance. I worked on countless film sets starting from the lowest positions, rarely getting paid, but slowly falling in love with the process of filmmaking. I had my share of stress and embarrassment every time I made mistakes on set, but that’s just a part of the learning process, and I’m sure there are more mistakes to come in my future. I hope there are. Otherwise, there is no progress.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I’ve worked on many great projects as a cinematographer. From various short films, music videos and commercials to short documentaries and hundreds of my own travel videos. I’ve written and directed two short films, both of which screened at film festivals.

I also continue to learn and gain experience working on feature films in other G&E and camera positions. As a cinematographer I love to experiment, try new techniques and lenses. I like to find beauty in imperfections – old lenses with unusual flares and artifacts are always my good friend. I love shooting outdoors, using landscapes and environment to enhance my visuals.

Besides my usual work on film sets I keep myself busy with a few ongoing personal projects. Those include: a documentary collaboration with NASA,  publishing a photography album shot on 35mm film, or a wildlife documentary about the LA River directed by my girlfriend Wiktoria.

I’m not the kind of person who is satisfied with a single steady job and I’m definitely not the kind of person who works just to make money. I mean, who in their right mind chooses a film career for money? In my case, it was an obsession that started very early and has been evolving throughout the years. When I don’t work on realizing other directors’ ideas, I keep making my own things, connecting my two passions: travels and cinematography and providing my YouTube viewers with a regular dose of travel content.

I’d like to believe that all of that is just the beginning of my journey as a filmmaker and I hope to keep learning and growing in my field.

Alright so before we go can you talk to us a bit about how people can work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
I’m always happy to meet other creative people and collaborate on projects. Whether it’s a small passion project or a feature film production, I will always give it my best.

Anyone can contact me through my website, email or my social media.

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