Cinematography is a delicate balance between the technical and the creative, and Polish director of photography Martin Kobylarz has mastered the art of walking that fine line. Known for his work on both films and commercials, Kobylarz’s projects often raise questions about issues facing society in the past, present and future.
Born in Denmark to Polish parents and educated at the prestigious American Film Institute in Los Angeles, Kobylarz uses his vast and worldly experience to raise the bar for his craft. Recently, he was the cinematographer in charge of the National Autistic Society’s awareness campaign commercial, “Can You Make It To The End?”
“The whole commercial is seen from a first person perspective of a child with autism so it was up to me to find the right gear to give this a realistic feel,” Kobylarz said. “When reading about autism they give very specific definitions as to how they feel and perceive the world when they have sensory overload.”
The public awareness campaign was highly effective, and Kobylarz’s first-person approach played a large part in that success. The commercial’s frenetic and tense style is especially impactful, as if the viewer is experiencing the sensory overload as the child would.
Kobylarz has worked on a wide variety of film productions as well, including the 2012 drama “Wolves From Another Kingdom.” Directed by Christopher Carbone (“Mother Nature’s Son,” “Revivify”), the film centers around a group of children trying to survive after the end of the world. The project holds a rare 9.1 out of 10 rating on IMDb, and brought with it the unique challenge of strictly adhering to the child labor laws governing the cast of “Wolves From Another Kingdom.”
“My role included being a key creative figure and maintaining production efficiency, whilst working under strict child labor laws,” Kobylarz said. “My responsibilities also included overseeing and ensuring on-set safety rules and guidelines within my department were upheld.”
With more than 25 actors aged 5 to 17, safety standards were obviously a big consideration on-set. However, it’s a very different story within the ravaged world that audiences see in the film. Tasked with keeping his little brother Daniel safe, Aiden must navigate the ruins of a post-apocalyptic hellscape. When the duo meet a band of children living in the wastes, Aiden must decide whether or not to settle down with the group of dystopian Lost Boys.
“We worked very hard in prep across all departments. Plus I had time to read the script 100 times over and really get into the world of the film, and align myself to the director’s vision. I feel like every shot we made was discussed and thought about in prep,” said Kobylarz, who described the project as his favorite to date. “Of course we were open to spontaneous moments of inspiration when we got to the shooting, but because we were so prepared we knew if it was something that fit the project or not.”
Among Kobylarz’s myriad of other projects are the darkly-romantic drama “Do It Yourself,” as well as the upcoming historical drama “Adrift In Soho,” a period piece about a 1950’s artists’ movement in London to end nuclear proliferation. “Adrift In Soho” is currently in post-production and is scheduled to be released to eager UK audiences this July.
Using Nottingham as a stand-in for London, “Adrift In Soho” tells the story of the activists who pioneered the counter-cultural anti-war movement which evolved into a phenomenon that defined the 1960s Vietnam-era. The exceptional period piece also has the distinction of being the first film to document the origins of a now iconic symbol.
“‘Free-cinema filmmakers’… were documentarians who wanted to film the real people on the streets and everyday life. Coincidentally this was the same time that people started protesting about nuclear bombs and this was when they invented the peace sign that we know today,” Kobylarz recounted. “They used the symbol in their March to Aldermaston, which was a protest march the filmmakers captured. Our film is the first film ever to portray the origins of the peace symbol.”
Because of his unmatched passion for his work, Kobylarz’s projects run the gamut from film to advertising. He learned early in his life that his love for cinematography was a love for all film, and he doesn’t play favorites when it comes to genre or subject. In fact, the productions he’s been a part of are so diverse and his skills so varied that the only thing they all share in common is the exceptional talent and vision of his expertise as director of photography.