Oscar-winning composer Jan Kaczmarek on his Transatlantyk Festival and returing to scoring
POZNAN, POLAND—Jan Kaczmarek is ready to get back to his first love.
The composer, who took home the Oscar in 2004/ for scoring “Finding Neverland,” shifted his focus for the last several years to creating Transatlantyk here in Poznan, in his native Poland. In its fourth year, the week-long “festival of ideas” continues to draw top composers and filmmakers and other creative talents who join together for screenings, thoughtful discussions, concerts and much more.
Kaczmarek has managed to squeeze in the occasional film score, such as this year’s German film, “Inbetween Worlds,” but it’s been a while since he has scored a Hollywood film, such as 2002’s “”Unfaithful.” or “2007’s “The Visitor,” or 2009’s “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale.” Most recently, he wrote an opera commissioned by Poland's Jagiellonian University that premiered in front of 14,000.
His first step is to get back to Los Angeles —he splits his time between Krakow and Hollywood — and get a new agent. “I had not reason to have one these four years,” he says, “but I can comeback to composing now. Composing gives me eternal life.”
Ideally, Kaczmarek says, he’d like to continue to score “Intelligent, ambitious movies, where music has an important part.”
While very grateful for his Oscar, he admits that after “Finding Neverland’s” success, “many people think I only write scores for gentle films, that I keep writing this world of noble illusion. That’s just not true, my roots are in avant grade. I did electronic music. I have all these things in me.”
In the meantime, he credits Transatlantyk with refueling his imagination and providing inspiration to return to composing. The festival prides itself on creative presentations, such as Culinary Cinema: a film about a specific cuisine or food issue is presented and then select guests enjoy a meal prepared by top chefs that ties in to the film. For example, after a Taiwanese film, a gourmet Taiwanese meal will be served. Last year, after a documentary on GMO-modified foods, a non-GMO dinner was served. This year, among the top composers taking part were John Ottman (“X-Man, Days of Future Past,” “Superman Returns,” “The Usual Suspects”) and Michael Price (“Sherlock”) both of whom gave presentations dissecting their works.
With this year’s Transatlantyk winding down, Kaczmarek is already looking ahead to the festival’s milestone fifth anniversary next August. New elements will including commissioning new works from composers (beyond the event’s two existing scoring competitions), expanding to include video games, and concerts featuring global names, such as last year’s Yoko Ono performance.
As he heads back into the composing world, he also takes lessons he’s learned from working with new composers here. Lamenting that few directors have “the power to pursue their own vision,” he encourages composers to not give in to that and to develop their own strong voice. “We tell them, ‘don’t be part of an undistinguished group. Don’t be a person with no face. Sooner or later, this will destroy you.”