TheWIFTS Foundation Best Director: Basia Myszynski
for Modjeska Woman Triumphant A beautifully created film about an extraordinary woman and artist
Who crossed cultures
and whose life represents an iconic, liberated woman of the nineteenth century.
Filmmaker - Business Manager
Born in California, Basia pursued an interest in theatre arts, graduating with a
BA in Drama from the University of California, Irvine. She received her MFA in
Filmmaking at the Polish National Film Academy where she met Leonard, her
partner, collaborator and Director of Photography. Combining their filmmaking
skills, they won recognition at international film festivals for shorts
“Warius”, “According to a Friend”, and “Ingwar”, broadcast in Germany.
Followed by the creation of their American production company sOlar eye communications, Basia & Leonard created the Telly-award winning TV spots “Our Gang” and “Family Violence”; a mini-documentary about the Grammy-award winning band Riders in the Sky for Walt Disney Records and “ Family Farming Operation,” about the history of the Segerstrom Family’s agricultural business in Orange County. Other documentary shorts include “John Farrar Making Music”, “Olivia Newton John in Concert” & “Child Within”. Basia and Leonard’s filmmaking skills were most effectively captured in powerful reenactments of “16 Minutes Without a Pulse”, “A Devastating Accident” and “John Royston’s Story”.
Fulfilling a personal desire, Basia began teaching filmmaking several years ago at the prestigious Orange County High School of the Arts, where she was surrounded by the youngest generation of filmmakers, many of whom she employs in projects to this day.
Currently the President of OC Influential Productions, LLC, Basia’s company focuses on documentaries about people who have contributed to the development, art and culture of Orange County. "MODJESKA-WOMAN TRIUMPHANT" is the first full-length documentary she has directed in the series, screened at film festivals all over the world and airing on PBS stations in Los Angeles, Orange County and Chicago.
Residing in Orange County, Basia is married to cinematographer Leonard Myszynski, with whom she has four children.
Synopsis The stylized film is about a woman who dared to be the woman she wanted to be. A film about conquest. “Attaining the unattainable.” About the life of the nineteenth century iconic Polish actress Helena Modjeska as she builds her own persona one step at a time, refining theatre and redefining American culture. Her earliest impressions, influences, conflicts and desires as she leaves her war-torn Poland to become the voice of Poland and the voice of women--- the dignified, the fallen, and the conflicted. A journey about faith and compassion. About a muse for world-class artists. About the life of an artist missionary who became a bi-national star. Adored and admired for her beauty and nobility, she never forgot her true nature and the influence of Mother Nature on her art. It is a film about California, utopian living and artistic freedom. Symbolically, the 'Forest of Arden' in Orange County became her beloved sanctuary. It’s the story of one woman’s commitment to her self, to her beloved Shakespeare, to her family, to her countries, and to humanity through her art. Produced in celebration of Helena Modjeska on the 100th anniversary of her death in 2009!
Notes from the Director The making of the stylized documentary was a six-year labor of love for its filmmakers! Initial research and scouting of locations took place in 2004. Sandra Segerstrom Daniels, familiar with the work of the filmmakers and a patron of the arts in Orange County, helped establish the production company, becoming a co-producer and initial investor in the film. Award-winning producer Thaddeus Kryczko of GetBizzy Entertainment came aboard as co-producer and business advisor. The first horse-drawn carriage sequence was filmed a year later at Carriage Vineyards in Paso Robles, California. Based on 25 hours of interviews with Modjeska scholars, historians, theatre directors, and descendants, sequences were shot during the next five years primarily in California, Arizona, Colorado and Poland. No actual footage of Modjeska was ever discovered. Rather than misrepresenting an artist of such calibre or attempting to replicate powerful stage performances that no living person has ever witnessed, Modjeska was "symbolically re- created" through objects of diffusion, such as glass, veils, and elements in nature. Visual composites blended archival imagery with cinematic impressions. Over 75 hours of footage were shot using six different film cameras. Silent film footage and 300 archival photos obtained from sources all over the world were used in the film. During an eight-month post-production period, every photograph was restored and enhanced to unify the film and to match nineteenth century photography and early filmmaking techniques.
The inner worlds that haunted Modjeska were conveyed through her own words of her memoirs in the emotional voice of a contemporary "Queen of the Polish Theatre", Danuta Stenka. The key voice-over session was recorded through All Voices International studio in Atlanta with Basia directing from her Orange County studio and Ms. Stenka recording from a studio in Warsaw. Remaining voice-overs were recorded at Soundworks, LA and Sound Asylum with the narrator working from is studio in London. Finally, the romantic and poignant music composed by Mikolai Stroinski further represented the melancholy nature of Modjeska and her nostalgia for the world she left behind. The film was scored during an intense two-week, ten-hour day session.
The award- winning San Francisco sound design team of Larry & Ewa Oatfield re-recorded and sound mixed the film in the prestigious Skywalker Sound studio in Nicasio, California. The film was initially screened in their 300-seat state-of-the-art Stag Theatre.
One of the greatest challenges for the filmmakers was telling Modjeska's passionate and complex story as simply as possible and at the same time present its historical context in American settings. The goal was to create an educational film to be viewed by diverse audiences. Yet it was the interview by Duke University professor Beth Holmgren, a key speaker in the documentary, that unified the various elements of the film and contemporized it for modern audiences. Beth Holmgren is the author of an upcoming book on Modjeska. Professor Emil Orzechowski of the Jagiellonian University in Poland also contributed to the film.
"In my eyes Modjeska was a romantic realist of great power and grace. The film represents this duality: the journey of her soul, her poetic nature and her gentility (the "Arden" within her) juxtaposed by her continual drive upward and onward (exemplified by the movement of the steam engine train, the 'Iron Horse'). There is nothing more sacred to me than nobility and compassion. Modjeska represented both." - Basia