Tomek Kozera is the head of production and executive producer of OTO Film with extensive experience in film, commercials, and post-productions in the Polish and European markets. He leads productions from creative development, pre-production to set operation, post, and distribution. Tomek is a creative producer specialising in complex and challenging projects. He is skilled in developing and leading creative teams across all levels of the work and delivering seamless experiences.
Before taking the lead of the OTO Film production team, Tomek was responsible for the company's long-term partners, like ASAHI, PLAY, McDonald's, Castorama, and more. He was dedicated to international jobs shooting in Poalnd.
Prior to joining OTO Film in 2014, Tomek spent few years with different polish production companies – Propeller Film, MOJO Film, and Metro Films and as a freelancer.
Tomek earned a bachelor’s degree in Film and Television Producing at Krzysztof Kieslowski Film School at the University of Silesia in Katowice.
LBB> What first attracted you to production - and has it been an industry you’ve always worked on or did you come to it from another area?
Tomek> Film is my first and only professional love. As a kid, I wanted to be a heart surgeon, an architect, or a car designer. It never worked out, but I still have time to make a U-turn.
The reason behind my career path is simple. I can co-create worlds. At OTO Film, I can help different people make their dream come to life through visual images in a wise, joyful and entertaining way.
At the beginning of my carrier, I thought it would be easy to wander between the advertising and film industries. More than ten years ago, I had the pleasure of working with Anna and Wilhelm Sasnal, Polish contemporary artists, on their feature film, It Looks Pretty From a Distance. The film was a big success and gained recognition at many domestic and international festivals, e.g., Edinburgh International Film Festival, Jeonju Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival, Munich Film Festival. There were also a few other documentaries and short films I was working on with wonderful and talented people.
But at some point, I knew I need to decide which path I want to go further. I think it was a good decision because I constantly need to improve gain new skills and knowledge.
LBB> What was your first role in the production world and how did this experience influence how you think about production and how you grew your career?
My first steps into the industry were a mess and nightmare. In high school, I was helping a production crew as a runner. It was a large-scale film event – ten camera operators, a lot of equipment, a medieval castle, horses, many employees from a big European company drinking booze and pretending they were making a historical movie. These events were quite popular at the end of the '90s in Poland.
One of the DPs hadn't arrived on time, so the project manager promoted me to a camera operator. He gave me a camera and said: "make a movie." You can imagine how it ended up.
I was fired just after the editor received my materials. But from that point, I knew my life needed to be strongly allied with the film industry.
I still regret that I didn't choose the cinematography course and study film production. The DP's job is much more entertaining.
LBB> How did you learn to be a producer?
Tomek> I graduated from the Department of Film and Television Production at Krzysztof Kieslowski Film School, at the University of Silesia in Katowice. I cannot say I learned to be a producer. I’m still mastering my producer's skills. Every new project and person I meet teaches me something new or a new way of seeing something. I think the key is to observe and listen to others, not only more experienced people but everyone. Even a rookie can blow out your way of thinking and help you find better answers to old questions.
LBB> Looking back to the beginning of your career, can you tell us about a production you were involved in where you really had to dig deep and that really helped you to grow as a producer?
Tomek> I don't recall one specific project that made me or helped me grow as a producer. Each project is unique to me. Whether it is a one-day studio shoot on a green screen, a few days car job with complex car choreography, a Russian arm, and an international crew from different cultural parts of the globe. Or a months-long project in South Africa for a beer brand. Every project requires 100% attention and deep digging to ensure you are well prepared.
That's why I follow this one rule when leading the production team at OTO Film – "one job at a time."
LBB> A good producer should be able to produce for any medium, from film to events to digital experience. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why/why not?
Tomek> These days, with all these different video formats, expanding digital areas, branded content getting stronger each year, brands collaborating with high-tech technology, mirror worlds and NFT, it is tough to be up to date. Right now, with all the different social media platforms and dedicated content, I don’t think you can be an expert with all of it. But I believe it should be fine as long as you are loyal to producing high-quality video content in a respectful way to all your collaborators.
Moreover, clickable, engaging, and emotional content is key to success.
There are experts in every area, so it is more efficient to collaborate with them than pretend you know everything.
LBB> What’s your favourite thing about production and why?
Tomek> Talented, creative people full of energy drive me every time.
Finding solutions for tiny and huge problems is also part of the job. You never know where the simplest issue may lead you, and that’s the best thing about the job.
LBB> How has production changed since you started your career?
Tomek> Over the last 15 years, I've seen how technology influences every aspect of the production process. There are some pros and cons of this technology shift. My first project as a production assistant was made with Kodak film. I need to admit that there was something magical and thrilling about it. You had to be really prepared for the shoot. Right now, with all digital cameras and computer processes, you can do whatever you want because digital forgive many mistakes. I'm not saying that the technological revolution was wrong, but it changed the romantic spirit of the whole process.
LBB> And what has stayed the same?
Tomek> I think that each stage of the whole production process hasn't changed much, and I hope it never will. To do it right and keep high standards, you still need time.
LBB> What do you think is the key to being an effective producer - and is it something that’s innate or something that can be learned?
Tomek> Being efficient as a producer comes from an open mind, hard work, and respect for the people you work with. I believe you can learn whatever you want. The only question is how good you will be while doing it - but that's a totally different story.
LBB> Which production project from across your career are you most proud of and why?
Tomek> Last year's project for the Women's Rights Centre in Poland, directed by Monika Strzępka, a well-known theatre and film director.
I'm very proud that I was a part of the creative process from the beginning and was co-creating - from scratch - for such an important matter as femicide in Poland. Moreover, our efforts were valued by the Golden Arrow and Effie Awards jury last year, and we won the 1st prizes.
LBB> And in terms of recent work, which projects have you found to be particularly exciting or have presented particularly interesting production challenges?
Tomek> The project we are preparing right now for one of the OTO Film's global clients is quite interesting because it will be a multidisciplinary project linking together film people, artists, NFT concept, and reducing CO2 footprint. We are still at the development stage, but I'm more into such projects these days than old-school film jobs.
LBB> Producers always have the best stories. What’s the hairiest / most insane situation you’ve found yourself in and how did you work your way out of it?
Tomek> There were so many crazy, stressful and insane situations that I cannot pick just one over the last years. Talents who had missed their flight because they fell in love at the airport and needed some time privately or military maneuvers and army parachuters locked and loaded over crew heads while shooting a McD job on the desert, partly occupied by the army. Or the director having a personal breakdown just before the shoot. The most important thing for me while dealing with unexpected situations is always - stay calm, think, take a step back to see a bigger picture, and act. That’s the key to success.
LBB> What are your personal ambitions or aspirations as a producer?
Tomek> My biggest dream as a human is to see the Earth from space with my own eyes. If I could fuse it with my profession, it would be it :)
Freediving: It is a one on one situation. Water and depth always uncover all your stress, overthinking and being somewhere else. You need to release it all before going down to have fun.
Switch off – a long motorbike trip and vacation breaks with my family.
Before the pandemic, I hit the road with my motorbike wingmen, and we stopped in Mongolia. Almost three months on the road, 20k km, dealing with your own demons, and meeting people from totally different cultural regions of the world gives you a bigger perspective and helps you learn humility.
Time only with my family is also something I highly value and helps me charge batteries.
LBB> Producers are problem solvers. What personally fuels your curiosity and drive?
Tomek> People’s energy and their different way of seeing the same thing is something that drives me.
LBB> What advice would you give to people who are interested in becoming a producer?
Tomek> Find a good production company. Start as a runner - with basic tasks. Observe, listen, and ask even the dumbest questions. The rest will come over the years.
LBB> From your experience what are the ingredients for a successful production?
Tomek> A good creative idea, understanding between client-agency-producer, efficient production approach, visionary and devoted to the project director, dedicated and creative crew, and mutual respect at all stages of production.
LBB> What’s the key to a successful production-client relationship?
Tomek> Three words: Open communication, trust, respect. That's even four!
LBB> Producers are naturally hands on - they have to be. How do you balance that in the more managerial role of an EP?
Tomek> I believe it is more about trust in your production team and acknowledging that you cannot control everything at some point. You need to let people do their job.
This is the only way to build a good and responsible production team. The core of the OTO Film family has been with the company from the very beginning.
And this is something that I find unique about the OTO Film crew. People you know very well and can rely on them in every situation, even the most private or craziest ones.