Call for applications for the Essay Film Studio at the vnLab of Łódź Film School

(all seminars will take place online and will be held in English, so we encourage applications from all around the world)

Established in 2019, The Essay Film Studio (part of the vnLab of Łódź Film School) is opening its doors to all the makers and artistic researchers interested in exploring the essayistic forms and methods in their own artistic/research practices.

Rather than focusing on historical inquiries, the Studio aims to research how the free-floating, radically subjective, heterogeneous and non-conclusive form of the essay can aid our practices as filmmakers, artists or practice-based researchers. Employing the hands-on approach we aim to rethink the conditions of production, execution and distribution of film, by exploring ‘the essayistic’ as a method of engagement with the cinematic material. We use the term ‘essayistic’ as a flexible, customisable frame of thinking through making, which allows for defamiliarization of your point-of-view, objects of inquiry and methods through experimentation.

Over the calendar year 2021 (starting from the late February), in the series of bi-weekly seminars, hosted by the most inspiring figures working with the essay form nowadays internationally (such as Eyal Sivan, Mark Cousins, Johan Grimonprez, Catherine Grant, Kevin B. Lee, Matthias Müller or Christoph Girardet), we will explore various essayistic devices and registers and work towards translating those principles into participants’ practices and prospective projects.

Participants of the seminar will gain access to the vast and unique archive of Wytwórnia Filmów Oświatowych (Educational Film Studio. Officially established in December 1949. Its output includes ca. 5,000 films on various subjects, made by several generations of Polish filmmakers, including Wojciech Jerzy Has, Janusz Nasfeter, Krzysztof Zanussi, Zbigniew Rybczyński, Jacek Bławut, Jan Jakub Kolski, Marek Koterski, Bogdan Dziworski or Maciej Drygas). In addition, all participants will be encouraged to apply for a limited number of seed grants (2-3) from the Essay Film Studio that will allow them to work on their own audiovisual essays.

Teaser showreel of the archive:




Every 2021 seminar will consist of two parts – a public masterclass with the invited guest and a hands-on workshop for the core group of Essay Film Studio participants. Therefore, we issue this call offering interested filmmakers/artists/practice-based researchers two modes of participation, each coming with a different set of prerogatives, responsibilities, and requirements:

1. Free Listener

Free Listeners will be offered an active spot in every masterclass organised by the Studio. They will be invited to the Zoom calls, will be able to ask questions, participate in the discussions, and all closed-off events where our guests will be analysing their works-in-progress and other sensitive materials. Free Listeners will have to commit to attending most of the seminars offered by the Studio. Free Listeners will not have access to the workshop parts of the seminars and will not have to execute and deliver practical assignments.

Number of places: 50


– Brief description of your practice/area of work/interest

– One paragraph on why you want to participate in the activities of the Lab

2. Member

Together with the Studio coordinators, members will constitute a practice-based research group on the essay form. Members will be active participants of all the seminars. They will be granted access to all the workshops and an opportunity to present experiments and garner feedback from all the invited guests. Members will be expected to attend every seminar (with an exception of the occasional work-related engagements, i.e. work on sets) and execute experiments assigned by our guests.

Number of places: 10-12


– CV

– A motivational letter describing your practice/area of work/study and your interest in investigating the essay form (short samples of previous works are welcome)

– A one-page description of the essayistic project that you’d like to develop in the Studio.




ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: After the recruitment results have been announced, the Essay Film Studio will open another call for mid-length and feature-length essay films, offering between 2-3 seed grants to execute the projects. All participants invited to the seminar will be eligible to apply for those grants.

We will notify all the applicants directly through an email. Applicants applying for the members’ spot will automatically be considered for Free Listeners slots if they don’t qualify as members.


The coordinators of the Essay Film Studio are:

Kuba Mikurda – a documentary filmmaker, with a background in philosophy and psychoanalysis, heading the theory department of The Łódź Film School in Poland

Stanisław Liguziński – a film scholar and a teacher at the Master Programme on Research in and Through Cinema at the Netherlands Film Academy in Amsterdam

Essay Film Studio

The aim of the Film Essay Studio is to radically expand the research workshop, to develop new methodologies and new forms of thinking – thinking with images, sounds and montage. The idea is to complement the keyboard, screen and word processor, which in most cases were the only technological equipment of a researcher-humanist, with contemporary technologies of recording, processing and distribution of audiovisual materials. We will attempt to reinvent the form of the film essay, drawing on contemporary forms of audiovisual communication, the genres, languages and conventions of contemporary cinema and the Internet.

Studio leader:

Kuba Mikurda,

Mieke Bal at the Film Essay Studio

In March 2020, the vnLab’s Film Essay Studio hosted Mieke Bal, a prominent Dutch cultural critic and theorist as well as a filmmaker at the intersection of fiction and film essay. Mieke
Bal participated in a seminar and produced a 30-minute film essay “It’s About Time. Reflections on Urgency”. The film was made in collaboration with PhD students and students of the Film School.
The leading roles were played by Magdalena Żak and Adrian Budakow, cinematography – Magdalena Bojdo and Alicia Devaux, editing – Aleksandra Rosset, production manager – Aleksandra Ślusarczyk, production cooperation – Magdalena Szymków.
production cooperation – Magdalena Szymków. In episodic roles appeared also the lecturers – Grzegorz Małecki and Monika Talarczyk. “The film essay is a form that is constantly changing and evolving,” says the head of the Film Essay Studio, Dr. Kuba Mikurda, “it’s not about copying the films of Chris Marker, Agnes Varda, or – from among more contemporary filmmakers – Peter Mettler or Patricio Guzman. In our studio we wonder whether the film essay is a genre or rather an approach, a method of work. With each guest we try to answer this question both during the seminar and practically – by working on specific projects.”

Essay Film Studio – statement

The essay film tends to be treated as a genre distinguished by its characteristic features such as subjectivity or hybridity, and a tendency to blend contradictory orders – theory with practice, knowledge with emotions, facts with fiction. As such, the essay film has a history, a set of canonical works and a list of household names including Chris Marker, Agnès Varda, Harun Farocki, Jean-Luc Godard or Orson Welles. Creatively drawing from this tradition, at the Essay Film Studio we expand on the meaning of the “essay” by reconnecting it to its root, which derives from “an attempt”, an exploration that is constantly being repeated in order to grasp various phenomena in the very process of their description.

In our view, the essay is not necessarily a genre, but rather an attitude, a cognitive and artistic method that doesn’t stick to established forms and figures, but forces one to reinvent them every step of the way, revise one’s assumptions, point-of-view and modes of expression.

Therefore, the main question that we aim to explore in the seminars, workshops, discussions and film projects carried out in the framework of the Studio, is not what the essay film IS, but what it CAN become in the hands of the artists and researchers who will choose to deploy it as a mode of investigating reality through the essayistic practice.

What instruments, methods, and poetics do essayist have at their disposal in the current media landscape? How can they creatively built upon the film history and simultaneously engage with the new audiovisual forms? How can we imagine the equivalent of scribbling with images and sounds (cinécriture), the essayistic practice natively performed in the audiovisual domain, the act of doodling not with a pen, but with a camera, and the aid of the editing software?

Such objectives require specific means and conditions of production, that provide makers with the most precious of resources – the time, and the space to make attempts, to fail, to experiment and test various assumptions, to risk producing materials that will never be used, and to take radical detours if the material demands it. The open-ended nature of the research performed in the Essay Film Studio will allow for the trial-and-error testing of diverse formal strategies, without the necessity to adhere to any preconceived format (duration, genre etc.). Given that, the Studio recognizes not only the finished products but also the failed attempts and partial results as valid research materials and sources of practice-based knowledge

Studio Leaders
Kuba Mikurda,
Stanisław Liguziński,