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Anka Malatynska: “Don’t learn how to “play the game” — learn how to be a good kind genuine human being and treat others like you want to be treated”

I would love to inspire people to meditate or sit quietly with themselves everyday in some level of self-love. When we slow down and tune in we are all capable of an immensity of goodness and compassion. As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing […]


I would love to inspire people to meditate or sit quietly with themselves everyday in some level of self-love. When we slow down and tune in we are all capable of an immensity of goodness and compassion.


As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Anka Malatynska. Named as one of the “10 Rising Stars of Cinematography 2019” in American Cinematographer Magazine, Anka Malatynska has just completed work on the highly anticipated new Hulu/Annapurna anthology series Monsterland, while her most recent feature film Breaking Fast is screening at independent film festivals nationwide. In the past year Anka has traversed the country and the globe, shooting on both coasts of the U.S. and teaching in both Arizona and Qatar. As a European immigrant with a passion for life and sensitivity to humanity that is evident in the exquisite and often breathtaking images in her work, Anka is one of the most fascinating cinematographers to watch in 2020.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born in communist Poland at the very end of 1979. My father was a Himalayan mountain climber and my mother was a scientist. Tragically my father died in the Himalayas when I was still an infant and that set the stage for quite an adventurous life. To generate two incomes my mom had this idea of going the United States to do her post doctoral research and save enough month to come back to Poland and use the interest of that money as a secondary income. She quickly learned that you could not save 10K a year on a 15K a year salary in the USA circa 1985. So two years turned into the rest of our lives. We moved quite a bit following the growth of my mom’s scientific career.

I had wanderlust to travel the world from an early age and found ways to see a silver lining in the tragedies of my childhood. National Geographic inspired the idea that photography can keep me traveling and learning for the rest of my life.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

You see the beginning of the story above. I wanted to travel the world from an early age. I wanted to meet people and hear their stories. I started taking my own photos and developing them at 13 in my mom’s laboratory; by 17 my obsession with photography turned into an obsession with cinematography and by 19 I was working as film loader on my first feature. Mind you, I did this as an outsider who had no industry connections — my family couldn’t be more removed from the film world. But that’s what I love about film — you can literally come from nowhere and if you work your off you can have an amazing career and life.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

There are so many interesting stories. We’re talking 15 years of intense travel and global filmmaking, but this past year has been off the hook surprising. Breaking Fast,a film by Mike Mosallam, premiered this month (March 2020) at Cinequest. It’s a quiet story about a gay Muslim man reconciling religion and sexuality in West Hollywood. A beautiful film. I met Mike through a Facebook post looking for DP for a short film. We hit it off creatively on the no-budget short and he hired me to make Breaking Fast, his first feature. I learned and dismantled so many preconceived notions about Islam, that I was unexpectedly nabbed by Northwestern University in Qatar to lecture to their majority (female) Muslim student body about cinematography and filmmaking. Simultaneously Seth Hauer, our producer from Breaking Fast, recommended me to writer/showrunner Mary Laws and producer Kathy Landsberg, and after three months in Qatar I ended up in New York for five months shooting my first network series.

If you asked me a year ago, I would have not had a clue or inkling of the changes in the year to come. It just goes to show that you never know how or where that door will open; it’s all about showing up and doing the best work you can no matter the size or budget of the project.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It was on the first feature film where I worked as a loader, and I accidentally loaded the film backwards into a mag. The whole camera department defended me to production saying there is no way I would do something like that. But in fact when the film came from the lab it turned out I did just that. Turned out people can make mistakes even on film sets!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I just wrapped photography on Monsterland, a Hulu and Annapurna series on mythical monsters that represent the shadow side of today’s society. It’s an incredible series with intense stories that enabled some incredibly imaginative cinematography. Really it was the highlight of my life as a DP so far. I am moving on to some exciting projects that I can’t share quite yet!

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

The stories we tell define our cultures for generations. We need stories as a species to make peace with the unknowns of the human condition. We are a diverse planet, a diverse species and it’s time we come around to that truth. This is why diversity amongst storytellers is critical to our future. Stories have the power elevate compassion and illuminate that which is obscured.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Save (even if its one dollar) from every paycheck for your future self 25 years from now.

2. Its not about who you know — it’s about your work ethic.

3. Don’t learn how to “play the game” — learn how to be a good kind genuine human being and treat others like you want to be treated.

4. Feel successful — to be successful.

5. Trust your intuition.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

1. Find an internal happiness that is not dependent on your work.

2. Express your creativity outside of your work.

3. Take breaks, take vacations, travel.

4. See movies and art.

5. Give back by teaching and sharing your skills with the younger generation — their passion will in turn re-inspire you.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to inspire people to meditate or sit quietly with themselves everyday in some level of self-love. When we slow down and tune in we are all capable of an immensity of goodness and compassion.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are so many people who helped me along the way — that’s one of the reasons I try to give back and teach and help others as much as I can when I can. Notably cinematographer James Chressanthis ASC, who’s been my mentor, co-worker, boss and friend for many years. I interned for him on a John Stamos show years back. That was my first gig in Hollywood. He introduced me to his mentors, the legendary László Kovács and Vilmos Zsigmond. Subsequently, James and I collaborated on a documentary about Laszlo and Vilmos and I spend two years filming and tracing the story of these two legendary DPs who changed the face of American cinema. They too became my mentors.

I also have to give a shout out to my agent, Dana Salston at Intrinsic. People always complain about their agents and I feel like I won the lottery. She has worked so hard on my behalf elevating my career to the next level.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“There will be a time when Love wins, there has to be, the universe will always return to balance”– Sri Amritananda Saraswati, my late teacher in India.

I learned to meditate in India years ago with this incredible teacher who shared the above quote with me. I think of it often. There is so much darkness and uncertainty in today’s world and that statement gives me hope. Hope is powerful. We have to imagine a brighter future collectively to make that future.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Yes! Ava DuVernay because she’s a badass female director who is redefining the power structures in the industry by being her badass self.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m not a social media fanatic but I do love my Instagram! @ankavision

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