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Exploring "Absolute Beginners" with head writer, Nina Lewandowska: A Journey into Youth, Freedom, and Queer Identity

Nina Lewandowska, a screenwriter born in 1995, has quickly made a name for herself in the Polish film and television industry. A graduate of the National Film School in Łódź, Lewandowska gained experience in writers' rooms for series created as part of the Canal+ Series Lab workshops and at HBO. The breakthrough moment in her screenwriting career came when she met director Kamila Tarabura, leading to the creation of the short film "Into the Night" and the highly praised series "Absolute Beginners."

Lewandowska and Tarabura developed the concept for "Absolute Beginners" together. "For both of us, the time right after high school graduation, the longest vacation of our lives, was a period of absolute freedom, experimentation, and discovering our sexuality," says Lewandowska. The inspiration for the main characters came from a personal story shared by Tarabura. Nina recalls, "The spark for creating the main characters was Kamila's story and her friend, with whom she shot a film by the sea to get into film school. This film became a safe space for them where they could test the boundaries of their relationship, pretending to grow closer as characters from a fictional world. As soon as I heard this story, I knew we had a theme for a series."

In "Absolute Beginners," Lewandowska not only co-created the series but also served as the head writer. "I led the writers' room for 'Absolute Beginners,' and later, on set, I accompanied Kamila throughout the shooting period so that we could discuss script changes on the fly. It's a unique pleasure for a writer to see their story materialize during the filming process. It was a time full of emotion and excitement."

One of the standout aspects of the series is its exceptional casting, particularly of young talent. Lewandowska explains, "The most interesting and challenging part was finding young talents. Kamila worked with casting director Julia Popkiewicz. Early on, Martyna Byczkowska stood out with how sparingly she used her acting means to portray a girl on the autism spectrum. We searched for our Niko for a long time, but eventually, Bartek Deklewa appeared, with whom Martyna immediately clicked on a magical level of understanding. Bartek naturally possesses exceptional empathy, which is the most important trait of Niko, making it a great asset."

The locations used in "Absolute Beginners" add a unique visual appeal to the series. Lewandowska shares, "While writing the script, I envisioned the distinctive part of the Polish coast around the town of Ustka - high cliffs covered with silver beech trunks are a unique feature of the local landscape. Fortunately, our cinematographer Tomek Naumiuk also fell in love with these locations and photographed them so that the Baltic Sea sometimes looks like the French Riviera."

Lewandowska's journey as a writer is deeply intertwined with the authentic stories she creates. "I've been writing since childhood because it was the easiest way for me to show my inner world," she says. "I thought about writing for film in high school, so right after graduation, I applied to the Film School in Łódź and managed to get into screenwriting. It was a huge honor and a feeling I will never forget - being among the five chosen ones in my year."

The impact of "Absolute Beginners" on young people in Poland is significant. Lewandowska hopes the series "encourages young people to pursue their dreams, develop their passions, and share them with others because the joy of creating together strongly resonates in the series. I also believe it encourages the free exploration of one's sexuality without the burden of prejudices - our characters are very diverse because that is a natural part of reality for us, something that shouldn't shock anyone anymore."

The series has been praised as one of the best contemporary coming-of-age stories for queer people in Poland. Lewandowska acknowledges this, saying, "I love foreign coming-of-age series, and I did feel that this genre was missing here in Poland. There is no more faithful audience than the queer community, and it is a great privilege to create important stories for them."

One of the more striking elements of "Absolute Beginners" is the inclusion of parents' storylines, which adds depth to the lives and loves of the young characters. Initially, Lewandowska and Tarabura planned to focus solely on the young characters. However, they decided to include the parents' stories based on a suggestion from the station. "We realized how important a part of our characters' lives are their parents, who are their first role models on how to love," says Lewandowska. "Through their presence, we could show the kind of parenting we lack on Polish screens - supportive parents who believe in their children's dreams and accept them as they are."

The series' soundtrack is another notable feature, with a particularly memorable use of Weyes Blood's "Movies" during an intimate scene. Lewandowska explains, "Music was very important to us already at the scriptwriting stage, and many songs were embedded in the story at that stage. The idea to choose that specific song by Weyes Blood came from our editor, Alan Zejer."

The reception to "Absolute Beginners" has been overwhelmingly positive, especially from the queer community in Poland. Lewandowska shares, "We felt the audience's love after the premiere, with many tweets appreciating the Niko and Igor storyline, people genuinely rooting for them, making their own edits and fan art, and we followed this with emotion. Surprisingly, no hate reached us."

Despite the show's success, there will not be another season. Lewandowska confirms, "The story concludes in these six episodes."

Nina Lewandowska's journey as a writer, combined with her work on "Absolute Beginners," highlights her dedication to telling authentic and impactful stories. Her collaboration with Kamila Tarabura has produced a series that resonates deeply with its audience, particularly within the queer community. As Lewandowska continues to create, we can only anticipate more powerful and evocative narratives from this talented screenwriter.


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