Named as one of the “10 Rising Stars of Cinematography 2019” in American Cinematographer Magazine, Anka Malatynska has just wrapped production on the highly anticipated new Hulu/Annapurna anthology series MONSTERLAND, while her most recent feature film BREAKING FAST is premiering at Cinequest in San Jose and Outfest Fusion in Los Angeles.
In just the past year, Anka has traversed the country and the globe, shooting on both sides of the U.S. and teaching in 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.
Anka shot four episodes of Monsterland in New York, including the season finale directed by Babak Anvari (Wounds, Under the Shadow). Based on the book North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud, Monsterland explores mythical monsters as a metaphor for the problems faced by the modern world. Series creator, writer and executive producer is Mary Laws (Succession, Preacher); executive producers also include Anvari, Megan Ellison (Bombshell, Hustlers, Booksmart) Sue Naegle (The Plot Against America, Soundtrack) and Lucan Toh (Wounds, Under The Shadow). Other directors include Logan Kibens (The L Word: Generation Q, Snowfall) and Craig William Macneill (Lizzie, The Boy). Writers are Aalia Brown and Emily Kaczmarek.
The look of Monsterland has been inspired by the brooding dreamlike photography of Todd Hido and Gregory Crewdson. Anka says, “Monsterland is one of those rare and pivotal opportunities to create true art and exercise my creativity within the television spectrum. The show is truly a cinematographer’s dream.” Anka’s stunning images tell heartbreaking stories in a breathless, poetic way – inviting what show runner Mary Laws calls “leaning into the monster… creating a world where terror and human darkness draw us in to be exposed through seamless cinematic story telling.”
Truly a director’s cinematographer, Anka listens to her collaborators with deep heart and intent, resulting in powerful friendships and collaborations. Throughout production Anka has been deluged with praise from the key creatives. Showrunner Mary Laws says, “Anka’s cinematography on the first season of Monsterland was nothing short of visual poetry, elevating the narratives of marginalized people into majestic works of art. Her work is innovative and unapologetically daring, and like a true visionary, she is endlessly on the hunt for new ways to utilize the tools of the trade which she has already mastered.”
Other creatives on Monsterland have been effusive in their praise. Writer Emily Kaczmarek says, “Anka is a straight-up genius. She’s shot things for Monsterland that I’ve never seen on screen before – truly wild, inventive, gorgeously moving visuals. She is a dream collaborator, a whip-smart storyteller and a brilliant artist.”
Actor Michael Colter, who stars in the season finale, says, “I have never been so impressed by a DP. Anka is a real artist; she makes it look effortless with a great bedside manner.”
Her work on the feature Breaking Fast, directed by Mike Mosallam and produced by Seth Hauer, will be seen in the months ahead on the festival circuit around the country. Following Cinequest and Outfest Fusion, the film will close QFLIX in Philadephia with more festival announcements to come.
Set against the twinkling lights of West Hollywood in Los Angeles, Breaking Fast is a romantic comedy that follows Mo, a practicing Muslim reeling from heartbreak. When an All-American guy named Kal offers to join him in his nightly Iftars (the traditional meal eaten by Muslims during Ramadan), meal after meal the two start to discover they have more in common than meets the eye.
“The subject matter is provocative and timely,” says Anka. “It challenges ideas and stereotypes of Islam and the Muslim American experience. The cinematography is a gorgeous portrait of West Hollywood life.” Anka shot Breaking Fast on the RED Weapon 8K camera with Panavision Primos, with a specialized lens treatment in collaboration with Panavision’s lens team.
Says Mosallam, “Anka was a great collaborator on this project. She was quick on her feet and made things happen on the fly. I'm so appreciative of her nimble approach and her generous spirit.”
Anka actively mentors future cinematographers worldwide. Just prior to starting the shoot for Monsterland, Anka was serving as Visiting Professor of Cinematography at Northwestern University in Qatar and before that she taught at Northern Arizona University. Anka was herself educated and mentored by legendary cinematographers László Kovács (Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces) and Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter), who instilled in her the importance of educating and bringing up the next generation of world filmmakers. Anka notes that the look of the Monsterland season finale is in fact inspired by Close Encounters.
Ever the willing student as well as a teacher, Anka was one of eight emerging female cinematographers selected to participate in the inaugural 21st Century Fox/American Film Institute sponsored Fox DP Lab in late 2018 before embarking on the shoot for Breaking Fast.
In 2019 Anka collaborated with director Gabriella Tolman on the short film Lovely, which was awarded Best Cinematography at the Under The Stars International Film Festival in Bari, Italy. Her previous credits as cinematographer, 2nd unit DP and camera operator have ranged from Claire Niederpruem’s intimate 2018 adaptation of Little Women to National Geographic's Most Amazing Photos television series, Walden Media's Dear Dumb Diary to Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here, Firestarter Films’ Akicita: The Battle of Standing Rock and season 3 of HBO's Insecure. Anka’s collaborators have included Rose McGowan, Kristin Hanggi, Tim Hunter, Michael Gondrey, Issa Rae, James Chressanthis ASC and many more.
Anka has continually sought out and created work that is bold and diverse. She is as adept at leading a hundred-person crew through the monsoon-soaked jungles of South East Asia as she is at cultivating an intimate atmosphere on a three-person documentary shoot. Through her work she has hobnobbed with dignitaries and diplomats, and hung out with East L.A. gangsters. She speaks three languages fluently, and is comfortably conversational in half a dozen more, which only enhances Anka’s ability to make absolutely anyone and everyone feel comfortable in front of the lens.
Outside of filmmaking, Anka herself is a mother, a wife, a surfer, a yogi, a traveler and purposefully inspiring human being. Anka lives in New York and Los Angeles, but when she is not on set she spends the majority of the time traveling with her husband and son.The daughter of a Himalayan mountain climber and Polish immigrant scientist mother, Anka is deeply passionate about living an inspired life.