A serious man tries to avoid catching a deadly laughing plague in a growingly polarized and dystopian society.

Project type: Fiction Short
Project status: Development
Writer/Director/Producer: Paul Kowalski
Producer: Pin-Chun Liu
Producer: Stephanie Furtun
Cinematographer: Sean Bagley
Co-Editor: Spencer Koobatian
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A serious man tries to avoid catching a deadly laughing plague in a growingly polarized and dystopian society.


After an exotic bird arrives from Sardinia to an American port, a serious Polish-American man called Ryszard notices his work colleagues stricken with uncontrollable laughter – despite finding himself immune. With news arising that a contagion disrupting nerve signaling and causing fatal laughter is spreading around the globe, Ryszard tries his best to protect his unruly immigrant father and jovial wife, all the while trying to survive in an increasingly dystopian and glum society.

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Meet the Filmmakers

Paul Kowalski – Writer/Director/Producer
Paul Kowalski is an award-winning writer-director whose films center around dark psychologies, hypnotic imagery, and themes of exile, obsession and the supernatural. His debut feature Paper Tiger won the Audience Award and a Jury mention at the 2020 Austin Film Festival; the film was backed by the EP of Fruitvale Station, sold by The Gersh Agency, and distributed on Amazon Prime. Born in the UK to nomadic Polish immigrants, Paul grew up in England, the Middle East, Poland, Africa and across America — sparking a natural impulse to reconcile contrasting views of the world. Studying literature at Brown University, he published a short story collection and made his first films. Paul is a BAFTA Newcomer, film professor at USC, and a Directing graduate of the AFI Conservatory. His films have won recognition from the American Society of Cinematographers, Austin Film Festival, Beijing Film Academy, CINE, Aesthetica Short Film Festival, Raindance Film Festival and Beverly Hills Film Festival, among others. In 2021, he was named by Austin Film Festival as one of “25 Screenwriters to Watch”. Paul is a Polish and British citizen, and lives in LA with his wife, actress Sorel Carradine. He is managed by LBI Entertainment.

Pin-Chun Liu – Producer
Raised in Taiwan, Pin-Chun is an award-winning producer recently nominated for the Emerging Producer prize at the 2022 Film Independent Spirit Awards. Recent features include: Test Pattern, which won the Blackstar Lionsgate / Starz Producer Award, was distributed theatrically by Kino Lorber in 2021, and nominated for three Gotham Awards (including Best Picture) and four Independent Spirit Awards; and Paper Tiger, which won the Narrative Feature Audience Award and Jury mention at the 2020 Austin Film Festival, was sold by Gersh, and distributed by Gravitas Ventures. Pin-Chun earned her sociology degree from National Taiwan University, and MFA from the AFI Conservatory; her thesis, Way in Rye, was a Student Academy Award finalist. Other projects include Contrapelo (Tribeca, 2016 Academy Award Best Live Action Short shortlist), The Taiwan Oyster (SXSW), Making the Rules (Grindstone/Lionsgate), Wonderland (HBO), and Two Sentence Horror Stories (WB Digital, Tribeca, CW Seeds). She participated in the Sundance / Women in Film Financing & Strategy Intensive Program, and was one of six producers chosen for the 2022 Film Independent Producing Lab. She is most drawn to stories of small individuals caught in big systems; her passion remains collaborating with talented filmmakers and championing diverse, underrepresented voices.

Stephanie Furtun – Producer
Stephanie Furtun is a French-Turkish, first-generation American producer based between New York City and Los Angeles. Stephanie has worked in production and development for several acclaimed global entertainment companies, including CBS, Heyday Films, HLA London and VMI Worldwide at Cannes Film Festival, developing a robust knowledge of the industry. She is currently a Senior Producer at Martine Dubin Company, leading development for the streaming-platform, CORE. Her most recent film, On Our Way (starring Vanessa Redgrave, Jordana Brewster and Micheal Richardson) premiered at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF) in 2021, and later screened at Ischia Global Film Festival in 2022. Stephanie received her B.A in Film & TV Production from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.

Sean Bagley – Cinematographer
Sean Bagley is a director of photography born and raised in Utah, and now based in Los Angeles. He graduated from the American Film Institute Conservatory in 2015 and shoots narrative and commercial projects all over the world. Sean’s narrative work includes the feature films He Went That Way (starring Jacob Elordi and Zachary Quinto, and soon to b released), The Dark Divide (David Cross & Debra Messing) and Head Count — as well as one of 2022’s most streamed Netflix Series Web of Make Believe, and numerous shorts including The Mill’s revolutionary sci-fi film, Arxiv. Sean’s recent commercial portfolio includes work for Nike, Google, Disney, McDonald’s, Mercedes, Gatorade and Samsung. He is represented by WPA.

Spencer Koobatian – Co-Editor
Spencer Koobatian is a film and TV editor, most recently working on Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s The Peripheral for Amazon and Kilter Films. His other work includes Ratched, The Orville, 9-1-1, Nightcap and How To Build Everything, and projects that screened at Sundance. Spencer is a graduate of Idyllwild Arts Academy, UC Santa Cruz, and AFI — where his thesis All These Voices won the 2016 Student Academy Award — and he was mentored by Donn Cambern (Easy Rider), Stan Salfas (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and Howard Smith (Point Break, The Abyss). Spencer’s other professional experience includes at creative agencies and companies such as Digital Kitchen, On the Reel Production, Dakota Pictures, Citizen Jones, Lives of Women, 60 Second Docs and Soulpancake.

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