headshot photo of Paul Wolansky

Paul Wolansky

Associate Professor
Lawrence and Kristina Dodge College of Film and Media Arts
Expertise: Short Films; Feature Screenwriting; Documentary; Myth-Based Screenwriting
Office Location: DeMille Hall 150D
Phone: (714) 744-7647
Columbia University in the City of New York, Bachelor of Arts
Columbia University in the City of New York, Master of Fine Arts


Seeing Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai marked a turning point in Paul Wolansky's life.  He was fascinated by an experience he found "as vivid as my dreams," captivated by the power of film to express universal truths.

The son of Ukrainian immigrants, Wolansky's family spoke Ukrainian at home and lived on the grounds of a mental hospital, where his father was the administrator.

Separated from the life his American friends lived, Wolansky became an observer.

He studied directing and screenwriting at Columbia University under Milos Forman and Frank Daniel, who later offered him a job teaching at USC.  It was as a teacher that Wolansky found a career he loved.

"In the business, another thousand people are trying to come up with the latest cool idea, but in film school you have the chance to convey your deep emotional beliefs about life."

"I push my students to dig deep," he says, "to really put out their vision of the truth."  If they do it well, Wolansky maintains, they too will see people be moved by what they have to say, just as he was first moved by Kurosawa, in a way that changed his life.

Recent Creative, Scholarly Work and Publications

BREAKING POINT: THE WAR FOR DEMOCRACY IN UKRAINE (97:40) WRITER & PRODUCER (with 3-time Oscar winner Mark Jonathan Harris) of this feature documentary about Ukraine’s 2014 “Maidan Revolution”, followed by Russia’s 2014-2017 annexation of Crimea & invasion of Ukraine, causing a war between Ukraine & Russia which has killed more than 10,000 people, created 1.9 million refugees, a war which continues with no end in sight. A screening at the Smithsonian’s Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C. received rave reviews; U.S. Vice-President Joseph Biden requested a dvd of the film. During 2016-2017, BREAKING POINT won 9 awards & 1 nomination at 12 festivals (see list below) and received numerous standing ovations; screened at the United States Capitol for the US-Ukraine Congressional Caucus (hosted by Caucus Chair Congresswoman Marci Kaptur (Ohio) & screened for the House Democracy Partnership (hosted by Partnership Chair Congressman David Price (North Carolina). Synergetic Distribution released the film theatrically in Spring 2018 in New York & Los Angeles. The film received rave reviews in Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Village Voice, Film Threat and numerous other publications and websites and has a perfect 100% positive rating on the popular “Rotten Tomatoes” website. Owen Gleiberman, Variety's chief film critic: "One emerges from “Breaking Point” stunned and moved, with the realization that the Ukrainians are fighting for themselves, as they have for centuries, but also that they’re now fighting for all of us."
BREAKING POINT: THE WAR FOR DEMOCRACY IN UKRAINE (97:40) WRITER & PRODUCER (with 3-time Oscar winner Mark Jonathan Harris) FESTIVALS & AWARDS: Hot Springs International Documentary Film Festival, October 2016, WORLD PREMIERE; International Academic Forum (Japan), October 2016, WINNER, IDFA DOCUMENTARY FILM AWARD; Et Cultura, November 2016, WINNER, BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE; Santa Barbara International Film Festival, February 2017, NOMINATED, SOCIAL JUSTICE AWARD; San Luis Obispo Internationall Film Festival, March 2017, WINNER, BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE; Annapolis Film Festival, April 2017, WINNER, BEST FEATURE DOCUMENTARY; American Documentary Film Festival (Palm Springs), April 2017; Congressional Screening at U.S. Capitol, Wash D.C., May 2017 (Hosted by US-Ukraine Congressional Caucus & House Democracy Partnership); Accolade Global Film Competition, June 2017, WINNER, BEST OF SHOW - FEATURE DOCUMENTARY; IAFOR Conference on Global Realities, Barcelona Spain, July 2017; Chichester International Film Festival, England, August 2017, 2ND PLACE, BEST INDEPENDENT DOCUMENTARY; Regina International Film Festival, August 2017, WINNER, SPECIAL JURY AWARD, BEST INVESTIGATIVE DOCUMENTARY; Accolade Global Film Competition, October 2017, WINNER, GRAND PRIZE – HUMANITARIAN AWARD; Social Justice Film Festival (Seattle) October 2017, WINNER, GOLD JURY PRIZE – FEATURE FILM.
POVODYR (The Guide) (2016) --124:00 CO-WRITER of this harrowing coming-of-age story about an American boy lost in 1932 Soviet Ukraine. After his father is murdered, the boy becomes seeing-eye guide to a traditional Ukrainian blind minstrel, witnesses Stalin’s Terror-Famine of 1932-1933 in which 10 million Ukrainian farmers were intentionally starved to death, and attempts to save the minstrel from Stalin’s massacre of all 300 of Ukraine’s wandering minstrels in 1933. Directed by (Oles Sanin Production Co: Zakryta Zona (Forbidden Zone) productions. Film screened at the Odesa International Film Festival in Ukraine in July 2014, won two awards and received a six-minute standing ovation at its premiere. THE GUIDE was released theatrically in 2016 and screened in more than 200 theatres in Ukraine. THE GUIDE won awards and played at many festivals (see list below) and was submitted by Ukraine as its official entry for the 2015 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The film became a phenomenon in Ukraine, becoming the most successful Ukrainian film ever, and a rallying cry for the Ukrainian people as they overthrew a corrupt, murderous President and battled a Russian-led invasion in the far Eastern part of the country. FESTIVALS 2014 / JUL / UKRAINE / Odessa – Best Actor, Jury Diploma for Cinematography 2014 / OCT / POLAND / Warsaw 2014 / OCT / POLAND / Tofifest 2014 / NOV / INDIA / Goa 2014 / NOV / GERMANY / Cottbus 2014 / DEC / JAPAN / Kyoto 2015 / JAN / USA / Palm Springs 2015 / MAR / ITALY / Bari Special Mention- Audience Award / CZECH REPUBLIC / Karlovy Vary Trailer may be viewed on YouTube at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAXw24lf-K4. Hollywood Reporter article about THE GUIDE screening at the Odesa International Film Festival can be read at this link: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/guide-povodyr-odessa-review-724141