Modeling industry sendup “Runaway Divas” is directors’ debut feature film

Monika Szewerniak spent a week working at a local modeling agency that she said gave their clients false expectations to scam them out of fees.

“The amount of people they take advantage of was amazing to me, it was like the people coming in were hypnotized,” she recalled.

The experience left such an indelible impression on Szewerniak that it became the source material for her debut feature film, a satiric sendup of the modeling industry called “Runaway Divas.”

Szewerniak and her co-writer/director Aleksandra Hodowany made “Divas” in five weeks beginning in September 2002, with a crew of 20-25. Chris Collins shot on 35mm.

“Runaway Divas” cast includes Mark Nillson (MTV’s forthcoming reality series “Next Action Hero,”) Michael Ingram (“Payback,”) and Thea Emily Nelson, as well as Szewerniak and Hodowany.

“Divas” is in the final stages of sound mixing and color correction, and Szewerniak said she planned a local premiere this June. Dates and location were still being finalized as of this writing.

Szewerniak, Hodowany and Collins financed the under-$500,000 budget through their Monola Productions, with a combination of personal savings, private investment, product placement, major discounts from Collins’ employer Fotokem, and substantial support from the Polish community.

Szewerniak and Hodowany have worked at the Cannes Film Festival in past years, and Szewerniak said she’s garnered some interest in the film from distributors she met there. “There are no stars so I don’t know if it will go out in movie theaters, but I know it will get on cable and be on video,” she said. “We consider this our starter film to open up doors later on.” The partners are at work on the script for their next feature.

Szewerniak attended USC for film and theater and works in real estate. Hodowany and Collins went to Columbia College and Collins is based in Los Angeles.

Hannah David and Sharon Zurek edited at Black Cat Films. Music by Rob Senese of Planet Bl?. Title animation by “Lana’s Rain” co-producer Robert Max Kuhar.

Reach Szewerniak at 847/414-3020 or

? by Ed M. Koziarski,