Interview with director Anastasia Raykova

SHORT BIO OF THE DIRECTOR:

Anastasia is a film director and producer based in Lisbon, Portugal. After graduating with an MA in Information Technology, she decided to pursue her passion for film, and graduated with an MA in Filmmaking from London Film School in 2018. Anastasia worked on a feature film in 2018, and was associate producer and production supervisor on TV series, Hidden Track, first broadcast on an internet platform okko.tv in Russia. In 2019, Anastasia produced short film The Womb, which was accepted into the Palm Springs ShortFest 2021 and continues its festival circuit. In 2020, she directed and produced short film Ela, which was supported by Cascais City Hall and recently pre-screened at Museum Casa das Histórias Paula Rego. Ela was made as a proof of concept for my first feature, His Family, (A Sua Familia) currently in pre-production and scheduled to begin shooting in Portugal in 2022. In June this year Anastasia attended the 50th Kyiv International Film Festival ‘Molodist’, where His Family had been accepted into the pitching program.


  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

I’ve always wanted to make films. I remember when I was ten I had a camera and I filmed all the family events. It took me almost ten years to become a filmmaker. I tried other profession but I finally got a courage to end up everything and change my career. It was really scary to give up a comfortable life and start from zero again. I remember one Russian film which planted a desire to make films in me. This film touched me so much that I remember how I left cinema with an idea of working in films. I thought I wanted to be an actress but I realized that I feel much more comfortable on the other side of the camera. It’s difficult to say how my career would change if I’ve started 10 years earlier but I’ve learned that it’s never too late to change everything.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

I don’t think it’s essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker but I wouldn’t underestimate its benefits. Being a London Film School alumnus I could definitely say that it helped me into my filmmaking career. Studying in a film school is a very competitive process which stimulates you to work harder on your own ideas and do not retreat in the face of difficulties. I’ve learned a lot from my colleagues, I saw their achievements and I pushed myself to work more. But I also think that practice on a film set in crucial. Filmmaking is not just about stories, its also about a team work. You should learn how to delegate, how to listen to your colleagues and also collaborate with them. I think that if a person doesn’t have a chance to attend a film school, he/she can always find lots of information online. And I think that everyone should start with small projects because it’s like riding a bicycle: more you practice better result you achieve.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

Sometimes it’s really difficult to keep going. Especially when you prepare a project for a year or even more, living with a dream of realising it and then on a post-production you find out that the result is far from your expectations. It’s really difficult to accept your failures and to move on. I’ve learnt that it’s important to work hard but not giving yourself completely for one project. Just remember that your first short film most probably won’t win Oscar but it’s very much real to win an Oscar during your filmmaking career. Nothing is impossible in this life.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

The most important lesson for me was to choose right your team. If you link with every single member of your team and since your first date you connect with a person and you are on a same wave most probably you’ll have a successful film. If you are doubting in a person by some reason or you don’t fell comfortable look for someone else. It doesn’t mean that he is a bad person it just means that you are living in a different vibration with him and you need to find your people. Remember that your team is like your family even if it’s just a one-day shoot.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

To be honest I was very satisfied with all the footage of Nostalgia. Acting was great, I couldn’t ask more. I think I was lucky and the only struggle I had was that I had almost ten minutes of a first cut but I wanted to make it short and sweet. So it was really difficult to cut half of the film but I think film benefited from it.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

When I was preparing for a shoot, I knew which song I would use. We came for a shoot and started to record all the sound. And I realized that recording synced sound was slowing down the whole process. I’ve decided not to record sound at all during the shoot. I knew that I would use voiceover and a song but I wasn’t sure if I would need synced sound on a post-production. It was a difficult choice not to record sound. It was even risky but I’ve decided to save time in order to able to film everything we’ve planned. Sound designers made all the sound design so great that the viewer wouldn’t even miss anything.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

I’ve worked on other short films with producer David Royzengurt. When we’ve just started to work he didn’t have a lot of experience in producing, he did some mistakes and not everything was perfect. But I knew that we might start with different professional levels but from project to project we would gain experience and understand each others working flow. He is also my great friend now not only a colleague. I’ve met production designer Alexandra Troitskaya lots of years ago and I’ve also invited her for several projects. We worked on a successful short film “The Womb” a year before we’ve shot “Nostalgia”. Alexandra did a great production design on “Nostalgia” and was suggesting solutions and bringing ideas which helped the film to look so great. We’ve shot “Nostalgia” in Moscow and each member of a crew was a friend one or the other. We were like a family on that project. I think the memory of a childhood and Soviet Union times united us and each member of the crew wanted to bring his own memories into the project. When your work touches heart of every single member of the crew the result insures the success.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

Audience want emotions. It’s important to tell honest stories something which are coming from a director’s heart. If a director doesn’t like the story he will never make film working and audience will never link with the film. Filmmaker shouldn’t think that one story will be successful than the other. There is always an audience to any kind of story. But a filmmaker should worry if he is honest with the audience and if he knows what exactly he wants to tell with the story.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

I have big dreams about big festivals. It’s really important to have even a small recognition from a festival jury. It’s important to have a feedback which helps you to improve and grow. And sometimes it’s just important to hear that someone liked your film. It makes your heart warmed and gives energy to create more. Also it’s really important to make new acquaintances from the industry and meet other filmmakers. Festivals is a great platform where your can meet people with whom you can collaborate on your future projects.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

I think that filmmakers should be different. There is always an audience to any kind/style of film.