Interview with director Egor Gavrilin

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

In school I always took part in theatrical performances and when I was in 11th grade I just suddenly found it in me that I wanted to direct one piece. It was a part theatrical performance part radio play based on Ray Bradbury’s short story “Kaleidoscope”. And the joy of putting something together that makes sense (or at least seems like it does) and affects people (or at least some of them) and at the same time exists on its own and lives its own life after you finish it – I realized that I wanted to feel that as much as possible.

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

Not at all. But if you start “in the wild” you will spend some time bumping into things and making mistakes that they “teach out of you” in the film institutes. And the disappointment if realizing these failures later in time may be very crushing. However, together with those mistakes they can “teach out” some (or even a lot of) original ideas that you may have about filmmaking and storytelling in general (and you will most likely not even know that you had them because they will be “taught of” you). And of course there’s the factor of networking. When in film school you are half way in the industry by default whereas when on your own you have to have twice the amount of social skills to get where you want. Oh, and on your own you will need ten times the willpower to push through reality and make your work – just because the circumstances most of the time will not be in your favor.

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

Both is hard in its own way. When you’re starting without any filmmaking education (which it was for me) you’re basically fighting the elements in order to just shoot something: most of the people around you don’t even think about making films and it is you who is disturbing the peace. And then after you learn something you look back at the stuff you did before and you realize it was complete crap (and ironically you realize it exactly because you’ve learned something since then). This feeling can be very crushing. But then again, I don’t think I’m in a position to say I know how to “keep going” because for me there’s a lot to be done before I can say I am “going”.

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

This project was full of small lessons and I can’t say that there was one particular “most important” one. But if I had to choose it would be this one. When we were preparing for the shot where Elena (the drummer) walks into the mirror we talked to a post production guy and he gave us the list of what was necessary to shoot in order to put the shot together in post. And it seemed relatively easy. Somewhere in the back of my head I had this feeling saying “It is not that simple, pay more attention to it, invite a supervisor to the set, spend more time on it” but I didn’t because in the middle of the storm of pre-production and a million other things that needed to be taken care of it was very comfortable to agree with yourself that it was indeed very easy. After we shot it the material was so unfitting for post that we had to change people who did the post two times before we found the guy who did it. For several months we thought that this shot will not even make it to the final video. So, the lesson I learned was that you mind often wants you to worry less and you have to consciously overcome this feeling and work on something more that you think you need to in order that it turns okay.

  • 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?

You know, this particular project was very easy in terms of these things. We didn’t compromise with anything, if we wanted something we got it. We only had to spend a lot of money)

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

Ditching the first script. It was completely different to what you see on the screen as “The BlueStocking – Never Ready” but I loved it very much and hopefully we can produce it some day as a separate project. We had to give up that idea simply because it would cost us a couple of fortunes – even in its simplest version.

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

Oh, yes. Alongside some people that I had worked before (Michael, the DOP and Lucy, the Producer) there were a lot of people that I worked with for the first time. From Maria, our 1st AD to Nikolay, our steadicam operator. Also, there was Zero who hand-crafted all of the steampunk objects and Veronika, the choreographer. The main way I try to keep relationship with them strong is making new stuff together. I really really really hope they don’t mind that.

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

I strongly believe that the audience doesn’t know what it wants. It happens so that time after time the audience likes a project and then people base their decisions on what they think worked in the projects that the audience liked. Which can sometimes work and sometimes not. Whether to adapt what you do to what you think people will “buy” is a choice that everyone makes on their own and it’s not my place to give any advice. Just remember that you may overestimate your ability to understand what the audience likes and to adjust your work according to that. At the same time you can underestimate your default “mainstreamness’, too.

  • 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 am a terrible festival person, to be honest. I’ve been to some and I can honestly say I don’t know how to make them work for my career. Maybe it’s because my social anxiety and because I don’t know how to network properly but I don’t think that festivals played a huge part in what I do. I wish that someone came once and told me “Okay, this is what you do…” – and somehow I did it and suddenly there was a million useful connections and a lot of new projects. It never happened. So, I have to slowly and painfully work on that. But that’s not the festivals’ fault, I’m the one to blame here.

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

I don’t think I know what’s a “safe cinema style” is. And I don’t think one should think in these terms. You choose the cinematic style (and basically the style of everything in your project) based on what works best for the idea that you have. And then if after putting it all together you end up having a harmonious piece of art or at least a decent video – you chose correctly.