Thursday 28 March 2013

Interview with Daniel Zlobin

Daniel Zlobin is a writer, director and cinematographer who lives in St Petersburg, Russia. He studied screenwriting and photography at the Moscow International Film School, worked in a tent circus, made several short films, then studied lighting at the Saint Petersburg University of Cinematography and Television.
    Daniel is currently director of photography with a small production team, who are busily creating a short fantasy noir film called Tomorrow Tonight.
    I met Daniel online about the time he released the Indiegogo fund-raising project for Tomorrow Tonight and took the opportunity to ask him a few questions.

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born in Moscow, and, generally, I grew up there. When I was 17, I entered the University of Film and Television in Saint-Petersburg and moved to live there.  

•  What kind of a family did you grow up with?

I grew up in lesbian family, and this is an extremely rare thing in Russia, which was very homophobic just after Soviet Union and staying homophobic now, also making some homophobic bills. So, my mother is an artist and my second mother is a psychologist working in charity organization.
    My mother made a great thing, raised me in the way I am, talking about art and showing me great movies.
    When I was a kid, and didn’t know which profession I’ll choose, my mother was always joking, "You can choose any profession, Danny, but not an artist." Because that’s a great labor and test, being an artist. But I decided to be a director of photography and, in some way, I decided to be an artist of film screen. So we always have a lot of things to discuss together.

•  Do you have any contact with your father?

No I don't, he didn't want to have children at the moment he had relationships with my mother. So, he abandoned us. It is rather long and complicated story, I don't think that's a big deal.

•  Where did you go to school?

In Russia there are eleven years of school before the university. So, I was studying in one usual Moscow school during seven years, after that I removed to a small town in the South of Russia (not so far from Sochi) to live with grandparents for a year and studied there, and then returned to Moscow.
   I studied two years in Moscow International Film School, but I exited there one year before graduation and finished the 11th grade at night school.

•  When did you first take an interest in films/stories?

So, my mother showed me a lot of good movies—modern and classic—since I was seven. Those were Russian classics (like Stalker and Andrei Rublev), Japanese films (Seven Samurai and Rashomon), Italian (Nights of Cabiria and Amarcord), some American classics (like The Godfather), and also some Japanese movies by Takeshi Kitano. There were very different films, old Polish crime comedy (Vabank) and at the same time some of James Cameron’s films like True Lies or The Terminator.
   So, by the age of ten I knew I want to make movies and began to learn some things about moviemaking. At thirteen I went to Moscow International Film School and there I realised I wanted to be a director of photography.

•  What was your first paying job? 

I was an operator of light controller in tent-circus in Moscow. Their permanent lightman asked me to cover him, during his vacation. So, when I was sixteen years old, I worked there on light controller every weekend for about one month, became friends with actors, several times changed lamps in spots about ten meters above the ground, without safety belt. I made a photo-reportage about this circus after the permanent lighter came back from his vacation.

A parrot-trainer at the circus
•  What was your first job in the movie business?

It’s hard for me to answer this question, because it’s hard to understand what is movie business in Russia. If we use this word to describe TV-series and Russian movies we can watch in cinemas, I still don’t work at movie business.
   Independent film projects I shoot are not connected with business now, because I’m not paid for them. And I never earned money with making movies. The other things are commercials, presentation videos, music videos, reportages and some kinds of videography. In this case, my first job was editing. And the next was camera assisting. And then I moved to Saint-Petersburg and make my living mostly with shooting commercials and music videos.
   And if we are not talking about paying job, my first work was the shooting of short film The Man Who Was There. That’s a kind of expressionist story about a lonely undertaker from some Russian village in 1980s.

•  Your current project is Tomorrow Tonight, a fantasy film noir. Who else is involved, and what is your role within the team?

We have a big team, much bigger than teams I’ve been working with on short films before. And the whole film is much more difficult than other shorts I shot, because here we have a really serious project. In some ways, it looks like a full-length movie, concentrated to thirty minutes. And there are a lot of difficult things to do— explosions, shootings, killings, action scenes, automobile chases, and everything is taking place in night-time. 

Concept art for Tomorrow Tonight
Our director is Vladislav Dikarev. He wrote this beautiful script himself and he will direct. Also he is the head of our administrating and producing headquarters. Now we are on preproduction, looking for locations and solving a lot of cases we need to solve before the shootings in April.
   Our production designer is Anna Martynenko. She graduated from university about three years ago. She’s a wonderful artist, very creative, resourceful and ingenious. When I was told that the world of the film is some kind of the world of jazz epoch of 1930s, evolved to nowadays with gas computers and modified revolvers and machine guns, I thought, "Wow, that’s gonna be tough." I had some idea of the way everything was going to be look, but then came Anna and showed us concepts, which were connected with my and director’s ideas, but that was much better and clearer.

Concept art for the car chase from Tomorrow Tonight
Also on Tomorrow Tonight, we have a post-production manager, Samvel Gevorgyan, who works with visual effects, colors, composing, and everything we need.
   And, as I told before, there are about five men and women, who care about our film process, looking for locations, making permissions for shootings, doing important paperwork, and whatever we could need.
   There are some actors, I haven’t met them yet, and a sound producer, and a lot of other people in the crew—gaffers, dolly workers, steadicam operators, super technicians, and such like.
   And among all this I am the director of photography on this movie.

•  Who has had the most influence on you as a filmmaker?

I think, when I was a child, Tarkovsky with his Stalker and Ivan's Childhood, Takeshi Kitano with Fireworks, Wenders’ Wings of Desire and Fellini’s Amarcord all impressed me more than anything. I remember that when I watched Amarcord, I thought, "That’s the way the movie should be." And later there were Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman and Lars von Trier. I think these directors and their films had the most influence on me.
   And if we talk about directors of photography, I think my teachers are Sven Nykvist and Georgi Rerberg.

•  Do you have any dreams of working in Hollywood?

I don’t know so much about Hollywood. That is not my dream, but I guess I’d like to work there a bit.

•  What one filmmaking advice book would you recommend to a young wannabe screenwriter in Adelaide?

For me, books are not the real way to learn something about making films and scripts. I think most things could be learned and understood in the right way just on practice. The only thing needed during such kind of education—some cultural background.
   And the only book, which really excited me in this way, is not about scriptwriting or film process, it’s about cinema in general, cinema as it is, cinema as a great art, which could be very different, and about the language of cinema. This is Dialogue with the Screen, by Yuri Lotman and Yuri Tsivian.

•  What are your ten favourite movies of all time?

It is always hard to say, because favorite movies have a habit to change.

•  I like your choice of Woody Allen film. Do you get to see many of his films in Russia?

We got to see a lot of different films of lots of directors here. I like the chosen film by Woody Allen more than others, I think, but I also enjoy Zelig and Match Point. The last one very impressed me.

To give you an idea of the project, Tomorrow Tonight, that Daniel is working on, here is the Indiegogo promo.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

What an ambitious project! Good luck to Daniel Zlobin and the rest of the crew on Tomorrow Tonight.