Stepan, congratulations on winning the Best Indie Film of the Year at Top Shorts. Our Kin was one of our favorites here at Top Shorts. As the panel member, Mor Cohen described: The beautiful indie will have you shaken to your core. Before we talk about it, please tell us a bit about yourself; Where are you currently based, and where are you originally from?
I was born in Russia in the city of Omsk and last 7 years I live in Prague.
As now I'm looking to my past I was interested in filmmaking all the time, but while groing in small siberian city I thaught that it is impossible to get into industry, and all this people who make films are on some other level of world far away from me.
I've been shooting some shorts with my friends at school on small camcorder given me by my mother.
2. Why did you decide to get into filmmaking? Please share a bit about your creative journey. Are there any films or filmmakers that influenced your style?
I never thought about going this way till I met my girlfriend Yanika. @yanikagossen
She was doing photography and had canon mk2 with small lens kit and so she started to teach me technical aspects of photography.
While talking about filmmaking she opened my mind that it is not so much difficult to get into it, and I should just do it.
Take a camera and shoot.
3. Tell us about your collaboration with writers Alexandr Minaev and Nikita Dovzhenko, who also served as producer on the project. What was the inspiration for the story, and what message were you hoping to convey with the film?
So we moved to Prague where I got myself to Barrandov Studios as an extra on set of Knightfall series.
There I met Nikita Dovzhenko who was trying to get to FAMU Prague film academy for 6th time. I told him the same thing as Yanika told me before.
We've made one short film "Beautiful" which is on our vimeo page now as training to see if we can do something in apropriate quality.
Later we met Anton Tataru, who is professional actor.
He wanted to shoot a small presentation video with his friend Alexander Minaev to promote themselves on foreign productions.
I wanted not just to make video, I offered short film.
Alexander and Nikita wrote two scripts based on the same idea, and we made a shorter mixture of both.
4. Can you take us through the process of directing and DPing the film (as you were also the cinematographer), and share what was the most challenging part of the production?
The main idea comes from the history of Russian post war times. Ww2 is very painfull theme for us since Soviet Union lost 27 milion people dead there. Each family has some member who didn't came back home.
Unfortunately government often seen people who were in conc. camps in europe as enemies and sent them to GULAG as "traitors". Even russian soldiers.
Vasily represents spetial forces officer (can be mantioned by his uniform) whos job was to find this traitors in army.
Mitya is just a mixture of all people who realy believed in ideas and wanted to safe their motherland from enemies.
We didn't want to say enything bad about soviet times and country by itself.
It just a story of two different minds.
Yanika gave me camera and lenses, we brought small fog machine and took costumes from theatre. Location was given to Alexander by his landlord for free. Overall budget was under 500$
We've been waiting for a sunny weather since I wanted to shoot with natural lights only. Even oil lamp light in night scenes is real.
I was inspired by work of Sergey Urusevsky - brilliant soviet russian cinematographer, who loved natural light and long takes with hand camera.
The most challenging part of production was to cover pistol barrel in post (it was blind on the end) and to realize that the final film is good enough to send it to film festivals.
I love DPing even more now, because I can literally feel my work. It's not just mental processing of information it is craft. Each project gives me more challenges so I can learn more and more. So now I'm mostly focused on DPing rahter then Directing.
If you could chat with a younger version of yourself, what advice would you give them?
If I could talk to younger me I'd tell myself "don't think about future just live and keep going, future doesn't exist there is only now and here."
Please tell us about your upcoming projects, and when can our readers follow more of your work.
All our works you may see on our vimeo page https://vimeo.com/fhpraha The latest is music clip "Birth of the Monster" for RockOpera Prague.
I mostly use instagram now @stepannah