Passion and Determination Equal Nataliia Filimonova
Nataliia Filimonova, a third-year student in AUBG, recently finished her first short movie. She has had film internships in UK and in Russia, and is going on exchange in the U.S. in Fall 2017 semester in order to gain more acting experience from the theater program in the Fort Lewis College in Colorado.
Filimonova is from Saint Petersburg, Russia, and chose to come to AUBG because it allowed her to take what she wants and develop her knowledge beside her major, while living in an international environment. She comes from a family that works in the field of IT. That is the reason why she came to AUBG with the intention to major in Computer Science because of her family and her intellect, and in Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) because of herself. After coming to AUBG, Filimonova changed her mind and ended up majoring only in JMC and minoring in Literature, because as she says, she just loves it. At first she wanted to major in Literature, but due to her exchanges she had to leave it as a minor. However, this allowed her to take other courses that she is interested in, like Creative Writing and Philosophy of Sex and Love which would help her develop as a person.
“Even though I don’t have to take that, I just take it for myself,” said Filimonova. “I really like it, it’s so much less pressure and it’s more interesting, because for film you have to develop this broad thinking and different areas of understanding of the world.”
The AUBG Documentary Club (DOC club) was one of the reasons she came to AUBG, because she saw pictures of BAC Auditorium and the screenings and interviews they had there. This made her think that the club will allow her to meet people from the field, even though it was documentary and she wants to do fiction.
“You meet people, who actually did something,” commented Filimonova and added “you interview them, they come with their movies, you get to see a lot of things that you wouldn’t otherwise. Then you go to film festivals and again this is a whole new world.”
Filimonova said that the DOC club pushed her forward from the idea to want to make a film to something more real, and it gave her the opportunity to get some practical advice from people. She used to be the president of the DOC club last year, but decided to quit this year, because as she gets closer to graduation, she want to switch a little bit to fiction. She does not want to focus only on documentaries, because she wants to do fiction and if it does not work out, she would come back to documentaries.
When I asked her what she thinks of the film courses in AUBG, Filimonova said that the film–related courses here are usually very theoretical and critical, rather than practical, and she wants to do movies. This requires her to watch them and to criticize them, but to also do them. She continued: “you cannot just sit there, write papers. It works for some people, but I want to create it, so I need more practice–related things.”
Her passion for movies and directing did not come from watching movies, but rather from practice. At one point Filimonova realized that film mixes up many things that she likes, such as visuals and music. She also liked the fact that she has to plan it all ahead and especially in fiction she could create atmosphere and a whole new world. When she was 12 years old, Filimonova went to a field trip with her class and made a video about it. Later she showed it in the classroom and her classmates liked it and one of her friends asked her if she wants to be a film director.
“In the context of Russia, asking a small girl if she wants to be a film director is a bit of joke,” explained Filimonova. “So I was like ‘no, no, this is not a job for me probably, I`ll never manage’, but then the idea of it kind of stuck with me, because, again, film directing is a mixture of everything I want to do and it also allows you to work with people, with creative people from so many fields and you create it all together and that’s fantastic.”
She believes that her passion came from that moment, but she was trying to postpone it or ignore it for a long time, because for film one should have connections and she had none and no one around her knew how film creation worked. This is why she decided to major in journalism and not film, so that she develops critical thinking and understanding of the world before pursuing film and film directing. “You cannot just get out of high school and do genius movies, maybe you can, but it’s not me,” stated Filimonova and clarified that she tried to put herself in other fields, yet she was still doing videos and cartoons. At some point she decided it makes no sense to ignore her passion and she has to follow her dream of becoming a director. She has never been one of these people, who binge-watch movies, but she tries to watch one movie every day in order to build up the library that should be in her head.
Filimonova made a further comment that “it all came from practice and from this feeling that you can communicate something that was only in your head, to a language that everyone can understand. I think it came from that, not really from watching movies, but now I think when it came from practice, this is when I actually started to learn more about movies and they made more sense and this is why I enjoy them now.”
She tells me, while laughing, that she can spend a whole day, week or month watching movies, and not only sophisticated, independent movies, but any movie. She feels that every genre has a reason to exist.
We come to the question about her short movie “The Egg” and how did the idea for it come up. Filimonova disclosed to me that she was on exchange in Cardiff, Wales, and had an internship there as a production assistant for movies for BBC productions and other ones as well. Then she came home and had another internship in Russia and everything was film-related.
“I accumulated some knowledge and some ideas of how to make a movie,” said Filimonova. “Then thought ‘if I don’t apply them now, this is going to be forever just a collect theory’, and think ‘Oh my God someday I’m going to do it’.”
She revealed that she came to a point, where she had this nagging feeling that she has to put all the theory she knew into practice. Filimonova collected six stories to choose from, all of them were dialogue-based, because it had to be simple, due to lack of budget. She showed all six to her producer and she picked “The Egg” for the reason that it would probably be the easiest in production sense. Still, Filimonova felt connected to the story in a personal way and this allowed her to give some fuel to the movie. She assumed that any other story would not have worked as well as this one did, because it was simple, but she felt that she could put something in it.
The story itself is written by Andy Weir, who is also the author of “The Martian”, which had a screen version created by Ridley Scott. Filimonova asked Weir for the rights without much hope of him answering her, but he replied the same day with а ‘thumbs up’. She explained to me that only then she realized that she has to take responsibility for the movie and develop it. The whole process of creating “The Egg” from writing the script, to shooting and post-production took ten months, with the shooting continuing only two days of this process. Filimonova did not know anyone from her crew before the movie, as she found all of them online.
Filimonova reveals further that it was a challenge on every step of the creation of “The Egg.” “It’s never like ‘oh, I’m going to make a movie and then it just goes all smoothly and beautifully’. NO, like NO,” she laughed. Filimonova disclosed to me that camera shots come to her sometimes, she draws them and tries to fit them somewhere. It has been frustrating for her to have some things that did not come together in the stages, but whenever she found a solution, it inspired her even more to continue working. Filimonova loved developing the movie and found it challenging, exciting and scary altogether. She did not feel much, when she saw the film finished, but rather when she had her first screening and people started giving her feedback.
“The interesting thing about having a movie finished, whatever the quality of it, is that I lives its own life now,” told me Filimonova. “I send it to festivals, you can screen it somewhere and I’m not supposed to be there, I don’t have to explain it, I don’t have to present it, it’s just there, that’s it, it’s done.”
Filimonova is also staging a play in AUBG for the first time. It is called the Lover by Harold Pinter and her main actors are Ilian Velev and Monique Emilova, both third-year students. This requires her to work with actors almost every day and made her become aware that she needs to learn more about acting in a focused manner, so that she would be able to see the movie process from their side as well. This is the reason she is going on exchange in Fort Lewis College in Colorado, so that she gets more hands-on experience in the theater program there and hopefully get better at working with actors.
When asked about what is the feeling of working with her, Velev answered that “Natashka is just an amazing person and working with her is always a delight. She is calm, somewhat quirky, very nervous, but at the same time very talented as well. I feel confident that she is directing me.”
She hopes to work as an assistant director to another director who is good at his/her job, because some things you can only learn from practice. Filimonova wishes for her next movie to be bigger and to have a budget not of her own, but she doesn’t expect to start with it earlier than a year from now. She explained her plan: “I have to learn things, I have to acquire new experience, I have to see how directors solve some problems, I have to go on this theater exchange, I have to watch a lot and read a lot, and educate myself. Once I feel I have reached some other level of understanding of this, I will start a new movie.”
Fatme Tsiko, a second-year student and the president of the DOC club, said that Filimonova is willing to pour all her efforts in her dream.
“Although being a young woman director in the movie industry is hard, she already took the first step and to succeed with your dreams you need to be brave and know your goal,” said Tsiko. “She is someone like that. I expect nothing, but quality movies that will stay with you for a long time, just like “The Egg”.”