A 12 year old son is blackmailing his parents because he does not want them to get a divorce. It is our pleasure to interview Filipp Romanychev, the director of the short film project called Message.
What was the inspiration behind the making of your film?
At first it was just a project for a director’s course, which I took in Russia at the school of Free Cinema. The original story was not even close to Message (2021) movie. But then our film directing teacher persistently told us to film a story filled with our background and that we should create it based on our feelings and experiences. I’ve been rewriting the script approximately thirty times. My last rewrite took place right before the pitching, which was held by our school and producers from the industry were invited to hear out our stories. I didn’t win anything, but I got a feedback from producers, which gave me confidence. I was told that this is a big theme for a short movie, but eventually it could be developed as a feature after I shoot a short film. What is the most challenging aspect of working in this particular genre? The most challenging aspect is to make such story not only believable, but also attractive to an audience. Divorce is one of the topics, which brings up hard feelings and nobody wants to be upset on their free time, when they are watching a movie. Therefore, I added some irony, which, in my opinion, distinguishes Message (2021) from other movies about a divorce. My two favorite directors in the genre of drama are Thomas Vinterberg and Andrey Zvyagintsev. They manage to create a life on the screen, but they do it so magically, that you can’t turn it off, although there could be some disturbing things taking place in a movie. When did you realize that you wanted to work in media and make films and what was the first film project that you created as a director? My first project I shot in 2006, when I was 12 years old. It was during the summer in the countryside and that was the year when most of my friends didn’t come to the countryside for the whole summer. There was only me and my other friend Vitalik. We were bored and one of us suggested to make a movie with toys, that I had. The story was about British soldiers who were sailing a boat to fight in World War II, but they got crashed on an island with giant insects. We made a movie and we shot it on the phone. But then I was pushed by my family to become a lawyer, but eventually I realized that I want to be a director and me and my wife started making video clips with the music I wrote back in the days. Then we shot a short film “Our balcony”(2019) about domestic violence in Russia.
How did you choose the cast and the crew of the film and what was the most challenging aspect of production?
When I had one of my drafts of the script, I knew that I want to cast a famous actor. Due to pandemic I knew that I have more chances to cast someone famous, because a lot of projects were shut down. So, I emailed to several famous Russian actors and some of them responded. But at the end of the day, I chose Michael Politseymako. He was a great fit for the movie and I am very lucky to have him in this film. Then, I had a huge casting, which I had to manage online due to pandemic, for a main role of a boy and Mom. It took me a lot of time to cast Leon Avtaev as a lead role in Message (2021) and Julia Sedykh as Mom. With an actress Victoria Medvedkina I worked previously and she actually works as an entertainer, she read the script and liked it. As for a role for the priest, Andrew Feofanov used to go to parish school, so I cast him as a priest.
There were two main challenges that we had on pre-production stage. The first issue was that our actress Julia Sedykh got injured in the swimming pool two days prior the shoot. She injured her big toe. Nevertheless, she managed to get the right treatment and we organized transportation on the day of shoot for her and she came on set on time and did her job perfectly. Another challenge was that when I finished the movie and I sent it to my film directing teacher - he didn’t like it. He said, that he is ashamed of showing it at school. Nevertheless, I got the diploma and I planned the list of festivals, where I am going to send Message (2021). As a result, I got an award for the best cinematography at international film festival Zilant in Kazan, Russia, award of distinction at Canada shorts - International short film festival and I got selected at Montreal Independent Film Festival, Venice Shorts California, Commfest Global Community Film festival, First-time filmmaker sessions.
What genre of film making fascinates you as a director and which genres do you prefer to work on? Almost every genre fascinated me. I prefer to work on comedies and dramas, but recently comedies are more easier for me create and it is much more fun. I like to work on dramas as well, but it is much harder to create a movie, that would be watchable for a wide range of audience. So, for the last projects I choose comedy, because it is much easier for me to share different society problems with a fun element in it.
How can cinema change the world and have an impact on society?
Cinema can bring different issues that we have in a society and discuss during the whole movie. Cinema will not solve any issues, but it would give an audience food for thought and eventually an audience can change their perspective on certain things. Or cinema can bring fresh voice of an issue that a lot of people might not even recognize, because some people don’t have that issue. For example: Get out (2017) made by Jordan Peele is an original approach to show how racist society could be. Some people have never experienced racism, but it doesn’t mean that this is not an issue. What I am saying is that cinema is a subjective art and this subjectivity can help discuss different issues from different perspectives, issues that you might thought before watching a movie has never existed. What is your next film project as a director? My next project as a director is an experimental comedy “Tripping with Fibi”. It’s about several students, who are faking a travel show in LA, so they can stay in the US and apply for O1 visa. It’s a live movie, that’s why it is experimental. By saying live movie I mean that besides the “fake episodes” of a travelling show there is also a back story, which is filmed in live format. And there is also a story of characters, which is shot as a movie. It’s a mixture of a movie, live blog and a TV show.I am editing it right now and I hope we will be able to see it on Amazon Prime on September.