The Sky Grey is set against the backdrop of 2020, two neighbors find themselves contemplating each unique life, to momentarily cross each other’s path, in the mosaic of the street, where each window displays a bored dog or a cat, wondering why humans are home.
Yelena Makarczyk is a mason of myriad of trades and a social alchemist encouraging connections between artists and translators worldwide.
Her trajectory has ranged from the Soviet industrial Krivoy Rog to the cultural St. Petersburg, from the wonders of Kamchatka to solemn Moscow and sensual Crimea, with plenty of visits along the way to the well-known crevices of the deep Slavic soul.
She came to the United States on her own at the age of 15. The totality of the emotions that have informed her journey continues to light the way as she sails forward via her writing, production, and management of international projects.
A captain’s daughter unable to travel to foreign shores during the Soviet regime, she listened to her father’s stories about the faraway lands in awe in the Russian Far East. Her great aunt had planted the seeds of eight languages into Yelena when she was spending her summers in Moscow. Little did she know then that she’d be working with more than 200 languages and be able to navigate them all.
She graduated with honors from UCLA at the age of 20. The fields of linguistics, documentary film, English and world literature paved her career path. Combining her passions into the field of worldwide localization, Yelena will provide you the highest-quality transcription, translation, subtitling, dubbing, localization, and post-production services.
The journey is personal to her. She offers a niche retreat where filmmakers and corporate clients alike can entrust her with their ventures and succeed as a result.
Her professional odyssey spans from performing her magic as the creative director at Gelula/SDI to building and overseeing the international division as a Vice President of Multilingual Operations at VITAC for a decade, then launching a non-airline international division at CMI Media Management, contributing her magic at LADB and now at Take 1, globally, in her role of Vice President of Localization and Post-Production. It is with great pleasure to interview Yelena for LA Indies.
What was the inspiration behind the making of your film?
The inspiration behind making The Sky Grey echoes the pervasive melancholy inside my Slavic, Viking, and Tatar multicultural soul within the vibrant reality of the American experience.
Our digital fast-paced age’s conflict with the instinctive human desire to connect with others is a subject in which I am very interested. As technology dictates our life and accelerates each day and our extremely busy schedules, these very basic interactions suffer. Neighbors don’t take time to connect with each other. Our animals spend their lives by the windows, basking in the sunshine, yearning for a touch. I once wrote…
A moving train reminds me of time
Which once began
And still exists till I will flow into the unknown
Such time – the train – keeps moving on
But I hold on to moments of some stops along the way
So memories begin to build
And time is worth the train trip
And life goes further
To the distances not well known
And the towns not yet discovered
So the inspiration behind my film is to challenge loneliness, to test the truth, to dare to act with kindness and make an impact, starting in our homes, and reaching out to those around us with genuine care, to reflect the best of humanity, to defy selfishness, and return to the good, to be mindful, to live in a moment, and to cherish the fabric of life.The Sky Grey was further inspired by the kaleidoscope of human emotions. As a part of a 26-episode alphabet book – 26 letters of the English language – with each letter reflecting a human condition, the notion was to look into ourselves, reflect on where our faults are, adjust the gears, and strive to be better every day.
Static routine doesn’t bring forth happiness. My goal is to touch on the raw emotions and move closer to nature; strip ourselves from conditioned traumas, reflexes, and experiences; reach for a breath of fresh air within us and each other; and to let go, yet fly.
What is the most challenging aspect of working in this particular genre?
This was a family affair, so to speak. Friends got together, and each contributed their magic touch. Because our film had no boundaries, and we wanted to touch hearts worldwide, our team is quite international. Time zones were a challenge. Our illustrators, Hanna Shmatok and Volha Zarouskaya, along with animators Maxim Korol and Maria Kurachova, all were based in Belarus. Omid Deligani crafted our 3D layout from Iran. John Podgursky, who wrote the male character’s scene having been to almost every state in the United States, was based in New York at the time. Composer Sergey Chipenko and audio engineer Alexey Piksaev, each from Russia, drew on the sense of loneliness that so many feel within the megapolis milieu. Mark Olmsted, our producer extraordinaire, always brings a French eloquent style with Hollywood roots. Enrique Cood and Jorge Fernandez from Chile were at our command center in Los Angeles. Silviu Epure, Andrei Zinca, and Bernardo Passarinho held the fort audio-wise in the United States, as well. Gabor Zoltan from Hungary and Canada orchestrated the formulas therein, pace-wise. We thank Taras Kulik from Lithuania for logistical guidance and the final touches. Together, we created our
vignette in different time zones simultaneously, a truly global endeavor. We’ll share the visual experience with our fellow earthlings worldwide soon. Truly, the challenge with the short animation genre is not so much technical or logistical, per se, or the time zones, which we can cross, but rather with its acceptance – for us to have a chance to be heard and not be easily dismissed. We want our audience to be in the moment for a few minutes on a journey with us and to feel. We challenge everyone to take a deep dive into the unusual:
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?
I grew up in the wilds of Far Eastern Siberia, in Kamchatka, among the volcanoes, hot springs, pine, moss, bears, foxes, wolves, and whales. I spent my childhood summers in the industrial mining town of Krivoy Rog, escaping into the depths of iron deposits, and then also in the picturesque coastal city of Alushta on the coast of the Black Sea (Ukraine), in the artistic circles of St. Petersburg and Moscow (Russia), in distinctive Minsk (Belarus), in elegant Riga (Latvia), and in magical Sokhumi (Abkhazia). My grandmother was always near, and in each city she’d hold my hand and take me to a movie theatre, day after day. We’d hop from a cartoon event in the morning to a feature-length fairy tale in the afternoon. If we liked a movie, we’d soon
return for another taste of it. We’d next go to a farmer’s market and discuss the experiences with passion, and then go to a playground and continue the colorful debates some more.
Back home in Far Eastern Siberia, my reality was tied to the Navy’s. My father, a captain on an aircraft carrier, and my uncles, in charge of the Baltic and Pacific fleets, traveled the international shores, and we were blessed with VCRs and Hollywood films. (I’m getting everyone in trouble here now!) Back then, I couldn’t mention that we had a VCR and were watching forbidden American, French, German, and Australian movies. Watching the films alone in Kamchatka wasn’t always fun, however, so I’d often escape to the underground secret movie clubs located in various apartments all over town or in abandoned building basements with sewage lines often bursting and rats feasting all around. It was in such a basement
faux movie theater when I realized that my summer outings with my grandma and my winter chills in the underground meant a world I couldn’t live without. My father always had to track me down since the screenings were in secret, but Kamchatka naval base apartments were few, so he would always eventually locate me, the navigator that he was. The story he told to my mother was that he dragged me out of there, but the truth was I sat on his lap, and we watched the
movies together, with rats being the occasional audience, as well. Rats still mean something to me to this day. My father bought me a Hitachi camera when in the Soviet Union most people had never seen one, and I started making family films, documentaries on our trips to the caves of Crimea, interviews with my great-grandma born before the Russian Revolution and who still remembered the Tsar. I filmed nature documentaries of my uncle’s farm – goats; pigs; horses; one very mean goose, Vasily; cats; dogs; and a cow, Maria. The first film project was a cinema verité interview with my aunt’s German Shepherd, Druzhok. Ukrainians chain their dogs, and it’s torture, animal abuse, so I filmed him from the point of view of a prisoner yearning for freedom, my first political activist film. When I saw Flight of the Navigator, America became a dream. At the age of 15, with family behind in St. Petersburg, the daughter of a sea navigator that I was, I
boarded a flight from Russia to Finland, then from Finland to Holland, then to America, and the dream was realized. To me, my life is an American dream and a grainy movie itself.
How did you choose the cast and the crew of the film and what was the most challenging aspect of production?
We subtitle films for our clients day and night in a very unique, nuanced, and quality manner, as art. We love what we do so much. We wanted to subtitle a film as artisans worldwide and draw into the emotions that words and the visuals can create, affecting change and touching hearts. Everyone involved is on our localization and post-production team, a family affair, just colleagues crafting their magic. The most challenging aspect of production was financial as I funded the film on my own and am still funding for the additional post-production work and voiceover for the global audience. But I wanted the budget to mirror the industry calls for, not to cut any corners, and to respect everyone’s input. So it has been bare bones to the maximum off our very minimum.
What genre of filmmaking fascinates you as a director and which genres do you prefer to work
Unique documentary filmmaking and animated artisan projects fascinate me the most as a director. I’m always fine-tuning my style. I love to break boundaries. No clichés, no templates. The music must be original, the picture our own. Truth reflects the dichotomy of life, vibrant or brutal. The essence of our experience is lost if we don’t share it. Through documentary filmmaking we preserve a slice of history therein. Through artisan animation we depict
someone’s soul on-screen, like modern cave art that is unique to a specific moment and individual. Humanity has taken a road far from love, from experiences that are shared genuinely, from kindness and giving. I prefer to work in documentary genre and in animation so that I can share a message of self-reflection, touch hearts, make the audience think for a brief minute of what’s important, to be mindful of how we treat others, and aim our actions for the good, not the egocentric. I want to the world to be kinder. It’s within our control to choose to be so. When I see a person who fascinates me, I make a portrait movie about that person, to affect change in someone else’s life, to acknowledge their special footprint as we cross our paths in life.
How can cinema change the world and have an impact on society?
Cinema can change the world and have an impact by showing us a mirror of who we are.
An honest look may burn, but fire causes motion. Action is life itself. A static-conditioned state is not an option. Cinema can bring us back to our roots. It can peel the artificial, the conditioned and therefore challenge us to each make an impact on society, beginning with ourselves. So many seek happiness but don’t act happy. So many want to travel but don’t. Cinema can be a call to action.
What is your next film project as a director?
In collaboration with Rustem Basareev, a producer, photographer, and a creative director originally from Ufa in the Republic of Bashkortostan, now based in Los Angeles, we’ll direct a reality series with quite a novel spice to it. Our concept will depict a fresh angle to the cooking show, with content touching on the diverse layers of all the senses enhanced. There will be a surprise therein, as we reveal Rustem’s unique style. In addition, Rustem and I are beginning to find the means for a social, cyclical documentary series with a lesson. In a retrospective sense, to dive into the deep layers of emotion we’ll uncover the building blocks of memory, affecting each and every one of us from unique experiences of our childhood, stemming from our grandmothers, grandfathers, and pertinent figures whom we carry with us throughout our lives as guiding anchors of strength, dignity and honor. Our focus is to educate without betraying quality, whether it’s an animation, documentary, reality show, music video, feature, for the corporate sector, or in entertainment. We offer an original distinctive approach, each project being its artisanal and unique self, and always a surprise, in the multimedia sense.