Micro-Budget DIY Filmmaking in Russia: Do it or Die
630 views   /  30 Jun 2015
Russian independent cinema has always fascinated and inspired me. But in the current political climate decency laws and censorship are increasing, making it harder for independent filmmakers to find funding… forcing them to become micro-budget filmmakers.
By Andy Siege
Andy Siege (born Andreas Madjid Siege), an award-winning DIY director. His debut feature film Beti and Amare (2014), which he directed, wrote, shot, edited and acted in, was made with a €14,000 budget and was nominated for the Golden St George at the Moscow International Film Festival. The first Ethiopian sci-fi feature, the DIY film has already inspired various other filmmakers to try their hand at making their own sci-fi films set in Ethiopia.
“I am the best filmmaker here!” He shouted. His eyes shiny and round. That’s a European filmmaker, who I’m getting tipsy with at a French bar in Moscow at the Moscow International Film Festival where my debut feature was having its festival premiere in 2014. This dude is kind of drunk, and trying to impress this Latvian girl that’s caught his fancy. He has a flight in the morning. Might as well try one more time to get laid, he thinks.
He’s annoying me. I’m having a hard enough time dealing with my own hubris and don’t have time to deal with someone else’s inflated ego as well. The girl he’s trying to impress is confused by his behavior. I do what I usually do in these situations and nod and smile to avoid confrontation.
I was staying in Moscow until the end of the festival, which was a few days from then, and I had to be fresh in the morning, so I decided to call it a night. “I’m gonna go find a cab,” I said and left the bar.
I found “userpoloka” a few meters down the road, leaning against her crappy brown car. She was fashion-model beautiful. Extremely tall, and with a bone structure that reminded me of the bugs in Starship Troopers.
“You are Andy? I saw you in the newspaper. You need a taxi? I am a taxi driver.”
I get in and tell her which hotel to drive me to. Her car rattles down the street. As she drives, she has to hunch forward towards the wheel because she is so tall.
“I am also a filmer.” She said. “I am YouTube artist. Not feature movie like you. It’s hard in Russia.”
I tell her that it’s hard everywhere. And that she can make a feature film as well if she wants to. The technology is available now for very little money.
A change comes over her. Her face darkens. “Thank you.” She smiles at me and there is light in her eyes. “Go on YouTube. Find “userpoloka”. That’s me.” She is proud. I realize that I’m a hero to her.
Independent film has always had it hard in Russia. To this day, the Russian government is strongly involved in the production and distribution of every Russian film and only supports blockbusters. Around the time I was in Moscow, towards the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, things had gotten even harder for the Russian independent film, with new censorship regulations that were put in place which ban the use of four specific words in movies. The big four are khuy (“cock”), pizda (“c*nt”), ebat (“to f*ck) and blyad (“whore”).
The only option that young Russian filmmakers have, is to make self-financed micro-budget films. The film collective “Stereotactic,” is an example of this. “Userpoloka” is another. There are tons more and they make these films out of necessity.
When I say micro budget I am referring to films, which have a budget that is under 40,000 dollars. When I say DIY, I am referring to a new ethic in filmmaking. DIY means, not asking for permission. It stands for “Do It Yourself”. Because of the low cost of digital equipment we are witnessing a DIY film insurgence all over the world and it heralds a reimagining of cinematic technique.
I love micro-budget “DIY” Filmmaking with all my heart. In my mind it is the most honest type of filmmaking. I idolize it. I put it up on a pedestal. “Userpoloka” is not only a hot taxi driver who films things. She is a symbol of freedom that lights the way to the future of cinema in countries in which there is no other alternative.
Back in my hotel room, I go on YouTube and I type in “userpoloka”. I find beautiful Russian honesty and the beginning of something.
The views and opinions contained in this article are those of the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of Russian Accent.
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