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Valentyn Vasyanovych • Director

"Low Light is my personal experimental project"


- At CentEast, Cineuropa caught up with multi-talented Ukrainian filmmaker Valentyn Vasyanovych, who assumed a variety of roles on Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's The Tribe

Valentyn Vasyanovych  • Director
Valentyn Vasyanovych (left) at CentEast (© Bartek Trzeszkowski)

Ukrainian filmmaker Valentyn Vasyanovych, the producer, editor and DoP on Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's award-festooned festival hit The Tribe [+see also:
film profile
, visited CentEast this year to present the latest project he has been working on. Vasyanovych is apparently a jack-of-all-trades, an image that his latest project reinforces. Apart from being a hyphenate on The Tribe, he has also forged a solo career alternating between documentary (Crepuscule) and fiction (Business as Usual) in addition to producing Slaboshpytskiy's and his own works via his production company, Garmata Film Production, which is now preparing Slaboshpytskiy's eagerly awaited sophomore feature, Luxembourg. Cineuropa made the most of the occasion to sit down with Vasyanovych as he stopped by at CentEast in between working on a project in Warsaw.

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Cineuropa: You are currently working here in Warsaw. What is the project you are attached to?
Valentyn Vasyanovych:
I am the director of photography on a feature-length fiction film directed by Maciej Sobieszczański, called Zgoda. The title refers to the name of the place where there was a concentration camp, and the story is set in 1946, after the defeat of the Germans. There are true events behind the story: it is about when Germans were imprisoned in this camp, and Jews and Poles guarded and tortured them. I will be shooting in Warsaw until the end of November before returning to Kiev.

But you are also working on your own project, which you have just presented at CentEast.
Yes, it's called Low Light, a half-documentary and half-fiction feature about my friend, a 50-something commercial photographer, a real photographer, like I used to be. He has made quite a lot of money since he has been shooting weddings and fashion-magazine stories. In short, he photographs other people's happiness, but lacks it in his own life. He has money, doesn't have any children, doesn't love his wife, and tries to unearth the secrets of other people's happiness, but unsuccessfully. I am producing, writing, directing and shooting the film, and it's ultra-low budget, estimated at €20,000.

How can you manage to make a feature film for €20,000?
It is entirely real. The script is developed during the shooting process. Firstly, I observe Kostya, the protagonist, his life and his circumstances, and then we talk. I have known him for many years, and he is my friend. Together, we come up with scenes, and we re-shoot them several times as part of the development process.

Seeing as you do not have a script, you cannot apply for funds, can you?
Well, it's ultra-low budget, so I did not apply for any funds anyway. Compared to The Tribe, Low Light is a completely different work. It is my personal experimental project.

Do you have sets, or do you shoot in authentic environments?
We scouted out some locations where we could shoot for free. As for the logistics, the protagonist also drives a big car, so that's convenient. We sit in his Jeep and drive through Kiev in an attempt to find locations. After I return to Kiev, I will finish the shoot and do the post-production at home. I am actually shooting it with a little Sony 7 photographic camera – that is a hint as to the film's title. Why Low Light? Because the camera has a reputation as the best low-light camera in the world. It has such a high ISO that I can shoot at night with no additional lighting.

What is the current state of the project?
Half of the film is already shot. We have about one month of shooting ahead of us, so we will wrap by the end of the year, and I expect the post-production to take around two months. I could have the final cut done by March next year.

You are also attached to Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's sophomore feature, Luxembourg, as the producer and DoP.
Yes, we will be shooting Luxembourg in the winter. Our budget is €1.2 million, half of which will be covered by Europe and the other half will be financed by Ukraine. The European money comes from France, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, and we have a very experienced producer, Anna Kachko, on board.

The story is set in Chernobyl. Will you actually shoot there?
Yes, right there. We do not know how long the principal photography will take, as everything needs to be shot in the snow, so a lot depends on the weather. It's the same situation as before, when we were shooting The Tribe and we had big lorries carrying snow onto the set from all around the city. If there aren't any hiccups, we expect the main shoot to last 30 days.

Are you already preparing for the shoot?
Myroslav used to work as a journalist, and back then he got involved with Chernobyl in the 1990s, so he knows it very well. He now regularly visits the Chernobyl plant for location scouting and to make any necessary arrangements prior to shooting.

Can you tell us a little bit about the story? To what extent is it based on Slaboshpytskiy's short film Nuclear Waste?
We do not know the exact story yet, since there are several drafts of the script. Everything could change, even the profession of the main character. To make things clearer, Myroslav says Nuclear Waste is the “trailer” for Luxembourg.

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