Why did you make a fiction film?
Sergey Dvortsevoy: I like documentaries, but I want to go deeper into relationships between people. And I feel a very strong ethical barrier, because the deeper you want to go, you're using someone's life, and this is a private life. You make a choice - to go there, which means you can destroy somebody's life, and for me the problem is that I destroy myself also, because I feel that I can do everything, I feel that I can do anything I want with people.
Documentary for me is like some kind of absurdity. The worse for people it is, the better for the director. At the same time, the most interesting films you see are on the borderlines. Documentary is only on the borderlines for me. This is why I've decided to stop making them for now, because maybe I'll continue. The most important problem for me is the ethical problem.
Also, there is the problem that more and more television people are running foundations that give money to documentaries. So it is more and more difficult to convince them to give money. When I asked for money for my previous film, In the Dark, there was a young woman directing a foundation, and she asked me, "Why do you need so much time to make this film?" I told her, "When you see my films, you'll understand. It's very difficult to shoot like this. You need time for this. It's not possible to shoot it during one week." She said, "Our commission says you don't need this time."
You have to prove all the time that you are not a camel. The problem is that people funding films are more and more people who do not understand this. They deal with video mostly, and they think that everything is possible, very quickly.
They want documentaries to fit into a commercial business model.
I understand that, but at the same time, I don't want to make films only for TV. It's different for a director. It's a different dramaturgical composition, a different picture, different sound. Of course, I do make films for television as well. But these are the two main problems for me - the ethical problem and technology. In Moscow, now there are more and more television programs. I can't call them films. They are more and more reportage. I was on the jury at a festival in St. Petersburg, and saw many films, different international films, all of them one half hour. And they are the same. You understand that people don't care about dramaturgical composition. You don't feel energy. You don't feel what you feel on film. They make them like bricks, and you don't feel who made this brick - no author, nothing - information, that's all. It must be interesting for some audience, but this is not for me. I don't want to make simple TV programs.
You have sheep giving birth in this film. How many pregnant sheep did you have to choose from?
We had a herd of a thousand sheep - and I knew we could not shoot this scene without having our own herd, and having our own shepherd. When sheep are about to give birth, they run away from people. It's very hard to follow them, and especially if you want to shoot this kind of scene, when they give birth.
We spent the first two weeks with the crew, because the camera people were ready to shoot immediately. Sometimes it's very important not to shoot, and to stop people, just because they want to shoot immediately. This was a Polish crew and they said, "Come on, Sergey - you see this donkey, you see this sheep, you see how it's good. Let's shoot this sheep giving birth immediately."
I have a lot of experience in documentaries with animals. I know that if you will wait, if you analyze a situation, if you try to understand how to shoot, and you plan how to shoot this, you'll shoot it much better. We spent the first two weeks just following sheep with a small camera, with a video camera, and then with a big camera, because I told them that. I told them that it must be one shot, one take, no cuts inside. And also because of language in telling the story. That was very hard.
We had a special system. Our shepherd had a radio. He was all the time with the sheep, with this herd, and the whole time I also had a radio and was listening to him. He'd say, "Sergey, there is a sheep and she is ready to give birth." We had a car, an old-fashioned car outfitted for emergencies. If the shepherd said, "Okay," we would move - we would put the springs behind the actor's [Ashkat Kuchincherikov's] ears, because unfortunately he had very small ears. It was very hard to do this, because it took one and a half hours to place these springs.
Will you ever make another documentary?
I'm not sure. I have to have a strong motivation to make a film. I don't have motivation now. It can only be a film about me or about some people close to me. I'm not ready now, but we'll see. I like documentaries, but this contradiction with documentaries for me now is too strong.
When you create every piece of something, you see that it's a parallel life. Of course, you understand that it's made of nothing. Actors have played for you, but it's what you have thought up in the kitchen, in fact, with friends or just by yourself, but you see that in this life there is something very serious. You catch something, you can tell something very serious, sometimes stronger than in documentary.