Suffused with an arrestingly impressive visual aesthetic, Russian Director Lado Kvataniya’s Orpheus (NSFW) music video for Tim Aminov, conjures up a dark futuristic world devoid of verbal communication in which those with the power to heal are hunted down and killed. DN caught up with Lado to find out how marathon shoots and a willing crew of crazy professionals brought this exquisitely dark vision into being.
How did the commission from Tim Aminov come to you and how much does the final film differ from the initial script?
Tim and I became friends after our first project together for the song One Lone Survivor. He showed me his musical drafts and materials, I took a pause and came back with an idea that he liked.
The script was in the process of writing for about 2 weeks, but when we reached the stage of pre-production, then of course it started changing as we had to stay within budget realities. This is a normal creative process, when you have to exist in some limitations. It is these limitations that provide the potential for unique creative solutions. There is an expression: “The film is made three times. First at the script level, second on the set, and the third time during editing”.
I do not like references. They deprive you of the opportunity to look at your story with fresh eyes.
Were there specific references which inspired the film’s stunning visuals, production design and choice of locations?
Before I go to the film set, I try to study films with a similar theme in order to avoid repetition. Then I try to isolate myself from the outside world in order not to fall into the trap of other people’s decisions. In Orpheus there are many different biblical and Buddhist inspirations. I like symbolism and I needed it in this story. The basis is the myth, which I reworked, inventing some alternative rules of reality.
When you are under stress, and the film set is 12 hours of stress with a break for lunch, then when something does not work out you can fall into the trap of trying to find a solution that has already been seen before in order to solve the problem. I do not like references. They deprive you of the opportunity to look at your story with fresh eyes, and not through the prism of the ideas found. It’s like wearing someone’s glasses – I’m most uncomfortable in them.
How long did the shoot take and were any of the set ups particular challenging?
Everything was filmed in Moscow. We shot with small breaks / pauses. The budget for our story was small and it was necessary to think out how to create the world we needed. There were 7 shooting days in total. If we had all the necessary funds we would have realized this project much faster.
It was difficult to shoot the mass scene, especially because everyone was almost naked. I was uncomfortable, so I even took off my jacket so that I could support them in a way and understand what they were experiencing. I was honestly embarrassed, but then I overcame this moment and began to think within the idea of the frame.
There was a 25-hour shift and at some point my head refused to work, but it was necessary to complete the film. We started filming and realized it wasn’t working. I remember how we stood in the street, dawn, the whole team coming up with how to shoot this scene. Artists, directors, producers, actors – everyone. Cigarettes laid on the asphalt, denoted as actors.. then we took a lighter, like a camera, and drove through the air, commenting on the scene.
From my DOP Andrei Maica:
“The main problem was the extensive use of color lighting, which requires a different approach to the distribution of lights. The choice of the camera was also important since it was important to maintain the color component over the entire width of the light range (especially the output of the color in the shadows) Arri Alexa is the system that copes with color lighting optimally. Optics Ultra prime is the most neutral. Also, for the first time in our practice, we often used ultra-wide-angle lenses, which were more demanding for composition and setting of light. This has become a completely new experience for us.”
There are several impressive VFX shots in Orpheus, how were those handled on set to ease the work required to pull them off in postproduction?
We worked with very cool special effects guys Carbon Core. We had a supervisor on the set who gave all kinds of comments. I am very grateful to the guys, because they were very demanding on quality and the final result.
Was it tricky to bring everything together in the edit?
It was very difficult. When I looked through all the material I thought my head would burst. There were too many frames! I needed a system. I began to sort everything out by folders, scenes, details. Then I selected all the best and started editing with Anton Mironenkov.
It all depends on the team. If they are moderately crazy professionals, then there are no barriers.
In general, I’m very proud that this is a Russian story made on this Earth. We are always looking for some problems, reasons, circumstances in order to skip work and look at Europe or the West, saying that there are all conditions for filming in contrast with Russia. But this is a lie – it all depends on the team. If they are moderately crazy professionals, then there are no barriers – you will simply solve problems as they come.
Do you have any new projects in the works?
Actually, I’ve just finished working on a new project which we shot on 16mm film. It is a music video that we shot in Georgia with HypeProduction. Producers Ilya Stewart and Murad Osman always support me in any crazy ideas. I wouldn’t have been able to make Orpheus without them.