Director Yulya Litinskaya latest collaboration with Musician Tosya Chaikina is a powerfully dark and haunting music video for Chaikina’s single Arrows Have Struck in the Heart, which sees a lone protagonist, played by Chaikina, drift through a world in decay, one where people are continuously on the run fleeing from a constant volley of arrows. It’s a video with an almost ghostly sensibility which manages to blend moments of intense naturalism into otherwise purely expressionistic choreography, all captured with a dedicated eye for expert framing and composition. DN caught up with Litinskaya, who is currently stuck in Russia and unable to return to her home country of Ukraine due to the ongoing conflict, as her music video appears online, to learn more about her desire to capture the frustrating ambivalence she sees in the world through expression, dance, costume and story.
What did the beginning of this video look like for you? Had you worked with Tosya Chaikina previously?
My heart was broken when the video was being made. I didn’t know if I had the right to create anything, I was lost and horrified due to the situation in my country. Tosya and I have known each other for about a year, her voice has always inspired me. When Arrows Have Struck in the Heart was released, I decided that I wanted to capture what I see in real life nowadays in the video, inaction and people just looking while doing nothing. I turned to MATE Production with a request to help bring my idea to life and they liked it. Resembling a verse from the bible, Arrows Have Struck in the Heart also talks about the Lord’s wrath and the greed of power.
How did you take that key concept and apply it to the choreography of the video? So much of the power of the video comes through the movement of its characters.
This is my first experience working directly with a choreographer and dancers in a music video, so the whole process was new to me. It’s like a river gently carrying you along. The dancers were the most fun people on the set. During breaks they danced among the trees in the forest. It was like one big performance. I wanted to combine the choreography with the natural movements of people. Therefore, for most of the shooting the dancers had to run. It was very exhausting and I was ready for the fact that many people would refuse to participate in the shooting on the second day. But despite the fatigue, all the dancers showed up on the second day of shooting and stayed until late at night.
I decided that I wanted to capture what I see in real life nowadays in the video, inaction and people just looking while doing nothing.
It was quite cold during the shooting days but the dancers filled the entire film crew with energy: they clapped after each shot, joked and sang songs in between takes. For shooting, many of them came from neighbouring countries, so we compared these two days of shooting with a summer camp where you meet new people and you become friends for a week. We still have a chat in which dancers help each other, send new job opportunities and ask for help which is truly valuable.
Could you talk about the role the costumes play in the video? I’m particularly interested to hear about Tosya’s character and her wings.
I wanted to create a memorable bright image for Tosya, with the real-looking wings. Therefore, an art director, Veronica Roth, was chosen who could realistically embody my idea. She was very meticulous about the creation of the wings. A frame was created to look like real bird bones and each feather was attached by hand. For the costumes of the dancers, Veronica took the colours and elements of the Renaissance as a basis and combined them with the silhouette of the workers’ clothes. She also used a lot of fabric to soften the harsh textures of the location.
We had also been looking for a designer for a long time who could make a unique costume for Tosya with uniform elements. At some point, I was connected with the talented Roman Kanjaliev, who had a sketch that perfectly matched my idea. Within a week, he and his team created a transforming dress. It consisted of two parts: an overcoat with a detachable sleeve and a nightgown.
Similarly, the palace location is incredible! How did you discover it and what attracted you to the idea of shooting there?
Only two location options were available to us and we chose the county’s estate Mikhailovskoye. The 18th-century palace with a mezzanine has been abandoned for almost two decades: the interiors have been destroyed, but the spirit remained. When we arrived at the scout, it became immediately clear that this was the right place. For me, the estate was an illustration of the terrible future we may have.
There were two shooting days and both times we were hiding from the rain. Many shots needed sunlight, so often the crew waited for the sun to come out from behind the clouds. It was much colder inside the estate than outside, and the dancers and crew ran outside to warm up.
How involved in the creation of the music video was Tosya Chaikina?
After the song’s release, I offered Tosya an idea for a video. She agreed and also completely trusted me visually. After discussing the image of Tosya in the video, she had her hair extended to have an incredibly long hairstyle. As an artist Tosya was more comfortable not interfering in the process, focusing on work on the set.
How would you describe your approach to direction? The video is so ambitious in its vision, I’m curious to know how that manifests on set.
Thank you! In the process of creation, I always think about work integrity. At the same time, I always have a desire to include several stories in one work. This is the reason why there is always a lot of ambition in my ideas. It seems to me that nothing is impossible and I can convince everyone that we need to do it! There are a number of patterns that haunt my ideas and they are all quite large. Any large-scale idea consists of a number of small ones for the implementation of which there are necessarily suitable people. The hardest part for me is finding them.
A frame was created to look like real bird bones and each feather was attached by hand.
In the work process, I trust the people with whom I create as much as possible. I love the opportunity to share my idea with others, where each department adds a bit of their vision to the big idea. Then people are totally excited about the idea because they feel that it also belongs to them. Therefore, a large number of enthusiasts gathered on the set of arrows, and everyone was charged with energy. We did a lot of preparatory work together and everyone was looking forward to the embodiment of this project. It’s a low-budget project, but I had the feeling that each member of the crew was paid a huge amount of money for how much they put in. Such co-creation with people is energizing, many guys wrote to me after the release that this music video fell during a difficult period in their lives and helped them get through it.
Do you see yourself returning to make more music videos in the future? What is it you like about it as an art form?
Of course! I really love working on music videos. I like how the music complements the picture and vice versa. Rhythm clashes with cuts that make me watch the same videos over and over again. Every time I listen to songs, I come up with ideas for videos for them, at some point it turns into a game that I play every day. Music videos are really my passion. I want to shoot stories for different artists from all over the world. Create their personal worlds with unique characters, and convey feelings and emotions into the visual.
What will you be working on next?
At the moment, I’m collecting all of my ideas and thoughts for future music videos. I plan to have more contacts with artists in Europe and offer them my ideas. Also, a small artwork of mine will be released soon, which will be on the theme of violence. My team and I filmed about a year ago on the border with Kazakhstan in an incredibly beautiful place of Lake Baskunchak. This rather brutal piece of video art will be about the obsession with violence and it is called INHUMAN. I am looking forward to sharing this edgy bit of video art with you as I have many ideas to show!