Nikita Khripach
Filming a script
On a certain day, the production broke for lunch, and I had a chance to speak with young director Nikita Khripach.
Nikita, tell me why festivals and competitions are important for directors?
This is where you can show your work to people who are really excited about new films. Unlike just posting your films online, for example, where you're theoretically getting a wider audience, but all those people aren't really invested in your work. Plus, of course, festivals and competitions go with prizes, helpful feedbacks and opportunities to network. It's a great platform for young filmmakers.
Your films are full of irony, sarcasm, black humor. What is the best reward they could get? How can you reach it?
The best reward is when audience responds to your art. When people are captivated by your film, they laugh, they're emotionally and mentally invested in what's happening on the screen. If I'm able to translate my ideas through a film medium, it means I'm really doing my job. If I'm doing my job well – then the chances are that I probably will get another job. Being able to keep making films is already a reward itself.
I know that you write a lot, besides making movies. Is it difficult to combine being a screenwriter and a director?
I see it as an advantage. Most of films start with a script. When Alfred Hitchcock was finishing his scripts, he used to say, "Now the most boring part - actually filming a script". To him, screenwriting was the most fun part of it. I love both writing and being on a set equally. A friend of mine tells me that I should make sure that my love for literature doesn't make it much into my films, but I actually love films with a hint of literary feel in them. Like, old Godard's films or recent Burning.
How do you choose scripts? What is the root to convert the script into a movie?
I make sure my short films are possible to produce. So I won't be writing about dragons or zombie apocalypse. I don't have a budget and skills to direct those kinds of films yet. When I have a finished script on hands, then my thought process is directed into how to turn writing into visual storytelling. On the set of my horror THEY COME AT NIGHT we made this winter, my cinematographer asked me about the scene where a character was grabbing a cross: "Is this a scene of her taking a gun?". This is a cinematic approach: to translate a scene's meaning through lighting, camera position and movement. In other words, always show, never tell.
Let's talk about inspiration... Please, share where to find one?
A film always starts with a visual idea. For instance, a music comedy ABOUT LAST NIGHT started with this scene in my mind: a young woman makes it home after a long day at work. She's exhausted, she throws away her bag and her coat, she slides down right on the floor. She doesn't have any energy to walk, so she crawls to her kitchen where she takes a shot of Tequila which brings her back to life. The funny thing is that the scene of her crawling looked too awkward and didn't make it into the final cut, but the film was born out of it. We don't see the seed, but the plant is right here.

Speaking of inspiration in general, I just have to make sure I'm inspired by everything life has to offer. Reading books, seeing films, observing strangers, enjoying gossiping with friends, having good wine and good sex. When you stay curious and keep feeding your brain with new things, you can't help it but want to create, share your thoughts and communicate through art.
What do you feel when you making movies? Is it some kind of mission of your life?
I love filmmaking because it's a collaborative art. It's fun to create with other people, a film set is like a lab where things come together, or fall apart. It's exciting and always unpredictable. As about a mission... I mean Tom Cruise has missions every couple years in Mission: Impossible. I just love creating things: films, pieces of writing, drawings. As long as I'm enjoying it, I'll keep doing it.
Why short film?
You don't make an album until you write your first song! You don't write a novel until you write a short story! Step by step. One thing at the time.
Accidentally or not, I was an accomplice in one of your films this winter. It was very interesting and exciting for me to be a part of the movie, thank you again for the opportunity. I saw how hard you worked. And now I am equally interested in finding out how you assemble the team, what is the most difficult thing? How to trust?
It helps if you know people before you work with them. I met many reliable filmmakers at The New School where I studied. Even though I graduated two years ago already, we still help each other. Having worked in restaurants, I also befriended many good actors. That's what's so great about New York: you think you're just going to work at some catering gig, but end up meeting an actor who's perfect for your next film.

The golden rule for choosing who to work with is simply to choose someone you enjoy being with. Work should be fun. Now, of course, set work gets exhausting and challenging sometimes, and this is why it's so important you're surrounded by people who you really like.
I guess you chose not the simplest genre — dark comedy, why so?
It chose me! But really I love seeing humor in everything. I don't see how you can go through life without giggling all the time. I'm most miserable when I start taking life too seriously. That's why laughing is so important. But of course, you can't always just brush things away by laughing at them. Sometimes you have to let life hit you hard, completely crush you. Then you cry your eyes out, and only then look in the mirror and laugh at your ridiculous, crybaby, ugly face.
Kidding aside, your movies sometimes are really eerily.
THEY COME AT NIGHT was supposed to be a horror comedy, but when it was finished I realized that it turned out to be more of a suspense thriller. That's fine with me, though. You can't expect the result always to be identical to your original idea. Sometimes a film takes its own path, and then you should just get out of its way.
Next question I'll start with a compliment: my favorite film is SECRET WITHIN A SECRET, I saw it many times and enjoyed a lot. I think that I like everything in this short film: first of all, casting Christian Plauche, who played the main role is a perfect fit there; the interior – a lot of air in the scene; wonderful light – my applause to the gaffer. So the question is how difficult is it to find sponsors for the production to cover all those expenses?
It was an ultra low budget film: something around 2 thousand, maybe even 1.5. I financed it all myself, but most people worked for free on it.

For my next, more ambitious project, I will have to look for finances somewhere else besides my wallet. So you'll have to ask me how this is going later this year. But I hope there are still some rich people in this town who want to support art. There are also crowdfunding campaigns. As long as you know your audience, you can target people who might be interested in helping your film coming to life. Asking for money has always been a huge part of independent filmmaking.
Are you writing something new? Not under the record, whisper me...
My next film is an erotic drama based in a yoga studio. I'm very excited about this one. I plan to shoot it in early fall. Wish me luck!
Sounds great! Can't wait to see this movie on a screen. Good luck, my friend.
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