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Interview With Pavel Khvaleev Director Of III
By James Whittington, Friday 28th August 2015
What I love about FrightFest is the chance to catch films from all over the world and the more diverse they are the better. Pavel Khvaleev is a director with an extraordinary eye for visuals and his movie III will be getting its UK premiere later today. We spoke to him recently about this movie and what the horror movie business is like in his native country.
HC: When did you decide that you wanted to be in the film making business?
PK: Being a member of the electronic project Moonbeam, I’ve directed about 30 music videos through all these years, so one day it was decided to shoot a feature film, and the first one was a mystery drama The Random. In the end, this work was released by the Dutch distributor Black Hole Recordings in 2013. Then, together with my wife Alexandra Khvaleevа and our close friends Evgenia Mustafina and Oleg Mustafin, we decided to put on a different genre hat and switch from drama to horror. Since we are big fans of such directors as Christophe Gans, Tarsem Singh…
HC: How did the project for III come about?
PK: After several hours of heated discussions, we finally agreed on the topic that was interesting to all of us – Shamanism and self-healing, and mixed it up a little with the interconnection between two sisters. We were very impressed by the monsters from the first part of Silent Hill, and that’s why in our film there also special make-up effects made by Evgenia Zakharova. It was her first experience in a feature film.
HC: The film is a very surreal, multi-level movie, how much planning did you put into it to make sure the story flowed?
PK: It was our original plan to immerse the viewer in several worlds: the real world and the world of the subconscious, and the Shamanism story helped us a lot with this. During the three months of writing, the script changed several times. The final big change was the introduction of Ayia character, as initially only Mirra and Father Herman were involved in the plot. It happened when we were casting for the role of the main female character, and once we saw Polina (Ayia), we decided to complicate the story and add another protagonist.
HC: Where did you find such stunning locations?
PK: In Russia, we had to drive about 1,000 kilometers in search of suitable locations for our film. We were so lucky when we found a historical place, Priklonskie-Rukavishnikovy Manor House, and we were allowed to shoot there. An abandoned mill, a cave and even a burned forest – all these objects are real and unique in their kind. But, of course, it couldn’t have been done without computer graphics. In fact, in terms of technical specifics of the film III, we tried to use computer graphics as little as possible and to create a special atmosphere of the world of the subconscious on site, choosing the most artistic scenes. For shooting in Germany the producer of the movie Frank Ellrich helped us to find the right places after I sent him several storyboards. We shot some parts in the city called Marburg, which I first saw when I was visiting Frank in Germany. It is the city of his birthplace and it has a lot of old historical buildings. It perfectly matched the dark & mystic atmosphere we needed for our story.
HC: The film has some very ambitious set-pieces; did you have a large budget?
PK: We will reveal one of the secrets of our film: the budget of the film III was only 15,000 Euros, as all the visual effects, music, editing and colour correction was done by me within the year. Besides, the entire film crew was working out of pure enthusiasm. For us, this project became a real adventure, great time spending and, at the same time, a test. I still can’t believe that the shooting team consisted only of eight people, who proved to be multifunctional specialists. This versatility of our crew is noticeable in the credits, where the same people feature in various capacities. For example, Alexandra Khaleeva is a scriptwriter, and she also sewed nearly all the costumes for the characters. Oleg Mustafin helped with the script, at the same time he was responsible for almost all the props and safety during complex scenes and also helped with make-up. Evgenia Mustafina, an executive producer, was also the coordinator responsible for the translation of subtitles into other languages.
HC: Its dark, slightly grim in places, did this affect the tone on set?
PK: Despite the fact that during almost all the days of shooting we were accompanied by rain, the crew was always in an excellent mood. But we really freaked out when we met the paranormal creature while living in Germany in Rosenthal village. Two people really heard someone’s breath and steps at night in the old house, which was more than 100 years. One more mystic thing happened when Lyuba, who plays a sick sister Mirra, caught real chickenpox at the beginning of shooting. For some scenes we had to shoot her on a green background, and that really complicated the process.
HC: This is your second feature, were you more confident directing III compared to your first movie?
PK: To be honest, my first film The Random was a good experience for the creation of the next feature film. I think that any director has to get into other’s shoes and understand professionally every area of film production workflow: operator, editor, colourist, actor, screenwriter, it is necessary in order to lead the whole project and be able, in the end, to deliver your vision as close as possible to the viewer.
HC: How big is the horror movie industry in Russia?
PK: Today in Russia there are a lot of fans of horror genre among the younger generation. But at the same time they are prisoners of the situation caused by the absence of horror film industry in this country. Over the past 10 years, almost none of the Russian horror films have been paid off at the box office, which results in film companies being afraid of investing in this field.
HC: Are you nervous that its playing such a big festival?
PK: Mhm... It is similar to my gigs for my music project Moonbeam. I am a bit nervous only at the very beginning, but after a while I calm down and relax quite quickly. Of course, it was a new situation for me to introduce my work with a microphone at the cinema to the audience. And every audience is a bit different. Anyway, I enjoy it a lot to see so many new cities and to meet new and interesting people.
HC: So what projects are you working on at the moment?
PK: We are now in the process of writing the script for the next film of the same genre. I’m not going to disclose the idea, but I can say it will be something new in its kind. We will definitely engage professional actors for the shooting in order to make this movie really dramatic. And since the idea of a new film is quite ambitious and difficult to implement, this time it cannot be done without investors.
HC: Pavel Khvaleev, thank you very much.
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