How the Ukrainian moved to Hollywood, changed his name and persuaded the star to star in his film
Ukrainian director Yevgeny Nozhechkin, known as Jensen Noen, is about moving to the USA, collaborating with Jay-Z and feedback from the director of Iron Man.
Evgeny Nozhechkin is a Ukrainian director working in the USA. Four years ago, he moved to Los Angeles and took the pseudonym "Jensen Noen." During this time, he managed to work with Jay-Z and Grande. Now Nozhechkin is preparing for the premiere of the full-length debut. In the film “Premonition,” the key role was played by the Oscar nominee Eric Roberts. The director tells The Village Ukraineas it is - to find your place in Hollywood.
For some reason, it is very difficult for Americans to pronounce the name "Zhenya". The first producer I started working with here advised me to take the pseudonym Jensen. Nobody could utter the Nozhechkin name at all, so I shortened it - I left the first two and the last two letters. It turned out "Jensen Noen."
All my childhood was associated with music. Quite early I had the first musical group, later I managed to play a few more. The most famous of them is Down & Dirty. In this project we worked with Denis Shaforostov, who later became the frontman of the American group Asking Alexandria.
Music was an opportunity to be realized in the works, but a little later I discovered the cinema for myself. It was a great discovery: visual media provided many more opportunities to tell stories. As soon as I had a camera, in 19-20 years, I started shooting videos for my bands. It was an era before YouTube - we shot cool stuff, but there was no platform for it.
The exit to the audience appeared a little later: I shot a video for Down & Dirty on the track Move It, and he scored over a million views. Because of this, we were offered a contract by American label Sumerian Records, which mainly works in the genre of progressive metal. New album we went to record in the United States.
In 2013, I flew to Los Angeles and shot the first video. Everyone was pleased with the result, after a few months I was invited again. The first trip to the United States was a revelation: I saw how developed the country is in the music industry and how many opportunities there are to implement my ideas. I know that in recent years the gradation of musical styles has significantly expanded in Ukraine, and it has become easier to make high-quality music. But then the situation was different.
Since I was already known as a director of the clips, new job offers immediately began to come. For example, there was a request from Roadrunner Records - a label that collaborates with Slipknot i Nickelback. They were looking for a director who could shoot clips for young rock bands. At the same time, I continued to work in Ukraine as a clip-maker: for example, I made video works for the “Hands Up” and “Leningrad” groups.
At the beginning of 2014, I arrived in the USA and tried to live here for several months. In the end, everything started to turn out, my wife and I made visas and moved to the United States. Since then, I have been working in Los Angeles.
My partner Sam Sam Malko started Scissor Films. Our specialization is production and postproduction. In particular, we are responsible for the installation and visual effects. We have worked with Jay-Z, The Weeknd, Future, Ariana Grande, and Bryson Tiller; for Tiller, I'll be making a movie for the release of his new album.
For example, the Kill Jay-Z clip is a very difficult job. Roughly speaking, one must be in an American context in order to understand what the author wanted to say. This is a deliberately simple clip, but it caused a great resonance. Jay-Z was not on the set, but clearly explained what he wanted to see - and we brought it to life.
“Gambit” is a short film that we shot with a friend Nick Bateman. This is a very cool dude, he communicates with all the stars associated with YouTube and Instagram. Even before this, Nick was casting for the role of Marvel comic book character: reached the final selection stages, but in the end the studio chose Channing Tatum. He liked the character so much that he decided to shoot a short meter about him. We shot the film overnight under a bridge in downtown Los Angeles - without any permission. Just wanted to make a cool video, but got a lot of feedback - from the TMZ tabloid, for example.
“I called the producer and said I should make a film.”
Los Angeles is a city that lives the film industry. A lot of people work in this area. Here is a special energy - everything motivates you to shoot your film. And the more time you spend here, the more you realize that this is real. It is not easy, but definitely more real than in Ukraine.
I tried not to be idle: when I was not working, I attended workshops and meetings. At one of these events, he met with director Joshua Caldwell, who himself shot a film called Negative. He worked with a limited budget, spent almost a year of time, but it looked like a real film. It was a great inspiration for me: after the meeting, I called my producer Sam and said that I needed to make a movie.
Trailer for the film "Negative". You can remember the leading role of Simon Quarter in the “World of the Wild West”.
We started looking for the script. Found a good option for the Australian screenwriter: the priority, of course, was the story, but there had to be a script that could be shot.
Preparation of the film took about two years. For a while, we rewrote the script and looked for investors. In the US, there are many people willing to invest in the cinema, but they all want to work with successful directors; Even if you made a film for two dollars and sold it for ten, this is already a success. Unfortunately, few people look at the director's talent; they pay more attention to whether you have commercial potential. In addition, they evaluate the experience with full-length films - nobody cares that you shot commercials or clips.
I like blockbusters, but the intellectual ones are like the films of Christopher Nolan, David Fincher and the Wachowski sisters. These are visually beautiful films with a lot of technological pieces. But in the first place they always have a story. This path is also close to me.
At a certain point, we decided to make a film on our own, that is, without external support. With this in mind, we only had three weeks for the filming process. This is a super tight timeline. Usually such films are filmed for at least several months. After that, even 7-8 months, we finished small fragments.
The biggest challenge was precisely the compressed time frame. I used to work with other people's material, mainly with large labels. If something did not work, we simply went beyond time and budget. When you shoot yourself, you are responsible for everything. This is a big stress: I had to make compromises, it was easier to shoot than I wanted.
Be this film studio, he had to come out last year. But since this was our project, we allowed ourselves to postpone the date of the premiere. Therefore, we otherwise wrote out the marketing strategy of the film: we decided to make a bid for promotion in social networks, and only then show it to distributors.
A few years ago, the distributor determined the fate of the film. There were two options: either release to hire, or release on DVD. Now filmmakers can make their demands. In addition, with the advent of digital distribution like Netflix channels for contact with the audience has become much more.
"This is a job for which I am not ashamed."
“Premonition” is a story about a writer who suspects a young wife of treason and decides to check her loyalty. My film is completely different from everything I've done before.
Perhaps, if I started this project now, I would not dare to shoot a thriller. Action and horror is easy to shoot, there is no need for an exemplary acting game, everything can be attributed to the genre. In turn, in thrillers the actors have to play flawlessly. To achieve the ideal result is much more difficult here than in any other genre.
I could not imagine that it would be so difficult. Working with actors at the highest level is another. For example, the role of the protagonist’s best friend in “perception” is performed by Oscar nominee Eric Roberts - brother of Julia Roberts.
Due to budget constraints, we could only afford one big name in the cast list. We first considered the option with Jonathan Banks from Breaking Bad. But there were problems with the filming schedule, he was busy on another project. When Roberts came to the table read (the first meeting in which all the actors read their roles for the first time - ed.), He hit the mark with his character vision.
Roberts had no problems shooting. From my experience I know that stars of this level may be lazy to go out for another double, but he always offered himself. Eric is no longer a young guy, but he has a lot of energy. Over the past few years, he has appeared in several minor films; these were simple roles, I was even worried if it was still in shape. But he proved himself to be a true professional.
Am I pleased with the end result? Yes, this is a job for which I am not ashamed. The feedback from a very tough director Shane Black became significant for me - his film “Iron Man 3” earned more than a billion dollars at the box office, he also wrote scripts for the films The Last Scout and Lethal Weapon. This is our good friend, we made a show of our film at his home.
I asked him to be as frank as possible. When we watched the tape, Shane asked what the film budget was. When he suggested that the tape was worth 5 million, we told him that in fact it cost several times less. “I had certain comments, but I’m shocked that you made a film for that kind of money. Just do not tell anyone how much it cost! First, sell it to a distributor, and then serve it as a success story, ”Black told us. In short, we have no doubt that this film will pay off.
In Los Angeles, I keep in touch with Lubomir Levitsky. He filmed “Ukraine” and “Shadows of Unforgotten Ancestors” in Ukraine, and is now preparing to shoot the first tape in the USA. We did not know each other in Ukraine, but for some time we communicated online. In Ukraine, for some reason, there is such a story that people in a get-together do not share their experience, keep aloof. Here everything is completely different: everyone helps each other, they are constantly advised. I now help him, he - me. For example, he helped us with the first trailer of "Premonitions".
"Be like water"
I would like to focus on movies in the future. Now we are working with a partner in parallel with the production, but I already have a script for another movie. I want to go directly to the next project.
Am I considering the possibility of returning to Ukraine? Yes of course. I hope I can show “Premonition” at the current Odessa International Film Festival - now we are negotiating about it.
I have many friends at home. In particular, a close friend and favorite cameraman Yuri Korol, who shot Cyborgs, the Watchtower and the Indestructible. Therefore, I watch Ukrainian cinema, communicate with people from the industry.
The main thing is to have a clear idea of what you want. It's trite, but it works. If you want, for example, to make a film or start your own business, then this must be clearly defined for yourself. The next step is to understand that every day you have 12 hours during which you can do something. Therefore, this time should be directed to step by step to realize the goal in life.
When I concentrate, I clearly formulate the next task. For example, when I started making a film, I almost refused offers to make videos. Otherwise, the preparation of the tape would have taken me not two years, but seven.
Another tip - do not be afraid to adapt. Many people who come to the United States actually stay at home — this remains the Soviet mentality. As for me, you need to be open to new things. “I used to live like this, I was brought up like this” - for me this is not an argument. Why not try something new? The Japanese have a beautiful saying - be like water. I try to constantly adhere to this principle.
Actually, for this I decided to take a pseudonym: I do not give up my roots, but I do it so that it is easier to communicate with me. Finally, in 90% of professional situations, everything is built on communication. People who come to the United States from Ukraine have problems with this - and not just beyond the language barrier. How to communicate with people in the right way - I, too, came to this for a long time. It is necessary not to go ahead, destroying everything in front of you, but to look for ways, how you can achieve yours smoothly. This does not mean that we should change our principles. No, you just need to look for opportunities to realize what you have in mind.
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