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'House of Cards' and 'Game of Thrones': as a young man from the USSR who did not know English became one of the most sought after directors in the USA

Alik Sakharov, 59, is a cameraman and director who came to the United States and the Soviet Union at the age of 22 and does not know English at all. Even if you live in a remote taiga, you've definitely heard about at least a couple of TV shows on which he worked. Among them - the sensational “House of Cards” and the most popular TV series of our time “Game of Thrones”.

Фото: Depositphotos

About how a guy from the USSR became one of the most sought after directors in the United States, told the publication Nation magazine.

The director said that his father left the family when he was 2 of the year, so he never calls his name, so that he could not at all use the popularity of his son, whom he did not raise.

The future director took his first shots at a very young age - his mother bought a camera and asked to film his younger brother growing up.

“Mom is from a very simple family, her father was a shoemaker. I was born in Uzbekistan, like myself. She worked as a nurse for 20 years. And then she retrained as a beautician, because in Soviet times, nurses' salaries were very small. And she always tried to provide us with a better life than her own. After the earthquake in Tashkent in 1966, our house was destroyed. The entire Soviet Union rose to help the victims ... Soon we got the opportunity to move from Tashkent to Moscow. I was 7 years old. I took part in photo clubs; When I was 15, my brother was born, my mother bought a movie camera and said: “Your task is to film him growing.” I started making small films, very primitive. But some kind of system began to emerge: what I like and what I don't, ”Sakharov said.

But the true love of cinema and art was instilled in him by Andrei Tarkovsky’s films.

“At the age of 17 I saw Tarkovsky's Mirror. The film made an extraordinary impression on me. Years later, I understood why: this is a movie about us - all Soviet children who grew up in a very difficult environment. You see, I'm not one of those people who hate the Soviet system. I grew up in it, formed and became myself. I still perceive everything through the prism of Soviet thinking. We were perfectly normal and even happy children. Then, of course, everything changed to hell. It's alright, you know. That's life. When I got older, I began to understand that the path to big cinema in the USSR was closed for me. Because I am not the son of important figures. But I had a dream and a hope. The dream of Tarkovsky's high art. I owe him my ... everything. He created the world in which I still live. I began to try myself in literature: write some small poems, sketches on the table. Meanwhile, I had to work. The money was needed for film, for development. I decided that I would become a watchmaker. He worked in Moscow, on Kolkhoznaya Square, ”the director shared.

Despite his overall positive perception of the USSR, his mother really wanted to leave the country, and in the end they immigrated to the United States.

“In 1981 we were allowed to leave the USSR. My mom really wanted it. I left the Soviet Union for her. So we ended up in New York. It was very hard at first. I was 22 years old and did not know English at all. On top of that, I had an extraordinary, completely punitive nostalgia for the Union. New York, by the way, did not make any impression on me. Absolutely. Zero. I'm not interested in the scale of big cinema. To be honest, my level is poetry, non-commercial. And for me it is very important that I do not sell myself or betray myself. Sometimes I have big confrontations with producers when I defend my opinion. Of course, I understand that there are those who order the tune. This is the American system, I respect it. Nevertheless, if you do everything the way they want, you end up with rubbish, ”Sakharov admitted.

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The choice of the United States as a new homeland was dictated by a very unexpected criterion.

“It's very simple: I didn't want to join the army. I served two years in the Soviet Union. If we went to Israel, I would certainly be in the army again. And I am far from being a political person, and I am not at all interested in who is fighting for whom. I still don't understand anything in politics. If I had stayed in the Union, I would have lived a very simple life. I think it would be like this: I would have worked as a watchmaker, probably entered some institute, but not in the early years, but at 25. Then I would have worked, I don’t know who. Probably would drink. And, probably, he drank himself. In America, there is one very important thing called opportunity - opportunity. Neither in Russia nor in Europe I found the opportunity. Probably because it doesn't exist there. Everything is determined by what kind of education you have. Of course, there are those who can overstep it. But there are very few of them. And I was not among them, ”said the director.

According to him, the first years of his life in New York were extremely difficult for him, but in the end he gradually found himself.

“In New York, I worked as a watchmaker for three years. And all this time, in a state of terrible nostalgia, he continued to write for himself. Then I thought deeply about my future: I either throw myself off the bridge, or I need to do something. I decided that I needed to attract people like me. Talk to them, compare opinions about our new country. I bought a movie camera and started interviewing my friends on weekends. Little by little, a small documentary film turned out, which I called Russian Touch - Russian touch or Russian touch. A very primitive film, I was only 25 when I made it. But there was something about that. If I did it in Russia, they would laugh at me. And here they didn't laugh: “Oh, good! Fantastic! What else can you do? " Nobody asked for any ID, no certificates. They just asked what I have and what I can. I have this little film, camera, editing machine, and I want to work. No one gave me a permanent job as a director at a television studio. But they offered to work freelance 2-3 days a week. My duties included putting on the lights, controlling the camera, shooting and smiling. Incidentally, this is very important here - to have a benevolent appearance. The more experience I gained, the higher the offers began to come in. Note that I have no film education. I started to educate myself, without any colleges or universities, and began to train my hand in practice, ”said the director.

He stressed that in the US, success comes to those who are not idle.

“This is what America is all about. Here you need to constantly invent something. If you will not sit still, but will actively work, then success will come to you. He must come. Yes, out of a hundred people, maybe only one will achieve what he dreams of. But in America it is still possible. I think I was incredibly lucky: I worked day and night, and it turned out that I suddenly became a popular cameraman and then a director, ”Sakharov noted.

After several films, he began receiving offers from stellar producers and directors and eventually took part in the creation of several films that received world renown.

“I made the film Pause, which I dedicated to Tarkovsky and which, in my opinion, is still my strongest film. Then there were several more full-length works. And then David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos, contacted me. He liked my movie Pause. And for The Sopranos, he needed an Eastern European approach. He is a very erudite person, we found a common language and worked great together for 10 years. It so happened that The Sopranos became a big famous project, but when we started, no one thought that everything would be so big, ”said the filmmaker, adding that the Eastern European internal culture is completely different from the culture of Americans, and sometimes this is the approach that American filmmakers want to see.

Sakharov gave an example of the difference in these cultural attitudes between people from the United States and post-Soviet countries: “The television writer is a very big boss. Here comes a boss and says: “You know, I wrote the scene. I would really like to break it into perspectives. I want it to be accessible and simple. ” I read the scene, and the hair (which I do not have) stand on end. Smashing this scene into corners is the same as chewing food and swallowing it for another. If you want to make a smart movie, then you need to give the viewer not 100%, but 50%. So that there is understatement, so that there is something to think about. This is a pure Eastern European approach. Many producers think that their viewers have no brains. And we do not think so. I have not been to Russia for a long time, I don’t know how it is now. But when we grew up, nothing was chewed on us. We had to think out what was unsaid. David Chase is exactly what he wanted. To the style of presentation was more sophisticated. Many people say: "Sakharov is such a bore." But that's what they like about me. I don't want to make a bad movie, I want to make a smart movie. Until I do it. ”

The director noted the cinematographers of Denmark, France and Iran, which he named among the best in the world.

“I put Danish cinema above American cinema. They have great films and TV shows, great acting school. "Murder", let's say. I love Danish TV shows. They are smart. American cinema wants to take you by the horns, press buttons, manipulate you. I hate this. But Danish cinema allows you to live, breathe, feel. They do not manipulate you, they give you freedom. The French do it well. French films are great, simple, human. Iranian cinema is wonderful. See Divorce (Nader and Simin's Divorce). A very simple good movie. Why is Tarkovsky so high for me personally? Tarkovsky, Antonioni, Bergman. They are not manipulating you at all. They simply state what is, and your intellect turns on. They insist that the person is smart, not a fool. American cinema insists that man is a fool. But America's great filmmakers don't. Just like Stanley Kubrick, smart guy. The Coen brothers are wonderful directors, ”Sakharov explained.

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Among contemporary Russian directors, he singled out Andrei Zvyagintsev.

“I like him both as a person and as a deep-thinking director. I see the approach to scene development that I myself used. I see a kindred spirit. It doesn't solve any problems. He asks questions about how smart filmmakers are supposed to do it. He does not simplify his films, but gives a person the opportunity, having watched his film on the topic of the day, to think about what kind of reality we live in. This is the only director that I basically follow. After all, I'll tell you frankly, I have absolutely no time to watch films, ”he shared.

The director admitted that he would really like to make a film about Soviet Russia or even about the times that preceded the USSR.

“I would be very interested to do something about the Soviet Union. Or even about Russia earlier than the USSR. About Russia Tolstoy, Chekhov or Bunin. I had many offers to work in Russia. I, unfortunately, could not accept them, because I was too busy. But, if it ever works out, I will have to do it not only for Russians, but also for an international audience, which means working in English. For those who will be budget givers. If done with Western money, then the project should become known to the whole world, and not only on the territory of Russia, ”Sakharov explained.

The employment rate of the director is really incredibly high, he had a hand in the creation of many pictures, and each of them was remembered by him for something unique, unique.

«Klan Soprano» (Sakharov is an operator in this project).

“Great script. All characters are worked out in detail, convex, sharp. They are of interest to both ordinary viewers and, for example, certified behavior specialists. They have something to discuss in The Sopranos, ”he shared his memories of the film.

"Rome" (Sakharov - director and cameraman).

“Oh, this is a huge ancient world. We worked at the legendary Italian film studio "Cinecitta". The same one where Fellini, Antonioni, Bertolucci were filmed. Our team has recreated everything in Rome with incredible meticulous detail: from buildings to helmets and even buttons. $ 10 million just for decorations! This is an incredible amount for those times, especially for television. The ancient world on such a scale had never been filmed before. And this inspired us. In general, a super project, ”- said the director.

"Dexter" (Sakharov - director).

“I got to Dexter too late. It was the 6-7th year of filming. I could not bring anything new. But I felt in my place. Great writers. Wonderful actors. It was especially enjoyable to work with Michael S. Hall, who played Dexter, and Jennifer Carpenter, who played his sister. Even after so many years in the series, being professionals of the highest sense, they delved into the smallest details, ”Sakharov admitted.

"House of cards" (Sakharov - director).

“I love him to the bone. I love working with Robin Wright, the smartest woman, an extraordinary actress. I was very pleased to work there. In Season 5, I shot episodes 3 and 4. It was going so well that I was offered to shoot another episode, the 7th. Then an invitation came to work on the 6th season, ”said the filmmaker.

"Double" (Sakharov - director).

"Wonderful. I remember the 7 episode - The Sincerest Form of Flattery ("The most sincere form of flattery")... One of my favorites in my entire career. I love him. The episode is deep and serious. It looks like a movie, ”the creator of the series shared his impressions.

"Game of Thrones" (Sakharov - cameraman and director)

“I switched to directing in 2006. In 2010, Frank Dulger called me — the producer I worked with Rome — and suggested the Game of Thrones project. I told him that the operator’s activities had ceased. “Oh, well, how so! You're such a wonderful cameraman, you can't tell me no. ” He needed me to shoot the first two episodes. 2 season. I switched to directing - there’s no way backing down; it would look bad in our film world. He asked: “What needs to be done for you to agree?” - “Everything is very simple. Give me the director's job. ” It was not arrogance, and negotiations. Notice, I was not interested in the Game of Thrones. That they were interested in me. If the “Game of Thrones” did not happen, there would be “Black Sails” (Sakharov - producer and director) or "Marco Polo" (producer)which, by the way, I love more than Game of Thrones. These are great projects, while Game of Thrones is a popular project. The difference is significant, ”Sakharov shared his impressions.

He also explained why different directors shoot different episodes in popular TV shows like “Game of Thrones” and “House of Cards”: “Because the scale is huge and it needs to be broken into pieces. If the season of such a series will be filmed by one director, the work will drag on for 10-12 months. No studio will do this, too expensive. Therefore, for example, 10 episodes are broken up into pairs. While one director shoots the first two episodes, the other is already preparing for his couple. This allows the studio to cut the schedule in half, cutting the budget in half. So this is a purely arithmetic approach. Not creative and not aesthetic, but the approach of accountants. Unfortunately, studios are bookkeeping. There are a lot of analysts who do this kind of calculation. I would say that today in 80% of cases, if not more, directors are involved in the 2 episode, rarely on 3. ”

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Sakharov believes that the future of cinema lies with smartphones and talented amateurs who will gradually become professional.

“I think that in the future the big screen will become purely symbolic. That much will be done with the help of these little things. (showing smartphone). For example, my daughter yesterday showed me a two-minute film, which she made herself. She is only 12 years old. And she did it on her phone. I thought to myself, “My God! 12 yo! And she approached this. ” Pretty professional. I was delighted. And soon everyone will have the opportunity, having some idea and not having money, to make their own film. On home equipment, so to speak. Here, for example, Vimeo (video hosting): There are a lot of good little films that people make with absolutely no money. I think this is the future - we will push back the big screens, ”the director predicted.

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