My film is an exploration of youth and a definition of a collective state of mind, through the journey of a young boy questioning his prescribed destiny in Kiev, Ukraine. There is always a hunger to escape at a time of instability.
Timing is key in developing a creative practice. I applied to the STOP PLAY RECORD (SPR) programme while I was in the process of graduating from my Masters studies at Central Saint Martins. Although throughout my course I had already worked on moving image projects, SPR seemed like a challenging opportunity to deliver a short film to a cultural institution whose artistic collaborations I very much admire.
From my experience, it is all about the right people you meet along the way and the ones that stick to you after you convince them about your insane ideas – that’s your dream team right there, because making things come to life on the screen is never a one man show. A strong connection between the crew members on a project is one of the most important things for me, as it ends up steering the entire journey in the most honest direction possible. This was particularly true during the shooting of Neighbour; my research process had been driven by the inexplicable compulsion to try to understand Kiev’s youth and its collective state of mind that is undergoing a unique change just three years after the revolution. As a crew, it was our first time working in a different country where we had no points of contact, all the while seeking to understand and portray the daily life of our characters.
Although Kiev's rave culture is where one can experience the collective body of the nation's capital's youth, social media is what has played the central role in the development of their visual language. The way we release information about ourselves and our surroundings has become so integrated into our daily lives that one simply forgets that it has become the way that we perceive everyday reality. I think image-makers should use this as an opportunity: it has never been so easy to cast and search for inspiration from the comfort of your own home.
The way we release information about ourselves and our surroundings has become so integrated into our daily lives that one simply forgets it is the way we perceive everyday reality.
Thanks to our online presence we now have the ability to invade private profiles, and it is the observation of characters through these profiles that has shaped the process of constructing this film. We watch, judge and surveil each other as a part of our every day routine, so why not use these skills as a part of the creative process?
My strongest experience on set while making this film was realising the potential and the presence of the cast I wanted to portray on the screen. In our daily lives we are so accustomed to staging and enhancing things through our social media; we know our best angles when taking selfies, we understand how to photograph our meals even before we have had our first bite and we know how to choose our background and set according to the mood that we want to portray. When I was constructing the concept behind the film through watching all the characters on their social media, I became a distant observer, the ‘neighbour’ watching you from a distance.
We know our best angles when taking selfies, we understand how to photograph our meals even before we have had our first bite
When we started filming in Ukraine, I found myself not having to stylise anything at all – it was all already there. The connection between the locations and characters was so strong that I allowed for it to re-shape the entire script when making the film. When you feel that energy on set, you should allow that authenticity to take over all the staged elements. From that moment onwards, I promised myself to avoid situations that force me to stage things around my life. I want to experience every moment to the fullest.