One-on-one with filmmaker Erik Semashkin: Crafting Cinematic Worlds from Within
In the realm of cinema, there are artists whose passion, dedication, and innovation stand out. Erik Semashkin, an aspiring filmmaker, arrived in France from Ukraine in 2012, and his journey has been nothing short of extraordinary. His latest creation, "INSIDE YOU," has earned a place of honor at the Verona International Film Festival, showcasing his unique storytelling and thought-provoking narratives. In this exclusive interview, Erik shares his cinematic journey, the challenges he faced, and his hopes for the future of film.
Tell us a bit about your most important film so far.
"INSIDE YOU" is an animated and fictional short film that takes place inside the human body. It's a project I crafted with immense dedication, even without a budget, with two key goals in mind. First, I wanted to evoke new emotions in the audience, and second, I aimed to convey messages that deeply resonate with me in a novel way. I draw inspiration from cinema, which can range from the "literary" artistry of Tarkovsky to the adrenaline-fueled American blockbusters. It's the latter that fascinates me, the ability to incite excitement through visuals and creative staging rather than a complex plot. This principle underpins "INSIDE YOU" and my other works – to introduce audiences to new worlds, creating something visually engaging, immersive, and thought-provoking. My films often depict characters submerged in human overconsumption, symbolizing the pollution I see in our daily lives, in nearly every action we take.
What were the key challenges making it?
Given that the film takes place within the human body, I opted not to use special effects. Instead, I used real meat to recreate the interior of the body. This choice resulted in days of working with various meats under hot lighting, creating a lingering scent of rotting meat in my apartment, which I got used to, but my girlfriend less so. Additionally, as I worked alone and often for long hours, it was challenging to maintain focus, especially when working on small sets, which required utmost precision.
What’s one aspect that you’re particularly proud of?
The aspects I'm particularly proud of in "INSIDE YOU" are the editing and sound design. These were the most time-consuming and complex parts of the project. I wanted to immerse the viewer in the atmosphere of the human body, creating an experience that feels as real as possible.
How did you get involved in filmmaking?
My involvement in filmmaking began with a fascination for creating. In Ukraine, my mother was a decorator, and my biological father was an architect, which fostered a creative environment. When I moved to France, I discovered that I could bring these creations to life through film. I started with stop-motion using Legos and humorous sketches, eventually progressing to my first "real" short films in high school.
What new projects are you working on or are you hoping to work on in the future?
I'm currently working on a documentary about shantytowns in Belgrade, where I plan to address ecological and youth-related issues. The release is scheduled for March 2024. Additionally, I'm in post-production for a short film focusing on overconsumption and the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
What role do film festivals play?
Film festivals are crucial for showcasing my work since I cannot release my films as feature films in theaters. They provide a platform for sharing my creations directly with the audience.
What is your advice to filmmakers tackling the festival circuit?
My advice for filmmakers navigating the festival circuit is to approach it with a business mindset. See your films not just as artistic creations but as products, and embrace the distribution and festival process accordingly.
How do you see the future of film?
I believe the future of film will bring even better productions, thanks to the rise of AI, which will significantly impact the creative process. With more efficient special effects, filmmakers will have to balance their creativity with the capabilities of AI, leading to both collaboration and competition.
Which filmmaker do you admire and why?
Without a doubt, Emir Kusturica is a filmmaker I greatly admire. He's a complex individual with a multitude of talents. Through his work, he has addressed themes that resonate with me, all while delivering rich aesthetics and inventive staging. His ability to fill the frame generously is something I appreciate.
What film have you recently seen that you have admired in one way or another?
"Top Gun 2: Maverick" stands out for me. While I could appreciate more independent or unconventional films, I firmly believe that the thrill provided by such movies is a fundamental aspect of cinema. "Top Gun 2" delivers excitement and showcases the enduring appeal of the genre.