Within 75 years from the day of its foundation, more than 250 thousand of specialists, who become successful in various careers, graduated South Ural State University. Graduate of the SUSU Department of Russian Language and Literature, Natalia Dubovaya debuted as a scriptwriter and creative producer of the Russian movie The Mermaid. Lake of the Dead, which got released on July 12. Natalia told us about the idea to create the movie, the process of filming, and the role of SUSU in her professional becoming.
— Please tell us, why you chose the major in Philology at SUSU? How did the university attract you?
— I fell in love with SUSU at first sight, just like most of people, I guess: I was looking at this huge building, at thousands of students walking from one academic building to another, and thinking – this is how a true university should look like. This is exactly where I want to study. It was a bit more difficult to chose specialty – in due time, I quit an economic university in my hometown because I understood that I want to study humanities. And on the Open House Day in spring of 2007, I reviewed presentations of all Departments of the back-then Faculty of Journalism, and suddenly felt attracted to philology. I got assured in my choice after meeting the Head of the Department, Elena Ponomareva. Human factor has always been important to me.
— What was the most interesting during your studentship?
— It’s a difficult question. I wanted to absorb as many knowledge as possible. My study, just like my job in the future, allowed me to do what I loved doing, though it was considered compulsory. In the course of studying I read a lot, and then within the present work I started watching a lot of movies. From this point of view, I am lucky, I guess. Aside from studying, I dedicated myself to KVN for a couple of years – at SUSU, student organizations are very well developed: you can be whoever you want, and do many things. In our team, I started writing in humorous genre, perform sometimes, and watch how creating group operated in general.
— The Mermaid. Lake of the Dead movie got released quite recently. Please tell us, how you managed to take part in such massive project?
— In this project, just like in our new one, I acted as both the scriptwriter and the creative producer. In other words, I’m not just writing the world, but also take part in its creating at various stages of movie production. And again, I got involved in the project due to my study. As a fact, I love studying all the time. When I realized that applied professions in PR, marketing or journalism (and these are the spheres in which any philologist can work) don’t comply with my expectations, I decided trying to write stories. For that, I decided to study in the sphere of scriptwriting; and then, at the course of creative producing, I came up with the idea of the Mermaid; my master and concurrently movie producer Ivan Kapitonov (Queen of Spades. The Dark Rite, Predetermined Route, The Mermaid. Lake of the Dead) liked it. And this is how the movie got released. And I found myself in movie industry.
— Why is there a folklore character appearing in the movie?
— It is easy to guess that a person who has studied at the Department of Russian Language and Literature for four years is interested in Russian culture. This is what has been interesting me since childhood. Besides, when I was coming up with the idea of the movie (and we had such assignment during studying), I addressed the world’s tendencies, researched what’s been going on in mysticism of different countries. And it turned out that a great interest around the world is excited by folklore traditions. And, of course, I wanted to find something interesting in our folklore. Somehow, I found the story about mermaids to be catching. This is about love, about trust and relations between people. If you read different legends, you find many stories about mermaids; I liked the legend according to which mermaids were young girls who got betrayed by their beloved. And I became interested in what happens if such girl returns from her lake and decides to take revenge on all men who cheated.
— Why did you choose the genres of horror and fantasy?
— It seems to me, now that I have already written several scripts, a genre mainly depends on the way that the author percepts the world: through everyday things, through exposed pain, through rose-colored glasses, etc. I percept the world through a mystical prism. I think there is more in the world than we see. And I want to dig down to this “more” thing. In horror genre we work with fears; they are not just scary stories, this is a therapy of some kind: name your fear, allow it get into yourself, and find the strength to fight it. The situation is a bit different in fantasy. But I’ll talk about this genre in the nearest future, I hope.
— How was the movie created in general? How much difficult it was?
— A movie is a true work of art which can only be created collectively. I guess, for me this was the most difficult obstacle – to admit, that a whole team is working on one project, and everyone’s contribution is important. And ahead of everyone is, of course, the director. In my case, the director was my co-author, Svyatoslav Podgaevsky (Queen of Spades. The Dark Rite, The Bride, The Mermaid. Lake of the Dead).
A movie has several stages of production, each one of them is difficult but interesting. First, we pass the way from generating the idea to scriptwriting. Then we start preparation, in which many talented people take part: together we make up visual ideas, determine main characters, their appearance, locations in which the story is to evolve, etc. One of my favorite parts is working with actors. Filming is a special energy, where there is practically no right for a mistake; this is creation of a new living matter in the real time. And if any mistakes happen, there is always the post-production stage, where the movie gets assembled.
Filming a new movie is always an inimitable story; new objectives get set and new solutions get found. For The Mermaid, we had a lot of filming in the water, when actors were jumping in a lake in September, and then warmed themselves in hot tubs. Filming took place outdoors and in a swimming pool, underwater. We had many night shifts, when you really want to sleep, but the whole night’s ahead which means you need to work. At that, our team had always been so coordinated and full of love, that all problems had always been solved. I think, this is the most important.
— Now you are working on The Yaga. Horror of the Dark Forest movie as a scriptwriter and creative producer. What is it going to be about?
— This is a movie about relationships between people. About the books that bind us together, about the things that need to be cherished – one’s most bright and good memories. Speaking about the story: a family moves to a new district where they hire a new nanny for their little daughter. And somehow their elder son Egor doesn’t like this nanny. His worries prove to be right, when several days after the nanny disappears together with the girl. But parents don’t remember this. Nobody in the district remembers about the girl, except for the boy. Then Egor starts his own investigation and discovers, that children had been disappearing around the district for a long time already, and all traces lead to an abandoned electric power station in a forest, where lives the spirit of the Yaga. Of course, just like in case with the Mermaid, this is going to be a reinterpreted image of a folklore character. Because it is important to choose a foundation and translate it into the contemporary times. Otherwise, integrity of the image and the story might be destroyed.
— Did the university somehow contributed to your creative and professional becoming?
— Without a doubt. As I previously said, in due time I have read a huge number of books, analyzed them and wrote my own stories. And this background always helps me creating stories, because there are not so many original plots in the drama. And more often, the important thing is not what you are telling the audience but how you’re telling this – in a way that is somehow new for the audience. Still you should stick to the roots. For example, in The Mermaid, there is a surprise for attentive lovers of Russian literature – the character who drowned herself is named Liza. I chose this name for a reason – this is some kind of a tribute to my past in philology, and to Nikolay Karamzin.
In The Yaga’s mythological foundation is one of the Ancient Greece’s myths about Orpheus and Eurydice, when the hero is descending to the world of the dead to bring back his most valuable person. In our movie, this is a brother who goes to the world of Yaga, the world of the dead, to bring back his sister.
Therefore, I consider my education to be one of the most perfect for the scriptwriting profession.
— In your opinion, can any philologist build a career and achieve success in movie industry? What would you wish to those who want to see themselves as movie creators?
— I think that any person can achieve whatever he or she wants. In fact, this is the motto of my life; it’s like I am speaking by my own example what else can be achieved. Because there were many people in my life who said that I’m going to fail or it’s going to be difficult. You know, sometimes it really didn’t work and was difficult. But I kept searching for a place in which I would feel good and where I could completely fulfill myself. I belong to movie industry. I’ve been searching for it for a long time and I finally found it. That’s why I always say one thing: there are no boundaries for a person, everything is in his head. And if there is something that you really want and are not afraid to face your fears, anything is possible.
And if you want to create movies, you should start from something simple – generate an idea and try to implement it within small budget (or no-budget, which is more likely), since anybody can do this in the world of smart phones with primitive video cameras. First of all, you will understand whether you like making movies, even in its simplest form; and secondly, the work that you’ve filmed/wrote can be shown to somebody, receive a feedback and move further.