ÉCU Film Festival | 2019
Elli has a heart disease. She urgently needs a transplant, or she’ll die. There is no hope in finding one, but a heart specialist has a new idea: transplanting the heart of a genetically modified pig. Elli’s mother wants to risk trying, but Elli, being vegan, says no.
Hi Artjom thanks for talking to TNC, how's everything going?
Great. I am working on some projects right now, my son is ill and I get something like 2-3 hours sleep at night, we are in the middle of a little shoot, but right now I am able to enjoy it all.
How does it feel to have Pig Heart part of this years ÉCU Film Festival?
It is a great honour and I really appreciate the fact that some people who care about film, who love it, who take their time to organize such a big thing, have seen something that we made and thought: that’s not all too bad. Actually, we like it. We want other people to see it. That’s like the feeling we are all making films for.
Will there be any nerves ahead of the screening?
Yes. Our film is about a young girl that is about to die. Only a heart transplantation - the heart of a pig in this case - can save her heart. But she says no, she will not take the heart because she doesn’t want another living creature to die for her instead. This topic is a very difficult one. This film may disturb some people, and of course, I am nervous about people’s opinions about this.
Can you tell me a little bit about Pig Heart, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
I've been vegetarian for like 20 years now, and vegan for five. I care about humans, and about animals almost the same. And I am very sad that humanity treats billions of animals this catastrophically. It seems to me that we have lost touch with life, what it means to others, to other living creatures.
I always wanted to make a film about this. And then I had an idea about this little girl in the film who wants to believe in an idea: I will not take another life to save mine. After I had this idea the rest followed. Although it took us more than a whole year to start shooting.
What was the most challenging part of bringing Pig Heart to life?
The script! The film was about a young vegan girl. To write dialogues between a mother and a daughter about veganism is not possible To learn this I needed 20 script versions. That’s why we took all the talks of the mother to pursue the daughter to take the heart into the OFF. That was the only way to make it work.
What was the most valuable lesson you've taken from making this film?
I learned one thing that may be very obvious to others, but wasn’t to me, since I managed to complete a lot of other projects before. But in this one, I learned, that if you want to make a project that comes really from your heart, you need good friends that support you all the way. And the best thing is if these good friends are your producer and cinematographer.
Without Anabella and Thomas, the whole thing would have been a trip to hell. The production was extremely extensive and no matter what, the two of them were always supporting any decision I made or had good feedback when the decision wasn’t the best one.
Have you always been interested in filmmaking?
No, when I turned 20 I had no idea that film would be the best thing I could do. It took Daniel Craig, Casino Royale, and five minutes of thinking: I would like to be able to do a film like that. After that, the route was set.
"You should motive every crew member that works on your film."
How much has your approach to your works changed since you started out?
At the beginning of my film career, I had no idea how much a good actor is worth to a director. It’s not about cameras, about steady cams, great lighting, it’s about good actors and how they see the script. And if you have a great situation to work with a good actor, that you must be able to handle this good actor.
This should come together, without it you have no control over the film. Natalie Rudziewicz, the actress who played the mother, was just amazing to work with. We discussed every scene, every role, we went way beyond the amount of time you should talk about just one sentence that is in the script. But this helped me to gain control over this incredibly difficult story to direct the way so that people won’t see the film and say afterwards: this is unbelievable.
Seriously, before the film, there were so many voices that said: the story is not possible to be made without being a farce. A girl that wants to die instead of killing a pig. And a mother, that behaves the way she does. But we managed to make this film and now people leave the cinema and say, they understand both, mother and daughter. At least somehow.
What has been the best piece of advice you've been given?
It is just a little sentence. But it changed my view on so many people. It went like this. Nobody walks around in this world as an asshole, there are no assholes. This means everybody feels hurt, insulted in some way and this leads to the behaviour that is seen from outside as him or her being an asshole. But we must understand the assholes in the world and walk towards them, ask them why they behave this way.
Only thus we can turn them into normal people again. This - by the way - is a great tool to use when you direct plain asshole roles.
Now you can be reflective do you have any advice or tips you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
You should motive every crew member that works on your film. Tell them before a scene why this scene is shot. Make them feel that they are building the scene with you. In this way, you manage to have 20 people who are REALLY building the scene with you and thus it will get better.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?
I really hope that people will have a lighter feeling about decisions in life, no matter how hard or inhuman. And that every life is somehow worth everything.