Sergei Safiullin

Sergei was born in the USSR in 1979 in the small town called Izhevsk. In his early age he had discovered his interests in art, theater and poetry and first played on stage at the age of 7. His sincere curiosity in people and strong desire to discover the world led him to study all around the world: in Spain, Germany, India, China, South Korea, Israel and the US. At the age of 17 he opened one of the first computer animation companies in Russia and soon built up a regional tv channel to become the youngest CEO in the Russian television industry.
In the past 5 years Sergey’s focus was mainly on contemporary art. He has lunched a few international art flashmob events and succesfully acomplished two heavy budget photo art projects. Turning 40 made Sergei to rethink his career as an artist, and pushed him into a new field of filmmaking.

You worked in television. Tell us about your creative path. How’d you get into cinematography?

Being in my freshman year at the university back in 1996 my friends and I lunched an advertising agency specialized in computer animated commercials. Soon we grew up into a regional tv channel and decided to take some heavy bank loans in dollars to buy state of the art broadcasting equipment. This decision destroyed our tv-business when we got hit by financial crisis in 1998. Ironically 20 years later here I am again shooting movies. Circle of life some people say, or may be, it is just my destiny.

You came to the movies when you was around forty years old. What is your motivation to make a movie? Money, fame, or self-realization?

It is a way for my self-expression. Through the stories I tell, I hope to change our world to a better one just a bit and may be let other people see or feel that they normally don’t.

You are a native of Russia. Why did you decide to emigrate? What difficulties did you experience as a Russian independent filmmaker in the United States?

I have not experienced any difficulties being a film director of Russian origin in the US except of some language barriers. But Americans are very patient people in general and when it comes to work nobody cares about your accent. All the crew wants to know is that director knows what he’s doing.

Your «Bite me!» is devoted to the problem of domestic violence. What other topics do you care about as a filmmaker?

I am very curious about what people are capable of living on the edge. I would love to make more movies about people who were capable to achieve something extraordinary in their life despite of the struggle and all the odds. I think we all need such movies in our current time of uncertainty.

It’s no secret that ageism takes place in Russia. For example, it is almost impossible to find a job after forty years. Can an aspiring director after forty become wanted in the American film industry?

I do believe in America in terms of letting people to achieve their dream no matter where they are coming from and what their ages are as long as you work hard and believe in yourself. I think the most important question for a filmmaker is not to be wanted by industry but rather be accepted and understood by the audience he or she is speaking too. Being a part of the industry in terms of the unions and etc. could give you more certainty in life but does not guarantee you success of your next movie.

Do you have any plans to make a feature film? If so, how do you plan to seek funding? What genre of movies would you like to make?

Right now I am half way through with the documentary “Beats of the Street” about street musicians in America and a female driven characters reality car show “Divas Drive”. I had to halt the production because of pandemic at the moment. But being isolated at home let me focus on finalizing the scripts for two of my feature films I am eager to make in the nearest future. One is a sci-fi action film and another is a mystic drama movie. After finishing these scripts I am planning to make short films first as a prove of concept and if films are well received by the festivals I will engage in talks about making feature film version with all big studios and streamers.

How do you think the film industry will change after the pandemic? Will cinemas be needed, or will services like Netflix be the future?

The Netflix is not enemy of a cinema. Netflix takes away the audience from TV channels, books, social platforms and all the other things you could do to entertain yourself at home. On the other hand, cinema is competing with life stage performances and sport events, restaurants, theaters and anyone who wants you to come outside of your home and start spending your money. As for face to face quality of the content, so far, no TV set on earth can compete with IMAX experience, even close.

What would you wish all independent filmmakers in these difficult times?

Don’t stop dreaming. Do one, even very little thing, but every day, and that way you are going to make your film one day sooner or later. The latest film of Mad Max trilogy took almost 10 years to make. Some movies wait to be made even longer. So “Just keep swimming!” as fish Dora said in Finding Nemo film.

Would you like to make a film in Russia after getting experience in the United States?

I sure do. There are so many great mind-blowing stories about extraordinary people from Russia we could share with the world. I dream of making films about Alexander II, Mendeleev, Gagarin and many others. I am sure it should happen pretty soon.