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An Interview with Yuri Maslak

Yuri Maslak (born June 16, 1968) is a Russian-German director, producer, actor, screenwriter and art director. For a long time he worked in the cinema as a stuntman, stunt coordinator, action director, head of the stunt group "Special Forces". He is also very well known as a military history film consultant and heraldry specialist. Author of several books. Yuri Maslak's films have won a large number of prizes at international festivals.


1. Please tell us about yourself. How did you get involved in filmmaking?

Hello! It's both simple and complicated at the same time. I've been in the arts since I was fifteen, starting as an artist in the theater. That was back in 1983. Cinema and theater are close kinds of art, and after a while, my friends invited me into the film industry. I worked there for a few years as an artist, a stuntman, in the production department... After that, there was a ten-year break caused by the difficult situation in Russia. In 2004 I came back to the cinema as a stuntman, stunt director, and military-historical consultant, and in 2005 I began my acting career. And then, after several unsuccessful attempts, I finally started making my own films, and since 2020 I have been working as a director and producer.

2. What keeps you motivated despite the fact that filmmaking is a laborious job?

First and foremost is the love for what I do. If you love what you do, you will strive to do your job as well as possible, you will give your heart and soul and all your strength to succeed in each film and in your career in general. And then no obstacles will be able to stop you.

The second, no less important, is the desire to create. I make films simply because I can't do otherwise. On the one hand, this is the meaning of life and purpose, but on the other, it is an inner obligation.

And thirdly, the best team in the world! My creative team are the people who can't help but get their energy flowing. They are my inspiration and motivator.

3. How do you think the industry is changing?

The industry is changing rapidly. There is much more technology, opportunity, and information. And that's great!

But, alas, human consciousness is being simplified. Cinema is becoming less art and more of a craft. A set of technologies replaces freshness of thought. The consumer has less and less demand for high art - it is more and more difficult for him to process such information. Watching Spider-Man is easy and fun. But not everyone is ready to take the time to watch Apocalypse Now or Solaris thoughtfully.

The universality of modern cinema is an achievement and a problem at the same time. On the one hand, it has become possible to reach practically everyone. On the other hand, universalization is a simplification.

If we look at the cinema only as a business, there is no place for high art. Not every contemporary viewer will understand it. And then there will be no box office returns.

I still do not know how to maintain this fine line between business and art in modern conditions. But I am trying to balance it. And so far I have succeeded.

4. How are children influenced by movies?

The cinema, like any other form of art, undoubtedly plays an important role in the education of children. Through art, we are able to instill in children the patterns of behavior that we think is right.

The main thing is that we, the filmmakers, have a good understanding of what is good and what is evil.

5. The script is the most important to make a film. Do you think all filmmakers focus on that?

A script is like the foundation of a house. A multi-story house cannot stand on a bad foundation.

It's the same in movies. Without a good script, there can be no good film. Neither directing, acting, nor special effects will save it.

Unfortunately, not all directors and producers understand this. That is why there is a big problem with really good scripts.

6. If you had an unlimited budget at your disposal, what would your dream production project be?

In order to realize all my ideas accumulated over the years in the arts, no budget would be enough. Even if it is unlimited.

7. What are you most proud of in your professional experience?

I'm proud that I finally started making movies on my own! And that's in spite of the pandemic. In a year and a half, our wonderful team has made six films. They are a documentary about the World War II called Anchor in the Steppe (2020), three short comedies from the Fitness series - Student Fitness (2020), Living the Dream (2021), and No Fitness - No Love (2021), a philosophical film called Earth Man (2021) and, finally, a mystical drama about the fans of the Russian football club Lokomotiv Moscow called Magic Under Skin (2022). These films have already brought us over 70 festival wins around the world, and continue to bring them on. This is another legitimate reason to be proud!

8. Do you think directing a film is the toughest job while making a movie?

The hardest job is the easiest one to do. Anyone can do the hardest.

And to do that, you have to be really good at what you do and love it. It doesn't matter if you're a director, screenwriter, actor, or sound engineer.

The creative team are the links in one chain. All equally important to the making of the film. They are like a professional submarine crew.

But it's still the director who commands this submarine!

9. What advice would you like to give to aspiring filmmakers?

A filmmaker is a kind of unique prism, which refracts the energy of the existence around him and gives birth to something new, at the same time, inseparable from the existing reality. And you can't get this uniqueness just by going to university and watching other people's movies. Uniqueness has to be lived, learned, and felt. To see life from different sides. To test me. To fight. The more experience - the more interesting and deeper is the creativity.

But it is necessary to learn, of course! Man is a social creature, inseparable from humanity. And only by studying the culture of humanity will it be possible to create something really important. A man of art has a very responsible burden - to carry culture into the minds and hearts. He has no right not to be educated, multifaceted. It is important to understand what culture you are a part of, who you are, why you think this way and not that way.

And most importantly - you cannot look at the cinema only as a career. It is a very difficult profession that takes a lot of moral and physical energy from a person, with the fact that the result of all these efforts is always unpredictable. Cinema is a whole life!

10. What projects are you working on next?

Now my team is preparing to shoot the fourth film in the Fitness series. We don't know yet what the film will end up being called, but we really like the script. I'm sure it will be a wonderful sparkling romantic comedy that will have the same great festival future as all our previous films!


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