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The Directors: Oleg Trofim

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After working with brands including Nike, Google, Adidas and Vis, Cardel director Oleg shares his insight on bringing observational skills to a project

The Directors: Oleg Trofim

Oleg Trofim, 31 year old film director from Moscow. He has worked with some of the biggest brands and companies: Nike, Google, Adidas, Visa, Coca-Cola, PayPal, KFC, McDonalds. He was awarded the European Excellence Awards for the "Best PR Campaign in Russia" in 2017. The project also received six platinum Hermes Creative Awards, three Golden Hammer Awards, gold and platinum Muse Creative Awards, a silver prize of the Golden Drum Festival.

His debut feature film “Ice" - was released in 2018 and became a record breaking in the history of Russian cinema among the debut films. In 2018, with the invitation of Fedor Bondarchuk, he began shooting the feature film "Invasion" as the director of action, directing the main spectacular action scenes in the film.

Has shot many music videos including "Sirotkin” the teen drama, shot in Georgia, that was nominated for a number of prestigious European film festivals, including the legendary Warsaw Camerimage. 

In 2019, he directed a blockbuster superhero film "Major Grom: Plague Doctor”, based on the comic book series. 

Name: Oleg Trofim

Location: Moscow

Repped by/in: Cardel in UK & USA ; Hype Production in Russia

Awards: 

5th of May 2021 my second blockbuster feature film - "Major Grom: Plague Doctor" (based on the superhero-comic book series by the Russian publisher Bubble Comics) was announced as a new worldwide Netflix Originals show.

"Synecdoche Montauk - Wherever You Are" - a poetic homage to the work of photographer Josef Koudelka has taken over 20 major directing awards at American and European festival include Independent Shorts Awards; New York Cinematography AWARDS (NYCA),  European Cinematography AWARDS (ECA), Queen Palm International Film Festival, Florence Film Awards, NOT FILM FEST, Central States Indie FanFilmFest, Indie Visions Film Festival, New York International Films Infest Festival (US) (NYCIFIF), Berlin Music Video Awards. 

“Beyond the Capitals” Google project was shortlisted at the Cannes Lions international Festival of Creativity, the most prestigious advertising festival in the world.

PayPal documentary series was awarded the European Excellence Awards as the "Best PR Campaign in Russia" in 2017. The project also received six platinum Hermes Creative Awards, three Golden Hammer Awards, gold and platinum Muse Creative Awards, a silver prize of the Golden Drum Festival, a bronze award of the Russian Eventiada Awards, as well as nominations for the SABRE Awards EMEA and IPRA Golden World Awards.  

"Sirotkin - Higher Than Houses" - the teenage short film drama, shot in Georgia, was nominated for a number of prestigious European film festivals, including Berlin Music Video Awards and the legendary Warsaw Cameramage.

Debut film  “Ice" was released in 2018 and became a record breaking box office hit in the history of Russian cinema among the debut films.

 

What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?

Oleg> For me, four things are always important in a script: a clear idea, an unusual perspective on problems, artistic potential, and variability of action. All of these elements can be scripted and when they are, I get excited to work. If something is missing, I suggest how we can add them there.


How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?

Oleg> There is no single right option. Sometimes I try to apply the "optics" of one or more of my favourite directors. How would David Fincher, or Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Taika Waititi shoot this project? Sometimes I just start endlessly flipping through my personal archives with paintings, photographs, pictures in search of a key image.

 

If the script is for a brand that you're not familiar with/ don’t have a big affinity with or a market you're new to, how important is it for you to do research and understand that strategic and contextual side of the ad? If it’s important to you, how do you do it?

Oleg> I'll be honest, I usually don't have time for this kind of research. Therefore, I try to ask the advertising agency as much details as possible about the context, because they do the most important work on working with the context.


For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?

Oleg> Each person in the process should feel attention and support from the director. I am always open to each person who performs a specific function on the set and in the preparation process, because the result of my work depends on the work of each person. However, my priorities are always the Art Director on the Client's side, the Producer on the production side, the Director of Photography and the Actors.

 

What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?

Oleg> Most of all I like to shoot videos in which there is a strong story. I am excellent at documentary and observational projects in the wild and in new conditions, I have great experience in spectacular entertainment scenes, large-scale scenes of mass collisions, car chases, natural disasters, military operations, and city destruction. I love musical and poetry projects. Dynamic, vibrant and volume history.


What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?

Oleg> The biggest misconception I encounter is conformity and the belief that advertising does not take risks. Very often I am asked: in our video, a person rides a horse. Have you filmed people on horseback? Haha. When I shot my first wide scale action project, I didn't have that experience. When I first shot a romantic comedy about figure skating, I didn't have that experience. When I first went to shoot a documentary to the ends of the earth about a person I had never met in my life, I had no such experience. A talented director doesn't have to be able to do everything, but a talented director knows how to tell a story and is capable of learning in the process. Often, this is how you achieve a truly new look. This is what I believe in based on my own experience. 

 

Have you ever worked with a cost consultant and if so how have your experiences been?

Oleg> It is an integral part of any job on any project. I accept the fact that in order to achieve a high result in the whole project, it is sometimes important to give up what you want at some point. And also, many times in practice, I was convinced that the lack of resources forces you to think more and wider, to use new angles of view on the task. Sometimes really new and interesting solutions are found in this way.


What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?

Oleg> Over the years, a lot has happened, but for some reason this funny moment came to mind. I remember once we were shooting a commercial for a large Russian television holding company. As planned, the editor-in-chief of the news publication had to make a difficult decision from which the fate of both the company and all his colleagues will be - a hot topic. Close-up, eyes, it is important to see the fear of confusion, it is important to see how a person's whole life flashes before his eyes. But it so happened that the actor was imposed by the client - it was some kind of celebrity who, to be honest, did not act very well. And of course, in a close-up, he did not manage to play the desired emotion at all. The agency is in a panic, the client does not understand what is happening, the celebrity is angry, and the editor offers to simply cut this frame. But I need this shot for the story and it must be authentic in emotion. Then I suggest playing this game. The camera starts up, and I invited the actor to solve simple math tasks. I speak, he listens and solves the task in his mind while we shoot his portrait and eyes. 8 times 8, now multiply by two, now multiply that by three, subtract 18, plus 37, multiply by 3, and so on. You should have seen the eyes of the actor at this moment - there was so much fear, uncertainty, doom and struggle! The shot turned out to be as dramatic as possible. I often use this technique when I need to work with non-professional artists, and it always works.

 

How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?

Oleg> This is surfing. I just try to respect the people we work with and the ideas we all strive for.


What are your thoughts on opening up the production world to a more diverse pool of talent? Are you open to mentoring and apprenticeships on set?

Oleg> That's cool. I am open.


How do you feel the pandemic is going to influence the way you work into the longer term? Have you picked up new habits that you feel will stick around for a long time? 

Oleg> During the pandemic, I had several projects that I had to do remotely. For example, I was in St. Petersburg, the client was in Moscow, the film crew was in Georgia, and the editor was in LA, and we all worked simultaneously through zoom, discord and messenger. It seems now I can shoot wherever I want. Next time I'll try to shoot while I sleep. Haha

 

Your work is now presented in so many different formats - to what extent do you keep each in mind while you're working? 

Oleg> Nowadays, practically every project is arranged this way. I think over each idea on the subject of transfer to a new format, if this is not possible, then I inform the client about it in advance and offer options. It is important for me to think over such moments in advance in order to be ready and to allocate sufficient time to solve all problems at the agreed time.


What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work?

Oleg> I am not very attracted to interactive storytelling, simply because it takes longer than an ad project, but about as long as a music video. When I’m choosing between a music video and an interactive short film, I will choose a music video - there are still a lot of feelings and ideas for me that I could realise at the same time. You can think of me as a bore and an old man, haha. As for working with VR, I actively use this technology when preparing massive action scenes in films. With the help of the virtual space, the DoP and the set designer are looking for important, interesting angles and solutions for scenes and actions. With the help of Leedar technology, I have so far tried to create only some horror sketches, but in general I see here an interesting potential for digital art or rather bold advertising. In Russia, more and more often they offer shooting with interactive LED screens, as in “the Mandalorian '' series, this is a cool and very useful technology. I love challenging ideas and projects, but I try to focus primarily on the idea behind it, not just the opportunity to play with a new toy.


Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why?

In the project "Wherever You Are", I feel I was able to talk about a most difficult and dark thing in such a way that a feeling of love and lightness arose in the viewer. I managed to turn the pain into a tender melancholy, in a picturesque and deep way.

In the projects "Major Grom" and "Invasion", you can appreciate my ability to work with complex staged action scenes, where hundreds of people and CG-objects harmoniously and effectively create a spectacle. I can create and shoot spectacular scenes.

The Tokyё project shows how I work with street documentaries, from a distance. A lively, natural and comfortable manner of storytelling is about my style.

The LABA project may not be the most indicative in terms of very promotional products, but here you can see what I can shoot in one shooting day, if I prepare well and put together a great team.


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Cardel, Thu, 17 Jun 2021 11:20:06 GMT