Ilya proves he is Hardcore for shots magazine

Jun 25 2016

Ilya Naishuller’s new film sets precedent for its commitment to action storytelling and first person POV.

Known for his high-action, first person adventure-heavy music videos and ads, Russian filmmaker Ilya Naishuller has taken a leap of faith and ventured into feature film territory.

As if this wasn’t a tricky enough transition, the Great Guns director has retained his signature first person point of view (POV) style – made famous in his 2013 Bad Motherfucker music video – and adopted it to suit Hardcore Henry, the movie.

Already coined a landmark film, the 90 minute creation had its world premiere last week at Toronto’s 2015 International Film Festival – with huge success as audiences applauded and laughed throughout. We caught up with Naishuller to find out why he decided to test out film as a medium, how he found the transition and what’s next for the director.

What was the inspiration behind creating Hardcore?

I was approached by Timur Bekmambetov (the film’s producer) to direct a feature length version of my Bad Motherfucker ad/music video and, initially, I thought it was a terrible idea. But Timur changed my mind by simply asking me if I wanted to see a well-made POV film up on the big screen. When I replied "yes, I would,” he responded: "then go make one".

Why did you decide to create a feature film after previously working on music videos?

I’ve always considered myself a feature director first and foremost. It's just that I was taking my sweet time to actually make a feature. I’d spent so long working on scripts that, whilst doing so, I was drawn in by the music video and commercial world, which has taught me some incredibly valuable lessons.

How did you approach making the film when compared with the music videos? For one, feature films are much longer than music videos, so how did you make sure you had a clear storyline? 

Every single one of my music videos has a storyline. I was never interested in just shooting performance pieces. Hardcore was actually easy because it was never planned to be a "what is it about?" kind of movie but rather a "how it goes about it?" experience. Hardcore's story is secondary to the action and I'd be a fool to try to fight this natural order of things.

What was the most challenging part in directing the feature film? 

I always treated this film as something that I wanted to have a chance of being watched and enjoyed in 10-20 years and that meant a much more demanding level of responsibility towards making sure that every shot and every scene worked towards a common goal and would click together as well as it should. The physical aspect of a feature is an endurance race compared to the sprint of a commercial or a music video shoot. To stay in the right mind-set for 124 shooting days required a lot of inner concentration that I've never had to rely on before, and prior to starting the film, I was not certain that I had it in me, to be honest.

And the most rewarding?

Sitting in a packed theatre at the Toronto Film Festival and feeling the electrifying energy of people getting and enjoying my work.

You’ve retained your now signature personalised P.O.V. perspective in Hardcore, which makes it the world’s first action P.O.V. What do you like about this camera technique?

It places the audience where no other technique can, right in the mind of the protagonist. I get to deliver the action direct to the viewer's mind without the typically necessary middle-man.

In Bad Motherfucker, the action and audience adrenaline ran high throughout the spot. This is probably more feasible in a five minute film than in a feature-length film as the audience will be exhausted. Did you have to rethink and adapt some of your previous styles and methods to make it suitable for the big screen? And, how so?

Everything had to updated and rethought. A long-term plan for comfortable pacing had to be decided upon at script stage, not simply saved for the editor to fix. Avoiding motion sickness issues was a big point for concern too. This required a lot of testing and experimenting until we got it just right. And, of course, the story. It had to be at once emotional and simple enough to be told by one camera/character without overloading the audience with exposition.

What will you be working on next? Do you prefer working on feature films to music videos and why? 

I’ll be working on any music videos and commercials that Great Guns will be sure to send my way and I’m also looking for my next feature. Which of these I prefer is such a difficult question to answer, as they are all such completely different animals. I thoroughly enjoy them all for the various disciplines and opportunities that they offer.

Do you see any opportunities for brands and adverting platforms with this style of filming?

Absolutely, as long as it's not just used as a gimmick. That's been done. There are a lot of exciting things to be shot in first person, but the POV has to be at least a little justified, story-wise.

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