Meet Filmmaker Anastasiya Sergienya
Updated: Sep 3, 2022
By Elizabeth Gracen:
Indie filmmakers hold a special place in my heart. With my feet in the deep end of this medium through my own film company, Flapper Films, I am constantly impressed with the creative minds who bring unique stories to life. Making any length of film is akin to puzzle making, with so many moving parts, personalities, organization, and perspiration needed to complete a project. Back in the days when we got to go to film festivals in person, it was always a treat to meet the filmmakers who shared their work and ideas in a "creative," friendly environment. Now that we're in a pandemic mode of content creation and sharing, Flapper Press wants to do what we can to highlight the work of independent filmmakers and support their endeavors.
This month, we feature the work of Anastasiya Sergienya, a Belarusian filmmaker and her film Soyka.
EG: Anastasiya, I’ve been watching all your videos and have visited your website to find out more about you. Your story is so intriguing. Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
AS: I have been a professional photographer for 10 years. I have also been a Television and Film freelancer since 2017. I love that! Even being just a small Production Assistant on a set, I was enjoying every moment of my work and was trying to learn as much as I can! Right now I am focusing on the Assistant Director position—this is my bread. But directing is my true passion.
I love smiling and love the world! I love traveling. I've been in so many places!
In 2012, I moved to London to learn English at the Wimbledon Language Academy. And in 2013, I successfully passed my exams at Westminster Academy, where I studied Business Management. I also finished the online courses “Explore Filmmaking: From Script to Screen” at the National Film and Television School in London and made one more step to my dream, a move to NYC in 2016. In NY, I finished Summer Filmmaking courses at TISCH, NYU, and started working in the film industry.
At the same time, I created the Belarusian Movie Nights club (Kinovino), where I show Belarusian movies or international movies with Belarusian translation.
I love my country—Belarus. I was born in Minsk. This is a lovely place, and I hope someday I will come back there.
I love to learn, read, exercise, do yoga, watch movies. I think that perfection has no limits.
EG: What was it like growing up in Belarus? When did you decide to venture out into the world? Do you return to Minsk often?
AS: When I was a little girl, I watched American movies like something from another planet. I could only dream to be a part of it. It was so far away from me. It's even hard to explain. Just imagine that someone told you that right now you will meet an alien. This was my feeling about the US and the US film market, because it wasn't something real and touchable.
My father is a big movie fan. He has a collection of probably a few thousand greatest American movies, and I was growing up with them. Dreaming about America was a normal thing for me starting from childhood, so no one was surprised when at 18 years old I became a photographer, at 22 moved to London, and at 26 to the USA. America was and still is like another planet for people from post–soviet countries.
So, here I am in the US, understanding that I could not pay my bills being an immigrant photographer but still following my American dream to be someone in this country. After 3 years of staying here, I finally started working on my short movie. I was working on it for a year and a half, and it could be more if I wouldn't take a risk and shoot during COVID-19.
I am sure many people were surprised that I was working on a film, which would be shot just for 3 days. You have to understand that I could not make it wrong. It is my first and maybe only chance to show that I do exist in a movie world.
I haven’t been back to Minsk yet. It’s a very horrible political situation there, and I am just afraid I couldn’t come back to US.
EG: Your photography work is really beautiful. When did you start taking photos? What attracted you to photography and now filmmaking?
AG: Thank you. When I was 6 I was taking art classes, but then it became expensive for my mom. Also all art schools were far away, and I just became a regular girl going to regular school. I really started to think about photography when I was 17. I start with film photo, and the film camera became my best friend for the next 3 years. I think this lack of art in my childhood turned into photography. Filmmaking is just a next step to me in my career. I think it’s awesome to make moving pictures. Moreover I was growing up with a cinephile :)
EG: Tell me about your film, Soyka. I have so many questions about it, I’m not sure where to start! How did you come up with the idea, script, actors, etc? Why did you want to tell this story?
AG: Oh, gosh! It's better to tell on audio, but I will try. First, I came up with understanding that I need to make a movie. Moreover by that time I had worked 2 years in the film industry. Then based on my experience, I wrote a script with the help of an amazing scriptwriter whose name I couldn’t tell.
I want to tell this story because it’s not only my experience but also the experience of thousands of immigrant girls around the world.
EG: You’ve been working in the film industry for some time now. How has the pandemic and economic restraints impacted your life as a professional?
AS: Well, I had no job from March until July. I also had been in Mississippi away from NY craziness. But then I realized that I have to do something with my life, I decided no matter what to shoot my short in August (actually that time I wasn’t so sure about this decision, but my AD, Tanya Khodakivska, made it work) and after that me, my producer Kacey, and Tanya became Covid Officers. Right now I have three Covid Officer Certificates and am picking up jobs in this position too. I am a freelancer in the film industry. It’s a hustle, and you have to wear a lot of hats.
EG: Who are your film role models? Directors? Writers? What are a few of your favorite films?
AS: My favorite directors are Jim Jarmusch, Wes Anderson, Terrence Malick, Lars von Trier and Vadim Perelman.
EG: What kind of stories are you interested in telling going forward? Where do you find inspiration?
AS: I think my genre is drama. I am a narrative person and like stories based on real stories. Inspiration is the hardest part. I think for a long time I didn’t have a real strong inspiration. I would say that I have more strength of will than inspiration. I am determined to do something and go until the end. I think imagination of my result or success is my inspiration.
EG: The world is very different for female filmmakers than it was, say, 10 years ago, but it is still a “man’s world” for the most part. What changes have you seen in the past couple of years, and what changes would you like to see?
AS: When I came to US, I already found these changes. I love that a lot of programs and grants support women filmmakers and diversity. I also notice that they support immigrants like me. Trust me, in Belarus, this is something you could only dream about.
I hope that women, immigrants, and African Americans in the film industry and in other industries would not need special support to be noticed.