Olena Siyatovska: “Youth, Dreams, and the Road to them”

Olena Siyatovska is an artist and a director from Ukraine. She focuses on social relations, human rights, and identity in the digital dimension. She received a scholarship from the Ministry of Culture of Poland “Gaude Polonia” in 2019 and 2022. “I Am Michelle” is the directing debut of Siyatovska. The world premiere of the film was at MakeDox 2022 documentary film festival.

What are the most challenging aspects of being a filmmaker?

I’m just at the beginning of my filmmaking journey. “I am Michelle” is my directing debut. Since this is a documentary, the most important thing was to create a level of trust with Michelle. She has a very strong personality, which is why sometimes it was difficult to find an approach for her.

What is your source of inspiration for this short film?

I tried to be as close to reality as possible. I was inspired by the way things were going. I remember the elated feeling that came over me after we met with Michelle.  The main source of energy was always the people with whom you worked together. Every person brought their own vision to the film. 
Olena Siyatovska

What is the theme of this film?

The film is about a young transgender girl Michelle, who came to Kyiv from a small village in Western Ukraine. On the way to her new life in the big city, she needs to return home to understand what she wants. For me, the story of Michelle is about youth, dreams, and the road to them.

How do you decide on possible ways to promote your film when you are on a tight budget?

We completed the film at the beginning of this year before Russia’s full-scale military invasion of Ukraine. Although, we started filming two years ago. One of the pitchings we participated was organized by Docudays UA, who brought a wonderful British musician named Jo Ranger to the team.

How important do you think distribution is in today's marketplace?

I consider it very important to give voice to Ukrainian directors now, when our country is fighting an aggressor who is trying not only to take away our territories, but also to destroy our nation and culture. In recent years, many important films by young directors have come out.

For those considering self-distribution, what is your advice?

My advice is to take part in the industry meetings at different stages of work on the film. The comments that you get will help you to make your film better. On the other hand, you will introduce the selectors and sales agents to your future work and maybe they will be interested in it.

How significant do you think short films are for someone venturing into directing films?

I think a short film could be a good start. At first, it was difficult for me to cut out some fragments that I liked. In some cases, we argue with the editor. You always have the possibility of making your film longer, but will it make it better? I am very pleased with the result.

What was the worst challenge of your career so far? How did you take it over?

As for this work, these are the moments when the character did not want to continue filming. I cried a little and went on to work. In general, everything was good.

What are the factors to making a good film?

Be honest with yourself and be attentive to the people whom you work with.

Is there anything you would change if you could go back to the beginning?

Nothing global, maybe I tried to do it faster.
Leave a comment