Sergey Konov: Love Story Accompanied by t.A.T.u. Musiс

Time of publication: 04.06.2007
Will the movie inherit the name of the novel?

No, we'll change it. Draft title is Finding t.A.T.u..

Sergey, how did you get in this "t.A.T.u." story anyway?

There's nothing mysterious here, all is very simple. On International Moscow Film Festival we held an opening night of one of our movies. There were a lot of people, as always… Alexey Mitrofanov was among the guests. He approached me after the movie was shown (we didn't know each other before), said many nice words about it, and we exchanged our business cards. Some days later we met, and he told me about his novel Тatu Come Back and brought the book.
Your first impression?...

Actually, I liked the idea even before I read the manuscript. Youth is always such a ninteresting topic. t.A.T.u.'s participation in it is even more interesting. I am not a t.A.T.u. fan. My music taste has been already established – I'm 50 years old! But I remember very well when I accidentally saw their performance at Eurovision Song Contest - and I liked it. Really, they were great, I'm telling you this absolutely sincerely...
Since then I, as well as many other people, understand that this is a unique band with a serious success both in the West and in the East. This fact is enough to get us interested.

Did you read the book?

Sure. And you know … Basically, it's not about literature actually. I liked the idea. I mean I liked WHAT it is. To tell the truth, I didn't like HOW it is done. Although, HOW is a subjective category…

So you didn't like HOW, but still decided to work on the project?

Yes. WHAT it is turned out to be sufficient for me. And HOW – we'll make it ourselves.

Was Mitrofanov upset that you did not quite like the "texture" of the book?

Alexey got everything right. He gave us the rights to change. Ramco signed an agreement stating that we can adapt and film Tatu Come Back.

So you already have the rights?

For a long time now.

It is strange that Alexey Valentinovich agreed with you about adapting so easily. He surely understands that the movie will be done according to American rules and by the American team?

Mitrofanov realized that we're making a movie not only for Russia. Our goal is to produce a movie for the world market and make it successful. That's why we need a high-quality movie at the world market. Which means, we need an American director, Hollywood stars and western writers for the film script. In fact, writing style, script goals are very different in Russian and American cinema…

Different in what?

It is a question of drama basics which are neglected by practically all authors of Russian cinema today.

Does the script differ from the novel a lot?

The differences are significant. We're changing the plot of the book quite seriously. We'll change characters, and one character will change completely. One of the main characters of the book will be American. The second girl will remain Russian. We'll change accents in their relationships: It will be a tandem of antipodes. One of them will be weak and gentle, needing care. The second will be the opposite: purposeful, sharp, almost on the verge of roughness, the leader. And their antagonism will be the concrete of their relationships. They won't make it separately.

Looks like the main characters are almost doubles of Volkova and Katina…

Practically - yes. In fact, t.A.T.u. are some kind of role models for our heroines.

Do you, as a producer, have your role models for this movie?

Actually, a long time ago I had an idea that it would be good...

Traditionally, in Russian cinema, especially today, characters do not change the script – and in the film. A character stays the same – from the beginning up to the end. The bright example - the film "Island" which was boring for many people. It is wrong, it is uninteresting...

to make something similar to Lindsey Anderson's film released three decades ago - Oh, lucky man! Great movie. I still watch it with pleasure! This film is very close to our project in structure. The difference is that we have t.A.T.u with their music, and in Andersen's movie they have a legendary musician Alan Price.

t.A.T.u. are recording a new album. Are you going to use this material in the film?

Not just "to use": Most songs of the third album will become a movie's soundtrack. We have this in our contract with the band. This movie is literally «a love story accompanied by t.A.T.u. music». As I got it, the third album will be the beginning of a new stage and new style for t.A.T.u. – and this is quite understandable. Yulya and Lena are not the girls, but young women. Not only their appearance changed. Their characters, their style changed as well. It all will be reflected in the music. All demo versions that I've heard confirm my thoughts. Their manner of performance became more serious and mature. And still, t.A.T.u. kept their ingenuousness and their passion.

Looks like it should be a bloody love story accompanied by t.A.T.u. music…

Why bloody?

Well, according to the plot, two underage girls kill the mother of one of them…

Yes, it's terrible, of course… But in this case this is truth that will look like a lie on the screen. There's no murder in the movie - and this is also the difference between American and Russian cinematography. Russian cinema goers are very cruel. Some of the latest Russian movies prove this. And at the same time we never forget to accuse American cinema in excessive cruelty, violence.

Somebody dies according to the script?

Somebody always must die. You'll see.

What is the audience of "Finding t.A.T.u."?

We'd like to make a movie for youth … But I think it will be interesting for older generation. The movie is about present. We all live in it. This time - as any other time in general - is unique. And our time is very very rich in contrasts...

Such wild things happen and stay unclear for the whole age and social groups. Many moments can be views as surrealistic. It is important for Finding t.A.T.u.

Yes, really, adult audience doesn't always understand what young people do...

That's why stories about young people always cause big interest! Take classic literature, for example. Pierre Bezukhov of Leo Tolstoy's eternal book. Mind you, Pierre was twenty years old!

There're lots of erotic episodes in the book. How do you plan to show them in the movie?

They will be there. Not as many as in the book, where they are on almost every page. In general, all book's characters do is drink, smoke hemp, eat pies in huge quantities (because for some reason there're always pies in a fridge) and have sex. It's too much, of course… We'll try not to exaggerate. And then, any frank scene can be shot beautifully and elegantly, and the most harmless kiss can be shot in a vulgar way. Again - it all depends on HOW. HOW is art.

It is already known that movie will directed by Roland Joffe. Partly because you already worked with him, right?

Yes, Finding t. A.T.u. will be our second movie with Roland. And it's good. We know each other, and a new director is always like a cat in a bag. The director production-wise is very important for producer. We know Joffe's manner of working, his tempo, his requirements - and we know the result we get.

So, it is easy to work with Joffe?
Not at all. Roland is very much not easy. His complexity – and at the same time one of his main advantages– is that he never makes compromises. If we agree on a point in the beginning, it means that it should be that way. It's impossible to change even a tiny detail in the approved script. It's hard for the production. Often we cannot substitute something expensive with something cheap, something complicated with something simple. But on the other hand it's good - because the quality we get is also uncompromising.

No compromises at all?!

Compromises are possible at the beginning - for example, in the work on the script. But when we approach the start - no more compromises. This is how it works. In this sense Roland Joffe is a monster. But we are not afraid of him, we work with him.

Some critic characterized Joffes' style using a metaphor "asthmatic weight of director's breath". Do you agree?

I don't think so. Roland - is very serious director, the clear head, very erudite. And he's a classic of a modern cinema for a long time already. By the way, his sincere interest in our history became a nice surprise. In fact, he also has a 16-year-old daughter, so problems of youth are close to him. And when I told him my ideas about the Anderson's movie "Oh, lucky man!", he was very excited about such parallel. It turned out that this is one of his favorite pictures too.

What are the shooting locations?

The main part - in Moscow. About one week we'll spend in Los Angeles.

Did you already have time to get acquainted with Lena and Julia?

Yes, I did. And opened many things for myself.

Your first impression?

First I was amazed by Lena's English. She really has a fluent English, and with very good pronunciation. But her manner of talking impressed me even more… She's really a very delicate young woman. And it will be very difficult to shoot her!...

It's weird: If you take a look t.A.T.u. photo shoots, Lena looks quite simple compared very sexy Volkova. In real life, though, she's not simple at all. Lena just radiates such a pleasant, kind aura. We need to learn to shoot her correctly, to learn to show Volkova's and Katina's polarity in the movie.

And what about Yulia?

Yulia loves camera very much. And camera loves Julia very much. Volkova is very photogenic. And in general, Julia and Lena are both very nice in person - and very professional, which is especially good. And their popularity tells about their professionalism, of course.

Will it be difficult to work with such stars?

You know, if there is an arrangement that we are one team, I already consider them my team, my people. No alternative exist. And my people – they are the best. Really. It's … a certain corporate thing, so to speak... It's like this with t.A.T.u.. For me, first of all they are my team, not stars. I heard a lot about Julia and Lena. I heard, that Lena likes to read, that Julia reads only a menu in the restaurants, some other things… I suspected that they are antipodes. But I did not expect that they are THAT different.

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