She is the filmmaker of Derailed Dollar Baby film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Anna Shapiro: I was born in Moscow, in a Russian artist family. My grandfather was a renowned Soviet painter of the socialist realist school. My mother is a post-modernist artist with wide cultural horizons.
My education was in the classical humanities and fine arts, in Moscow. At age 23 I began working full time with TV Channel One Russia, in their “promo” department, first as a copywriter and then as a director, creating, shooting and editing promo trailers and teasers for special programs. All my free time, however, is spent shooting short films, writing scripts, inventing video-arts for art exhibitions – in short participating in any creative process that might lead me to my dream, which is to make feature films. I watch as many films as possible, preferably on the big screen. I am a big fan of traditional cinema screening, although I also appreciate internet and new TV formats. Even TV series I try to watch using my home projector.
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become a filmmaker?
Anna Shapiro: Observing paintings from my earliest childhood, I developed a permanent curiosity about the stories that could lie behind the frames of artworks. I imagined what sounds and music could fill their atmosphere, what the figures on the canvas could do when nobody was looking. Since that time all information I receive is transformed inside me into visual, moving and often symbolic images. “Officially” I knew I wanted to become a filmmaker at age of 15, when I had staged a play at school as a director. My dream is to shoot movies full time, to open the box inside me that is full of characters, stories, painful images and joyful scenes.
SKSM: When did you make Derailed? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Anna Shapiro: We made Derailed in 2014, partly with family friend financial support, partly with my own savings. I didn’t expect it would cost that much – it costed near 30 000 $. The big part of it was for the light and expedition. DP is, as we call it in Russia, a “saint cow” for me – I always try to give them everything they want, because they should transform my inner visionary into screen. In Derailed DP wanted Arri Alexa, wanted a lot of light (because of the night time of shooting).
I was the producer, director, line producer, administrator –everything. And I don’t practice this mix of functions anymore, because the organization of all the production processes influenced my director’s attention and creativity while shooting.
We filmed it in four diverse days in two months.
SKSM: How come you picked Willa to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Anna Shapiro: That time I tried to start the production of my feature film script Downward Spiral, a criminal drama (in 2016 this project got into the Sundance Lab short list). A producer who liked the script told me he couldn’t imagine the visionary manner of it, because I said it should be in the border between reality and unreality. So, I was looking for a short story to film and show my type of vision. A story with something surreal in it. I picked Willa for its in-between life and death, trying to imagine how it may be felt, especially if you don’t want to accept what is happening. The other theme that I liked was love. How fragile love may be when faced with routine mutual prejudice. And at the same time love is the only guide between life and death that I can imagine. There was also a social aspect: I found out that King’s passengers on the train station are a clear metaphor of Russian society – they don’t want to accept reality themselves even if it leads to total “black hole”, and they are aggressive to the people who try to understand what’s happening.
SKSM: How did you find out that King sold the movie rights to some of his stories for just $1? Was it just a wild guess or did you know it before you sent him the check?
Anna Shapiro: Honestly, I don’t remember. I think I have chosen Willa and then knew about the necessity to clear the rights and then was lucky to fund Willa in the 1$ list. But may be vice versa.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Anna Shapiro: Special for me were the moments when a kind of miracle happened: famous Russian adult actors agreed to take episodic parts in the film pro bono– Avdotya Germanova, Igor Savochkin, Anna Chiruna. Their stringency in playing their parts as passengers was important for me. Two leading young actors –Maria Ryshenkova and Victor Panchenko– found the possibility to work with me in their busy theater schedule. The funny moment was: we shot at the circle experimental railways (where they test trains). On the day of shooting, it appears that every four minutes a train should pass at a very high speed. So, we have only four minutes for a take, then everybody should run away from the station, otherwise anybody could be damaged.
SKSM: How does it feel that all the King fans out there can’t see your movie? Do you think that will change in the future? Maybe a internet/dvd release would be possible?
Anna Shapiro: Very good question! Only when I finished the film, I realized what does it mean that I can’t show it anywhere except the festivals. Maybe I have avoided fans’ disturbance, but disturbance better than absence of feedback at all. I respect the rules and I am very grateful to Stephen King’s 1$ program, but I hope they may make it more flexible –for example, give a permission for release on some platforms or after five years have passed or on their own site. Thanks, respect and hugs to Andrey Popov who organized Dollar Baby Film Russia and showed 1$ dollar films from different countries –it was like a small window to King fans.
SKSM: What “good or bad” reviews have you received on your film?
Anna Shapiro: As there were not a lot of screenings, I don’t have a lot of reviews. I’ve mentioned that audience divided in two types: those who accepted the film fully, have read the ideas and were touched emotionally. And those who remained indifferent. Derailed won some prizes on festivals. As far as I know they liked the atmosphere and visionary style of the film. Bad reviews that I know are: it is very difficult to follow the film in English because of a lot of subtitles.
SKSM: Do you plan to screen the movie at a particular festival?
Anna Shapiro: Not anymore. Derailed is too old for it: the festivals accept films not older than two, maximum three years. And I think I grew up from it – now I see too many things I would do better and differently if I shot it now, I am more skillful today))
SKSM: Are you a Stephen King fan? If so, which are your favorite works and adaptations?
Anna Shapiro: I wouldn’t call me King’s fan, because I haven’t read all of his books (as I think fans should do). I love him and respect. And if I meet a film or TV show based on his books I watch it for sure. I love Shining, but both for King’s and Kubriсk’s work. Misery, Green Mile. From recent Mr. Merсedes impressed me a lot.
SKSM: Did you have any personal contact with King during the making of the movie? Has he seen it (and if so, what did he think about it)?
Anna Shapiro: No, I didn’t. It is not supposed, I think. Upon the 1$ license you should send a dvd of the film when the production is finished. In 2014 we with my husband travelled throw USA and we imagined how we travel to King’s house/office (according to the address in license) and drop the envelope with dvd into the mailbox. Ha-ha)) When we looked at the map, we found out that the address led nowhere between a cemetery and a slaughterhouse… We decided it was very “King’s like”. So we’ve sent the dvd by post and I was really waiting for any, even formal, reply. But nothing. Do you know anybody who has received any answers? Of Course, I understand how busy Mr. King is, what millions of whatever he receives daily. But I think the King’s office could send…
SKSM: Do you have any plans for making more movies based on Stephen King’s stories? If you could pick -at least- one story to shoot, which one would it be and why?
Anna Shapiro: While adapting Willa into the script, I found out that King’s literature was a trap for cinematographers. It looks very adaptive for the film: thriller story, rich visionary and imaginary layer. But when you start adapting, you find out that all that has impressed you so much, very often is the inner life of characters: their thoughts, their fears. This is good for literature; it forces a reader’s imagination. But bad for staging drama. Cinema needs visionary emotions, reactions and acts. So I think, the best King’s adaptations are based on the books that were good for it. I haven’t read a story that could lead me to a new adaptation. And I don’t want to be hand-tied by license anymore. It may change if the project is started by a big film company. But not by myself anymore.
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Anna Shapiro: I am trying to start the production of a feature film, negotiating with producers. Continue to shoot promos for special occasions for Channel One Russia and diverse show artists. Collaborate with screenwriters. Shoot video-art for artists. Perform master-class on promo and video-art. Hope for better.
SKSM: What one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Anna Shapiro: It’s difficult to surprise people who don’t know you…
I trust in God. Seriously. Is it surprising?
My grand grandfather was the second president of Israel… But I can’t get permission to apply for citizenship in Israel, because I am an orthodox Christian.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to the fans that read this interview?
Anna Shapiro: Guys, thank you so much for reading and supporting Stephen King Short Movies. Your interest makes creators creative. Your love to your favorite writers or whoever prolongs their life.
SKSM: Would you like to add anything else?
Anna Shapiro: Dear Oscar, thank you for the questions that made me remember and take thought. Thank you for giving Derailed a chance to live further.