Dmitriy Arbatov won the prestigious Award of Merit from The Best Shorts Film Competition in 2021. The short-film director claimed the award for his film Zion, which promotes the natural beauty of the American state, Utah.
Arbatov has found success through the use of drone filmmaking. Through the use of drones, Arbatov has the ability to show different perspectives to filmgoers. Film director is a passion of Arbatov and, for now, is a part-time job. He hopes to one day move into filmmaking full-time.
The artful director recently sat down with Totalprestige Magazine to talk about his films and career.
Dmitriy, how did you get your start as a short film director?
For many years, I was dreaming to film my vision of nature and the world. I always liked to go to high points from where you can see far away or visit observation decks and just see the world from up there, see that perspective and endless unlimited views. I started from very small projects which I was filming on my old Sony camera and some projects were good, at least for my student level back then, when I was just experimenting with cameras. But everything changed when drones came on the market. I wanted that machine so badly that I started saving for it right away, because I knew that it is a totally new modern perspective of filming and that drones will be getting better and better from now on. Filming with drones made my debut as a short film director. I knew exactly what I wanted to show and how to show it and I had the best instrument.
Who are some of your influences as a film director?
Our world. It has so many unique, incredible and perfect places, which people simply don’t know about or sometimes take for granted because they live nearby. The main inspiration is always around us, just got to look and see it. It’s not difficult, it’s just that people are too busy with their lives, that they don’t have time to take a break and simply go around. Take a walk in Central Park in New York City and you’ll be inspired. Go to the Catskill Mountains in Upstate New York and you’ll be inspired. Listen to the rain and thunder and you’ll be inspired. This World is our everyday inspiration.
Of course, I always admired the film works of Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, and Jacques Cousteau. I think these people are the best examples of how to film, direct and create something great, something unique and unforgettable.
Can you tell us about some of your short films such as Zion, Rhode Island, and Grand Canyon?
Rhode Island was filmed in the Newport area in 2021. I planned that short film for six months. I was looking for the best time and best locations in that area. Since it’s named Rhode Island, I actually planned to film it in Providence as well. But at the very end, I decided that there will be no Providence scenes in this project. I wanted to show the Ocean State from the point of view of nature, water and that unique rocky coastline, which usually comes to mind when you say Rhode Island. That’s why the Newport area was my main pick, and I covered several areas there, so people can see the beauty of that state. The project won “Best Drone Video” award at Barcelona Planet Film Festival in November 2021. I also received an award from Best Actor & Director Awards in New York City for this film. It is also nominated at New York Cinematography Awards for the best short film right now. So, I can tell that people actually liked it.
Grand Canyon became one of my longest projects. I started working on this film in 2020, I wanted to understand how to put this huge, massive canyon into short video film. I checked hundreds and hundreds of photographs of the Grand Canyon area, the place is huge, so you want to pick the best, yet rare places. I watched some videos from the area as well, so I can understand what it is out there. And it still wasn’t enough. So, in March 2021 I took my first trip there. To see the whole thing, to understand the sizes and proportions of this giant. The weather wasn’t great in March, I got there on a day of fog and clouds. Yes, there were a few moments when I saw the whole thing and that actually helped me to understand the proportions of it, but I knew one thing for sure – it will be a difficult task to do. I came back to New York to write my vision, my plan, my scenario and how I want to film this whole thing. Took me about four months to finish the planning part and then I was ready to go back to Arizona. In August 2021 it was done, and it was wonderful.
Another project, Zion, wasn’t such a complication, it took me just a few days to get my plan together, understand what I wanted to show in my short video and film it. Maybe the main reason is because I always knew what I wanted to show in the Zion project. Because I had that idea for a while, I saw many documentaries about southern Utah, especially, about its nature. And it came out pretty good, Zion was the very first project to get a nomination at a film festival in New York.
What inspires you to direct a film?
I want to share something awesome and unique with people. Because there are a lot of people who can’t visit and discover this world in full. There are many reasons why people can’t do that, but there is one reason why I want to show this world to them, to bring them closer to places which are located far-away from them, and this reason is a will. Cause I simply want them to see, learn and discover the planet which we all are living on.
What are some of the challenges of writing and directing a short film compared to a long-format film?
I think the main challenge is to put a huge idea into a three to five-minute video film. When I have an idea in my head it seems logical and understandable, when I film that idea, everything seems okay as well, but when I’m editing a film, creating a final product – that’s the main challenge. I have to get rid of many extra scenes, which probably would be included in a long film. I have to shorten the runtime of a scene as well, because I need time for other scenes etc. That’s the main challenge. For example, when I was filming Rhode Island, I had about 55 minutes of video. The final film came to three minutes and 31 seconds. Imagine how much of the video material just got cut and left behind. And it’s a good material as well, just didn’t fit into my short video perspective.
Do you write the film manuscripts, or do you work with others before directing them?
Everything I do is by myself. There is no help or team involved.
Dmitriy, you won a prestigious Award of Merit from The Best Shorts Film Competition for the short film. How important is it to win awards such as these when you are a short film director?
Any recognition is a huge plus to your path in this industry. Especially, when you are getting recognized by some prestigious festivals, which host Oscar winners as well. That shows that your work is getting recognized, that it got their attention, and you are on the right path. Your message is getting out there and your work is becoming more attractive for others. I really appreciate that The Best Shorts Film Competition in California and other festivals from around the World are interested in short/drone films these days, because it gives people like me an extra push to keep up the good work.
Do you have plans to move into the long-film format?
I have a few ideas which probably will end up as a long film. Of course, they would take more time to write, create and edit. But I’m looking forward to filming something longer than three to five minutes. They are probably going to be as documentary projects, and it will be something new for me, because I’ve never done a documentary and never had a long film project yet.
How difficult was the COVID-19 pandemic for yourself and how did you get through it?
COVID-19 was the worst thing for all of us. For all of us life changed, because the pandemic came. For all of us “stay home be safe” and “masks required” became like a chant. COVID-19 stopped me from travelling for some time, but it didn’t stop me from having ideas to create something beautiful. That’s the time when I decided to create the Grand Canyon and Rhode Island. It just showed me one main thing: life is a moment. One day you are living normal and another day that normal is gone. So, you don’t have enough time to sit and wait, you just got to keep on moving and living no matter what. Keep doing what’s right and important for you and don’t stop, cause tomorrow is not guaranteed.
What is your next project and when will it be released?
My next project is called San Francisco, which was released a week ago. I had an idea to film San Francisco for a while. Two triggers made me film this project about the Golden City. First trigger is a song from 1967 called “San Francisco” by Scott McKenzie. And the second trigger is the Golden Gate Bridge, which is an iconic structure and symbol of California in general. I always wanted to film that area especially, because it has some wonderful views and incredible scenes. I picked a good time to go to San Francisco and film it in October. It took me some time to do it, but the result was good. The video is available online, so anyone can see it.
Dmitriy, what is a day in your life like?
Morning time, almost every day I go to the park to run or to take a walk, it’s a great start of my day, keeps you active, also serves like meditation, then I go to my office, deal with everyday tasks. During lunch breaks I’m taking walks in Midtown Manhattan, trying to see something worth of filming or taking a few pictures. Sometimes it is actually good to take a seat and just “people watch”, you see so many different life paths at the same time – its incredible. So many untold stories and great real-life scenarios are walking out there. Every single human out there is a great story of life which is worth of filming. I met so many interesting people on the streets of NYC. It’s a priceless experience. Evening time I work with my filmed materials, trying to put together something new, something different, planning my future projects.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I guess most people who see my videos on YouTube, read my posts on Newsbreak or watch my short drone films on the internet aren’t aware that I have a day job, which is far from being a director or any sort of creator. It is not connected to the internet or IT industry whatsoever. But yes, I go to the office and I work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., just like millions of Americans do – and that’s what most people aren’t aware of.
What makes you smile?
Any day is an opportunity to do something better, to create something great and to smile no matter what, because it is a positive energy and I love spreading positive energy. Life is too stressful, so we have to focus on positivity, good energy and happiness. Any day makes me smile, just because I want to keep that positive aura around me, my family, friends and all people who come around.
What scares you?
For a person who is always trying something new, who went through some tough times in his life, I can’t really say that I’m afraid of something in particular. I think life shouldn’t scare us, it should make us stronger and more experienced in many ways. At least that’s what I try to do. Sometimes things look scary, but it’s normal, you just gotta get over it and keep on going.
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world, what would it be?
If I had an ultimate power, I would create peace on Earth. Because it’s sickening to see how many wars and how much hate our humankind generated in all times. It is sickening to see that even in the 21st century we still have the same old issues. It’s sad that we are trying to do better, yet we still have a lot to work on and a long way ahead of us to peace on Earth.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would like to add one message to all people who’s out there trying to film or trying to be an actor, director, editor or writer. I know that the path is difficult and sometimes it seems that you are doing a lot, but nobody cares, and nobody sees you. It can be really diminishing but remember that many great people were turned down at first, but they still got where they wanted to be, because they didn’t give up on themselves. Never give up on your dreams, yourself and never quit, because somebody told you so, keep on going, keep trying and you will get there.
For more information on Dmitriy Arbatov and his incredible short films, please visit https://www.imdb.com/name/nm12915796/