Growing up in the heart of Siberia, Sergey Savchenko was not like other children. While many passed the time with toys, Savchenko turned to movies. Film slowly transitioned from his childhood pastime to his life’s ambition. He would sit and watch the same film over and over again, enjoying it more with each viewing. He would study it, and try to understand how each scene was put together. Upon stepping onto a film set for the first time, his dream was realized.
“On that day, I realized that I’m not alone with dreams and hobbies. It’s like a family, not everyone can understand your worries and complex thoughts so clearly,” he said.
Now, Savchenko is a successful director of photography, working around the world doing what he loves. This year, viewers in Russia had the pleasure of seeing Savchenko’s artistry on 1TV’s Liberation of Europe, a five-episode documentary series highlighting the difficult decisions made in the headquarters of different countries during the second world war. Actor Victor Verzhbitsky, the main narrator of this movie, goes through the events of the World War II, still frozen in time.
“It was a long journey, like a short life. In the process, I visited a lot of European countries, met a lot of very interesting people, gained priceless experience in large reconstructions staging. We worked a lot with actors in emotional scenes, and as a DP it was very interesting to me to set the lighting and searching for needed emotions in a frame,” described Savchenko. “The range of emotions in the film varies, going from bravery and courage, to treachery and intrigue. It was very interesting to work with such a script.”
The difficult format of filming included shooting real characters and events, working with the actors, staging feature scenes, and the cinematic language of the series. The team needed an experienced Director of Photography to be able to handle the complexity of the task, and the director Pavel Elkin chose Savchenko.
“Working with Sergey, to me as a director, was much easier than with any other DPs, due to the fact that his understanding of the process of making the film is much deeper than of many others. He doesn’t need to be explained the principles of shooting for future postproduction or graphics, he is fluent in the technical side of the issue. In addition, the director of photography is essentially the eyes of the director. It is important that `the head` and `the eyes` work together and understand each other well. In creative matters Sergey is simply brilliant,” said Elkin.
While working on Liberation of Europe, the team needed to split the crew to create a second unit, which happened several times. Savchenko ended up taking over for the duties of the director on the second unit.
“I must say, it was done very well. The color of all the featured episodes was also the accomplishment of Sergey. He’s really good at his job and another two or three dozen related tasks,” said Elkin.
The job did not come without its challenges. There were many large-scale reconstructions required, with many people working on them, which made the staging complex, as well as many interviews from people all over the world. But for Savchenko, it was teamwork that made all of the challenges that were presented seem minimal at most.
“Thanks to precise work of the crew, we managed to shoot everything we needed,” he said. “And you know, I can talk with Pavel easily. We understand each other perfectly. He has a vision of a product in general, and clearly understands what he wants and can explain what he needs. has a great shooting experience all around the world, including Europe, it’s brought up in Paul a great sense of taste. He knows all specifics of filming and post-production, so we successfully managed to avoid a lot of problems while shooting. Even in difficult conditions we reached the right results, working quickly like a clockwork mechanism.”
The right results were definitely achieved. The series, which premiered in May, received extremely high ratings in Russia, and had led to a collaboration with companies such as Panera Films, Reality Production, as well as projects advertising for Avon and Siemens. It also inspired the documentary The Great Che.
“Watching it, I was filled with a sense like finishing a book. In my memory, there were much more events and emotions than what had been shown in this project. You just can’t experience this feeling in ordinary life, this feeling of finishing something great, something you have a very warm feeling to,” he concluded. “It is impossible to describe; it can be only experienced.”