Diana Galimzyanova is a writer and director based in Moscow, Russia. This is what would stand on her official biography as you open her site. But such as all of us, Diana is more than her titles. We’ve got a chance to glimpse into Diana’s unmasked life and learn that overcoming cancer helps you discover the depth of life. And that later, it will encourage you in creating award-winning, in-depth short films that run in more than twenty festivals in twelve countries. Diana replies with moving honesty on her past, firm confidence about her present, and bold will towards the future.
Betsy on behalf of MissCareer/less: While many struggles to find happiness in their chosen career, what lead you to the film industry and what keeps you there?
Diana Galimzyanova: I’ve been writing all kinds of stuff ever since I was in first grade. I realized I wanted to be a filmmaker when I was in my early 20s studying journalism at Moscow State University, so I started educating myself, going to all kinds of courses and workshops I could afford, reading, watching educational videos. I also tried a film school for a while but it wasn’t my thing, so I dropped out. I shot several experimental shorts, and eventually I realized that I’m ready, and I wrote and directed my first narrative short “February 28.” It was way more successful than I thought it was going to be, being screened at 16 festivals in 8 countries. It’s still on festival circuit after the year-long festival run. Right now, I’m writing a script for my debut feature. So it’s still the beginning of the road for me.
(‘February 28’ was accepted by Festigious Film Festival Directed by Roy Zafrani – e.d.)
MCL: With a small percentage of female film directors, what did you do to pass the barriers set for women in the film industry?
DG: From the beginning I just knew I shouldn’t wait till somebody give me money for my film, that ain’t gonna happen, I gotta do everything myself to build a track record first. So I wrote a script that could be produced with a limited amount of money and resources and produced it. I believe you shouldn’t wait for anything regardless of gender, there are tons of stories that could be told with little to no budget, you just need to think and not write scripts that involve helicopter shootings and living camels.
MCL: What is your “mission statement” as a film writer and director?
DG: I want to tell stories about girls like me, introverted women because I think there’s not enough stories with this type of protagonists. It’s always been hard for me to identify with female characters in film since most of them are loud, impulsive and extroverted, and I’m introverted, rationalistic and “cold”. So I was really empowered by “Xena: Warrior Princess” when I was teen because it was the only piece of fiction that had a female protagonist who was strong, cool and introverted, not chatty, emotional and outgoing. Xena showed me that it could be possible for a girl like me to stay true to herself and still be successful.
Not much has changed since my teens; nowadays I find more female characters like me in cartoons like “Adventure time,” “Bojack Horseman” and “Gintama” than I do in films and tv-shows. And when they show girls like me it’s almost always a shallow caricature or one-dimensional villain. I want to change that, although I do realize that some people would consider this kind of characters unlikable. Recently I read an article that said that now it’s acceptable to write unlikeable male characters but it’s still a huge problem if your script is about an unlikable female character. I believe this should be changed too.
MCL: From the inception of the idea to the completed production of a film, what do you believe to be the most difficult aspect as a film director?
DG: For me being an introvert, the most difficult aspect is to find people to collaborate with and when you’re doing no to low budget films it’s all about the people. It has always been easier for me to spend time and learn how to do something than to find a person for it. But you can’t do all of the work alone, filmmaking is a collaborative form of art. You need to work hard on your communication skills to achieve success in this area if you’re an introvert like me.
MCL: With so many films made over the last century, how do you continue to produce new and fresh ideas?
DG: There is no such thing as a fresh idea, but there is a fresh point of view. You need to be true to yourself and allow yourself to have that point of view even if it’s not popular. Some people will think your film is boring and shitty, but at least it’s gonna be authentic and maybe other people like you and would be grateful to you for giving them a voice.
MCL: What do you believe is the secret in creating a successful film?
DG: I think it’s all about the hard work, communication and also a bit of luck.
MCL: Sometimes we all feel a little limited in our abilities. What do you believe to be your biggest limitation as a writer/director?
DG: And yet again my biggest limitation is me being an introvert. In all the books on low-budget filmmaking, they are like “Sure you don’t have money, but you got a friend with a free house, a friend with a free camera and a friend with a free truck. So let them help you for a free beer or somethin’” Well, I don’t have hundreds of closest friends who are eager to help me and all of my close friends are non-filmmakers.
MCL: How do you overcome this limitation?
DG: This limitation helps me to think more and to figure out how to find ways, think out of the box, and even develop new stories.
MCL: Your films have received several awards and nominations from various film festivals. What goals are you still aspiring to accomplish?
DG: My main goal now is to make my debut feature film in a year. I’m working on the screenplay, it is a Russian film noir and I’m planning to start a crowdfunding campaign in the spring.
MCL: A few of your short films are based on personal experiences. Is it something you seek consciously?
DG: I try to add elements of personal experience into everything I write to make it more authentic, but my debut short “February 28” has many real autobiographical elements. Like I am a cancer survivor, and I used to have a PTSD and depression for several years. I had the disease back when I was a teen which is quite a different experience from the protagonist of my short who’s in her late 20s.
All the details are different but emotions are the same, feelings are the same; and my main goal was to show, in a slightly metaphorical way, how it feels like to be an introverted cancer-survivor. It still wasn’t easy to tell this story; when you have a PTSD you suffer from flashbacks and that short was like a huge flashback with tons of triggers. So there was a chance that it could make me relapse, but luckily it didn’t. It was a bit of a therapeutic experience; I proved myself that I really am PTSD-free when I finished the film.
MCL: As a woman who has proven successful in a competitive industry, what advice can you offer women trying to find their way in the film industry?
DG: Don’t listen to people who are trying to stop you from making your films. Be yourself and try to find a story that only you could tell, even if it’s gonna be a story that only a few people would get, those few people need stories too.