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Meet Nespresso Talents winner + Oscar nominee Daria Kashcheeva

Interviews • Written by Ellie Cameron-Krepp, Community Manager

Submissions for Nespresso Talents 2020 are currently open, inviting filmmakers around the world to celebrate storytelling by creating vertical short films around the theme ‘Virtuous Circles’. 

Taking part in Nespresso Talents was the first step on a wild ride for 2017 winner Daria Kashcheeva, as she journeyed from the Cannes Film Festival to the Academy Awards. We caught up with the Russian animator to hear more about her experience with Nespresso Talents, the personal side to her winning stop-motion style film, and how she became an Oscar nominated filmmaker.

You initially worked as a sound designer (which explains the wonderful sound design in all your work!) before you studied animation at FAMU in Prague. Were you always interested in a creative career, and how did you transition into animation and film? 

I graduated from a masters program in sound design in Moscow, and while I was studying I worked as a sound designer at the Moscow theatre. It was quite creative work, but on the other hand it was the kind of work where the director tells you what you have to do, so I always had to create under set conditions. Then I had the chance to make sound for an animation film and it was something new! I met animators and the director, and I went to the studio where they made the animation and I was really inspired, especially at a time where I wasn’t sure about my profession, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to live in Moscow. I tried making animations at home, and then thought why not study it? 

Your short film To Accept was one of the official selections for Nespresso Talents 2017 around the theme ‘You have the power to’. What inspired you to tell this story, and what was the experience of creating the stop motion film?

The theme for that year was “You have the power to”, and I just thought: you have the power to do something, you have the power to change something, and you have the power to change yourself. I was always quite a shy person, and quite introverted, and when I was young I tried to change myself to be more social and go to parties, but I never felt good. Then I decided, why should I change myself if I could accept myself? And accept that I’m an introvert. I decided to make the film about that – and my husband is also quite introverted, so I made him the main character of my story. So the inspiration came from my life!


'To Accept'

The creative challenge of Nespresso Talents is making a film specifically in a vertical format. How did you approach storytelling and production for 9:16?

Animators always like to draw their stories themselves and we think a lot about composition, so I understood that I should try to change something and think carefully about the vertical composition – making sure the idea would look nice. That was really important for me. 

A highlight for you must have been the opportunity to attend the Cannes Film Festival as one of the finalists. How was your experience?  

It was amazing. I was only in my second year of school studying animation when I decided to make this film. So I made it, and it won at Cannes and it was oh my god! It was really big for me. Because I was new at this, it helped me realise that maybe I made a good decision moving into animation. What was the impact on your career to be selected for Nespresso Talents?

Around the time of Nespresso Talents I was starting to think about my Bachelor film (Daughter) which was going to be a puppet animation. When I got back from Cannes, I just felt much more confident about approaching good producers. It helped ensure Daughter wasn’t just a student film, as it was co-produced by MAURfilm. So Nespresso Talents gave me that confidence. It also helped me realise that if it was possible for me to go to Cannes with my film and win Nespresso Talents during my second year at school, then oh my god anything is possible.

Your work has gone from strength to strength, and your graduation film Daughter has just been nominated in the Short Film (Animated) category of the Oscars! We particularly love your reaction to the nomination below. How did it feel to be nominated for the Academy Awards?

Of course it was amazing. After the film was shortlisted I really wanted to be nominated, and it was a ‘oh my god, I’m nominated’ moment. We really were emotional and most of all, I think it’s so important that we got the nomination without any PR or campaign. Lots of films have Oscar campaigns, but we didn’t have any of that. 

The Oscar nomination has helped me finance my next project, but what was most important is that I got confidence and I became more brave. Now I can easily approach anyone that I want to work with on my next project, including some professionals I really admire.  So it’s really amazing that it’s helping me with my future projects.

Daughter is such a beautifully animated film, with stunning papier-mâché puppets and a captivating handheld camera style that we don’t often see in stop motion. What were the most challenging elements of a production with so many creative intricacies?

The papier-mâché wasn’t a problem, but the real challenge was the camera movement. When the idea came up to use handheld camera movement for my stop motion film, I had doubts. I thought it was really strange that no one had come up with this idea before, and I was afraid that the technique might be impossible. 

We didn’t have a big budget so we couldn’t have motion control to help with the camera movement. So instead I made tests and I tried to create the camera movement manually, moving the camera frame by frame manually. It worked, and again I thought that anything is possible, you just have to believe in your idea and work hard.

Trailer for 'Daughter'

Daria's Oscar nomination reaction

We can’t wait to see what is next for you. Are you working on anything at the moment?

Daughter was my Bachelor film, and now that I’m in my Masters program, I’m preparing my Masters film. I’m writing a script for a stop-motion short film, combining puppet animation, pixelation and live action with an actor. I’m still in the very beginning, but the film is going to be about a woman exploring her memories, her sexuality and her relationships.

"When I had to wake up at 4am to get a shot while the sun was rising, it helped to remind myself that anything is possible, Cannes is possible, and winning the project is possible."

Finally, what advice do you have for filmmakers taking part in Nespresso Talents 2020?

My advice is to be brave and to work hard. When I decided to make a film for Nespresso Talents it was a crazy idea, because I was busy with school, and it was 3 weeks before the deadline. But the idea I had was so inspiring for me, so I worked really intensively for three weeks.

It was a challenge for me, but I just believed in the story, and I really wanted to go to Cannes. When I had to wake up at 4am to get a shot while the sun was rising, it helped to remind myself that anything is possible, Cannes is possible, and winning the project is possible.

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