Welcome to the Clubhouse
By: Jessica Northey
Filmmaking is an international art form and storytelling has the ability to transcend many communication barriers. In an interview with Yuri Shapochka, the Director of "Clubhouse" shares his journey with us about his first feature film. He's from Ukraine and relocated to the U.S. to follow his passion for making films. This recent featured film is a dark comedy, a morality tale and a true cinematic experience.
How did you begin in the film industry?
I did writing, directing and producing for television and radio shows in Ukraine. Making films was my childhood dream, which gives me inspiration, strength and a reason to keep moving forward. When I came to America I started to write more scripts and put together short films.
Did you produce films in the Ukraine?
It was difficult to produce films in Ukraine because of their financial crisis. It was generally difficult to get funding, equipment and put it all together. Only now has the Ukraine started producing movies and distributing to international film festivals. I'm very proud to see it. One year they invited me to an international film festival held in Ukraine. They had a wonderful idea to invite directors from different countries with Ukrainian roots. They organized a workshop with a group of students. We did several workshops with different groups to make five short films and put it all together as one feature film. I was really proud that the students went from the development into something more. Now they're making movies.
What motivated you to move to the United States?
Filmmaking. I thought there would be more opportunities to do what I love.
What filmmakers have most influenced you?
My favorite Director is Luis Buñuel. He was a film director who started doing surreal films. I really like the Coen brothers and definitely many Russian directors. I grew up watching Soviet movies, so I love Soviet Cinema, especially comedies.
Clubhouse is your first full-length feature film, what made you decide to tell this particular story?
I looked over the last ten years of different scripts I wrote. The Clubhouse was a smaller production and easiest to film. In addition, the film is important to me because it's a morality tale. It's a story about friendship and betrayal, honesty and corruption. It's a human story and, at the same time, it's a dark comedy.
How do you describe the film?
It's a dark comedy. It's my favorite genre because with such tools you can actually improve something. People watch it and when they think about it, they can change something.
The film was shot in Alabama; did you cast it there as well?
I invited five wonderful actors from Hollywood and the rest were from Alabama. It was half and half of actors from Hollywood and local actors from cities throughout Alabama.
You wrote, directed and produced the film, what were your biggest challenges on this project?
The biggest challenges were mainly technical. The people were absolutely wonderful. I felt blessed with friendship and comradery that we experienced on the set. The actors felt absolutely wonderful and after we're done we feel like family. Now I have many more wonderful friends. The biggest challenge was to put together all of the equipment and later to edit it properly. To do all of the technical steps according to the standards was the most difficult part. For the rest, there weren't any actual challenges. People worked very hard. Everybody felt inspired and they liked the story. It was always fun to be on the set.
What marketing techniques are you using as an independent filmmaker to promote your film?
You know, I'm exploring it. I cannot say that I'm a guru in marketing. I think film festivals, social media and local media. In Birmingham, several local newspapers and wonderful journalists, from both newspapers and local TV channels, came on the set. We were so happy with the attention of the local media. The best marketing is when you announce your project early enough so that the media could come on the set. They can check it out and put out the word about it. Then later, when the film is ready, the best publicity tool is the film festival circuit. Because I came from another country, I really like international film festivals. I'll send it to India, Korea, and to many different countries all around the world to see if the film will be accepted.
Are you currently working on another film?
Yes, I'm putting together a project and writing a new script. I have a wonderful crew. My good friend, David Brower, who works with me as a co-producer and cinematographer on all my films, he and I plan everything ahead. We put together storyboards and outlines, long before it's ready for the production. We put together the concept and polish it before we announce it to the world.
Although the Clubhouse is his first full length feature, Yuri Shapochka is a film maker on the rise with a unique vision. He's one to watch.
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