Paper is a modern day immigrant story which follows the journey of a young Russian woman in the US. I found this project to be an exciting challenge, it is a conflict of different cultures, priorities and ethics. Most everything in us can be traced to a few defining moments. When someone comes to one of these moments, do they recognize it? How do they react?
Do they embrace the moment, and allow it to change them or fear the unknown and let it slip away, losing a part of themselves. I wanted to show a character faced with one of these moments. Will she accept it, and the change it brings, or run away, back to her safe, known world?
"Cold and Windy in Venice?"
We were shooting the payphone scene on Venice beach. Ivan had an idea of adding a new scene, where Mashka makes up her mind about her choice, which becomes a turning point in the story. It was a pick-up day, which was shot a week later after the principal photography had ended. Matthew Kevin Anderson, the lead actor, went on to do another project and had to cut his hair. So he had to wear a hat to avoid continuity issues. The scene on Venice beach was completely improvised, it feels very real and truthful. Now the conflict became very clear: Matthew's character Jimmy is very content with his life and doesn't want to change a thing, while Mashka is yearning for something more, better and bigger things in her life. It was one of the coldest days of the year and there were only few people on the beach that day, which was perfect; Why else would Jimmy be wearing that hat?
"Shooting a low-budget short in downtown LA"
The gallery was one of the most difficult locations of the film. It had to be upscale and hip and yet affordable. After scouting about a dozen locations and not really loving any, we found CB1 gallery in downtown Los Angeles.
Filming downtown with a low budget production is…let's say challenging. Everything becomes more difficult, parking, feeding, staging. Getting actors and extras ready becomes exponentially more difficult. We went there with all those potential problems in mind. The moment we walked in, we loved it. It was urban so we could tie the entrance and interior, it had a back door for Mashka to go to the restroom.
The owner of the gallery was very kind and told us that in a couple weeks he will put up an exhibition entirely made of paper: hand-made bits of paper painted individually and woven like fabric. And it would be OK to shoot it! Naturally, we took it as a sign from the Universe.
Next problem: convincing our producer that this one location was worth almost our entire location budget.
Paper is a modern day immigrant story which follows the journey of Mashka, a young Russian woman trying to make it in the US. Mashka in search of the American dream, escapes from a degrading massage parlor job in Brooklyn to search for a new beginning. She finds herself alone in Venice Beach, California without money or passport. Desperate, she is looking for anyone to come along. In her search for security she unwillingly falls for Jimmy, a poor artist and paparazzi photographer. Life has given Mashka the right cards, but can she recognize them? It is a conflict of different cultures, priorities and ethics.
Mashka, a Russian woman in search of the American dream, escapes from her life in a Brooklyn massage parlor only to find herself alone in Venice Beach, California without money or passport. A chain of fateful events forces her into an agonizing decision. What would you do for Paper?