Slava Ross at the Triskel and ‘Fat Stupid Rabbit’.

Up and coming director, Slava Ross, held a masterclass yesterday, March 6th, at the Triskel in Cork City as part of the Cork French Film Festival. It was an entertaining and interesting insight in to the life of a film-maker. His debut feature, ‘Fat Stupid Rabbit’ was then screened at the Gate. Here’s a mini-report on both events:

   Slava Ross is a young Russian film-maker with limited English. Which is why he had a translator with him for his class in the Triskel. This didn’t stop it from being an enjoyable event however. Ross, as a director with only two well recognised films under his belt, is not yet a ‘master’ in his art (the title ‘masterclass’ is a bit offputting really) so he dispenses advice and information in an informal and pleasant manner, aware that there may be those in his audience who, in fact, are not that far behind him on the film-making path.

   A still from 'Meat'.Ross attended film school where, by the sounds of it, he acquired much invaluable experience. There he produced his first proper film entitled ‘Meat’, the story of a young mother struggling to provide for herself and her son, and what she has to endure to put meat on the table. The film, shot in black and white and free of dialogue, was also screened at the Triskel class. Ross then allowed for questions and comments.

   Ross is a director with strong views and opinions, particularly when it comes to writing and acting. Having been an actor himself for seven years, he obviously appreciates and respects the profession. Yet he is determined that actors act and not become emotionally caught up in their roles to the extent where they are running away with the script. He likes to see actors as instruments within the film-making formula. He illustrated his argument with the example of an actor embracing a role that demands them to be upset and on the verge of tears. While the actor is eager to let the tears flow, having encompassed the role in the way that method acting demands, Ross would rather see them hold back the tears as people are often wont to do. He believes that actors forget that they have to act at times, something which does not fit his plan at all.

   While his opinions on acting might be a tad difficult to understand, Ross was clear in his discussion of characters and screen-writing. He is a fan of the classical script with its three acts and cites ‘The Lives of Others’ as a beautiful film but one with too many endings. He is quite passionate about the depiction of characters within a script, stressing that the characters must “think, feel and do” just like real people. As he gets to know his characters better, he feels that they begin to speak to him rather than having him write for them.

   But before things get too philosophical, I should pass on the more humorous tales of a film-maker. After the success of ‘Meat’ which won no less than 19 awards, Ross found himself to be one of the six directors chosen to make use of the Cannes Residence scheme. This scheme allows young directors with even one short film to their name, to reside in the French countryside for three months, free of distractions, where they can work on a script for their first feature film. (More information on this can be found here).

   Previously, Ross had written ‘Fat Stupid Rabbit’ as a short of about twenty minutes in length. He completed filming, took one look at it, and hated it immediately. Then, as he himself admits, he drank for two days straight before finally deciding to face the script again. The Residence scheme was a chance for him to rewrite the film as a feature. Like any budding director, Ross had to face the trials and tribulations of film-making in all its forms, and enjoyed many a glass of wine while working on the production! But his creative endeavours were successful and saw the release of ‘Fat Stupid Rabbit’.

   The film itself depicts the tale of a man who has played the role of a yellow rabbit for ten years in a dilapidated children’s theatre while secretly harbouring the desire to perform the part of King Lear. It is a tragicomedy highlighting the frustrations of an actor and also of a man who has lost touch with his life. While I found the film too long for the story contained within it, the use of colour and variety of shots proves that Ross definitely has a creative eye, not to mention a sense of fun in his approach to film-making. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with next.


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