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Filmmaker Spotlight: Director Nadia Bedzhanova of Adrift

This week's NewFilmmakersLA Spotlight is on Director Nadia Bedzhanova of the film, Adrift. Get to know her work, learn about her latest project, inspirations and catch a few tips for filmmakers just starting out.

Tell us a little bit about your project and how long you’ve been working on it. 

Adrift is a testosterone-filled story about the search for identity among brothers during a game of self-induced asphyxiation. Benji is an insecure teenager, tagging along with his older brother John, and John's risk-taking girlfriend Molly. When he joins in an asphyxiation game to impress John, Benji finds existential clarity in the visions that surface. He sees himself falling, drowning, lusting after the unattainable, while frightened John and Molly try to bring him to life. When Benji wakes up, he brings with him a sense of self as the trio heads home. The story exists in two realms:

1. Reality: The action takes place on abandoned beach in south Brooklyn in the early morning in March, 2012;

2. Irreality, or Dream Sequence: It takes place in Benji’s mind’s eye, when “high.”  It’s the condition of oblivion--the place where nothing ever happens for real. This dangerous play reveals character relationships and desires through dreams.

Adrift is a short film that I wrote and directed as my thesis while studying at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. I wrote the script in November 2011, casted in February 2012, we shot in March and finished last July. I always wanted to make a film about trying to be somebody else. At these moments we try to rely on somebody, we find an example for ourselves and build our behavior under the influence of this person. It usually happens when you are young and confused with yourself, but then you understand that trying to be somebody else is not the way you want to live your life.

The choking game chosen as a metaphor for the ways some kids want to escape from reality -- has a similar effect to light drugs, but it’s much more dangerous. In the era of intense competition, many forget to enjoy the simple beauty of nature and the moments of innocence. This setting helped to reveal the characters and brought the unique topic that nobody exposed before.

Is there anyone you'd like to thank for helping out with this film?

I would like to thank my whole cast and crew, along with my professors; especially Bob Giraldi and Amresh Sinha. And of course my parents and my grandmother Raisa, who have been completely supportive of me from the very beginning.

My friend Daisy Bear helped me to develop my idea sharing her personal stories from past. We shot with her an inspirational teaser for “Adrift” in December 2011. My DP Igor Kropotov is also a good friend of mine, and he knew exactly how I want my film to look like. We were a great team – and I want to thank them for being a part of my first film!

How does it feel to have your film part of the NewFilmmakers Screening at the AT&T Center?

I am very happy to be a part of NewFilmmakers! I’ve heard only good reviews about this event and very excited for my West Coast premier!

What inspires you?

I find inspiration in movies, images and books, both classic and contemporary literature. I think nowadays the world is full of freedom, boredom and pleasure, and it gives people the desire experiment with themselves. The means by which people, especially teenagers, find ways to entertain or fascinate themselves have a big influence on my stories as well.

Who are your influences and who do you admire?

In terms of storytelling I love the work of Lars Von Trier, Larry Clark, Gus Van Sant and Joachim Trier.  In terms of cinematography I admire Benoit Debie and Christopher Doyle. Photography and early experimental films of Man Ray, Marsel Duchamp and Fernand Leger also had influence on my work.

What lessons have you learned from the industry so far?

I think the main lesson I've learned is to have confidence in what you are doing no matter what. Being a director is being a leader, and the most important thing is making your crew trust you. Also, for me it’s very important to build certain relationships with the actors. For “Adrift” I casted people who are similar to my characters in their real life, and I’m very happy with the result.

If you could collaborate with anybody, who would it be?

I recently worked on a movie called “SEND” directed by Peter Vack, featuring the wonderful Julia Garner. Peter is one of the few people I share same interests with in movie making. We have similar styles in storytelling, aesthetics and themes. I really enjoyed working with Peter and hope to collaborate with him again.

What is the toughest experience you've ever had to overcome?

Let's see. Losing hours of shooting because of the car accident? Injuring my knee two weeks before production starts? Spending days with insomnia and no appetite? It’s all nothing when your dream finally comes true. A lot of filmmakers have to overcome tough situations, but when you have the result you wanted to – you learn from your mistakes and forget about the obstacles that were on your way.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given to you?

The best advice was to write about something you know, either something you can relate to or something you really care about. Director should be sincere with himself.

What advice would you give to new filmmakers starting out in the industry?

My advice is to be honest with yourselves. Don’t make a film for others, do it for yourself first and foremost. Also, working with people you are comfortable with is one of the things that can help new filmmakers to get a better result.

Where can we expect to see you next?

Next “Adrift” screening is scheduled on August 27th at the Anthology theater in New York, then in September in Moscow, Russia.

Let our readers know where they can find more information about you and your projects.

My website:
My vimeo channel:
My instagram: @bedj

Anything else you'd like to add?

Making my own movie is the best feeling I’ve ever experienced. Better than orgasms, better than good food. Nothing else matters when your idea coming to life right in front of your eyes. It’s not easy, and yes, you struggle, but what else other than struggling can make you feel so much and feel so alive?

For more information, visit:

About the Author

Formerly an editor at Demand Media, writer at Citysearch, The Examiner and proofreader at The Los Angeles Daily News, Christy Buena decided to start Disarray Magazine because she missed writing what she wanted. From hiring writers, to contacting publicists and making assignments, Christy is responsible for the editorial strategy of Disarray Magazine. Get to know the team of talented contributors.
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