Eva Lanska, of Russian origin, wore many artistic hats in her journey to become an award-winning director. The multi-hyphen has a journalism background, wrote five novels and even had a brief singing career and released her own album. But now she’s finally doing what she loves most and has received achievement awards at film festivals around the world. The Harvard Crimson met with Lanska at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival to discuss her journey to directing, advice for young filmmakers, and what it takes to be successful as a woman in a notoriously tough industry.
The Harvard Crimson: You have a diverse artistic background in writing, music, and film. What made you land on the film?
Eva Lanska: I have always wanted to be a filmmaker. It’s my personality, my second skin. I can’t even imagine life without it. When I was five, my mother vividly remembers that I was directing plays with dolls and animals. I had already started to imagine my scenario.
THC: Do you think your writing experience makes you a better director?
EL: The writing is what really made me, what defined my style. This context is extremely useful.
THC: Did you have any industry mentors when you moved into directing?
EL: Not really. I am not copying anyone. It’s hard to find yourself and be yourself, but that’s what being an artist means to me. I try to separate my thinking, my ideas, from everything else. I think it’s important for artists to have this filter.
Of course, I have directors that I like. I like Italian films; Michelangelo Antonioni is one of my favorite directors. Sometimes, before shooting, I’ll go see a few scenes from one of his films that I know by heart.
THC: When you were a kid, did you think you could become a filmmaker? Or did it seem too difficult or too far away?
EL: Honestly, nothing is too difficult. I was always one hundred percent sure of everything I did. When you have a dream, you have to treat it like a one-way ticket – don’t buy a ticket to go back.
THC: Do you have any advice for young filmmakers?
EL: A lot of people, when they start, they say – I’m not good enough, they make mistakes. It is a job without concrete and solid guarantees. But you still have to follow your instincts.
You also have to work really hard. When I was little I would work out – even if I wanted to go out or hang out with my friends, I would choose to work instead. Sometimes you have to choose between fun and your career. The film industry is not easy. Everyone knows each other, and to be accepted into this circle, you have to work really hard.
The biggest advice I have is, if possible, not to accept a closed door. If the door isn’t open, you knock over and over again until you can sit down with that person and get an interview or have a conversation.
Another thing that is very important to me is to allow the public to form their own opinion. I give the information, show the possibilities and give the audience a chance to sit down. But I don’t give people concrete final decisions. Our job is to help people form their own opinions, to make them think.
THC: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered as a director?
EL: You know the low proportion of women making films. It is a very serious problem. If I ask you how many women directors you know in Russia, you will give me a name or two. And the number of directors who receive big budgets is close to zero.
As women, we need to harness our power. We cannot continue to compete with each other; that won’t help. And we are also going to need external support, perhaps even from the government, to support women’s projects. We already trust men; we have to give women the same confidence.
THC: What do you think it takes to be successful in this industry as a woman?
EL: First of all, discipline. Second, be flexible. And honestly, to be professional. Keep your emotions to yourself. Above all, never sacrifice your soul or your body.