It has been a busy few months for Dubai filmmaker Kirill Kripak.
In November, he won the Best Film award at the Dubai 48-Hour Film Project for his horror short Shah Mat, which he co-wrote and directed with Razan Takesh.
He received the award in December at the Dubai International Film Festival, where he also placed third in the Samsung Short Film Competition with Once Upon a Circle.
We caught up with Kripak after he returned from the international finals of the 48-Hour Film Project last month at the competition’s Filmapalooza Festival in Seattle, where Shah Mat – a creepy psychological thriller featuring a villain reminiscent of Saw’s Jigsaw – was shown alongside the other 147 city finalists.
It did not win the top honours, which went to RIP Productions from Cote d’Azur for Marginaux, but Kripak was positive about the experience.
“I went really to see what other filmmakers from around the world could do in 48 hours,” he says. “You really see what’s possible. I didn’t really go as a business opportunity or a networking event, just for the experience.”
Kripak has been making films in the UAE for about five years. We last talked to him in 2015 after his sci-fi short Project: Horizon won the international My Rode Reel award.
He says things have got more complicated for aspiring filmmakers since then.
“There are a lot of new laws,” he says. “In 2015 it was pretty easy to get permits to shoot at about 50 locations all around Dubai, but if you look at the 2016 48-Hour project, that was down to about 10 places.”
Kripak admits he is frustrated that even some of Dubai’s biggest and best-known tourist attractions and landmarks seem uninterested in the free publicity they might get by allowing independent filmmakers to feature them in their shoots.
“I just don’t understand it,” he says. “Obviously with a film like Mission: Impossible [Ghost Protocol], there are lots of Dubailandmarks – but that doesn’t really help small filmmakers.
“It’s a whole different level when these big movies come in. They do their shoot and, even though they might be here a long time, very little even ends up in the film, sometimes.
“Even with a film like Furious 7, a lot of the Abu Dhabi scenes weren’t even shot in Abu Dhabi.
“There isn’t really any outlet for small independent filmmakers here. The 48-Hour Film Project is the one thing that lets people just go out and make something – and Samsung too, now, I guess. Otherwise, there’s nothing really going on.”
Despite the challenges, Kripak is not giving up. Shah Mat has been accepted to the Phoenix Film Festival, and he still hopes that he might get a chance to turn Project: Horizon into a feature-length film.
“I’d originally planned on the film being a feature,” he says.
“Now I have a full-length feature script, after multiple drafts, and have made an extended [seven-and-a-half-minute] version, but so far haven’t found anyone really passionate about VFX [visual effects].
“I don’t really have the budget so I’m looking for someone who’s passionate about the project.”
As is the case with many aspiring filmmakers, finding that all-important initial investment and balancing a time-hungry filmmaking habit alongside a day job are among the biggest challenge Kripak faces.
“It might end up being the case where I have to drop the feature-film plan, but I’m still on the lookout for anyone that really loves sci-fi and is passionate,” he says.
“If these latest awards help set that up, then great. It’s a long-term project I’m committed to.”