Finding people who are completely dedicated to their careers can often be difficult. We had the opportunity to speak with Aisultan Seitov, a young student who is truly dedicated to his passion. His short thesis film, “The Jackal,” recently earned a Best Director Award at the Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival.
Aisultan, why did you choose the Filmmaking program at New York Film Academy?
I’m from Astana, Kazakhstan. At first I wanted to enter the local State University and become an engineer. And filmmaking was just my hobby until I won a state grant, which allowed me to study at NYFA.
Everything started when my school teacher made a video about our class activities. At the end of each week we waited to watch it and got great pleasure from viewing it. In high school I took part in international film competitions and I was among the winners two years in a row. I got an e-mail from NYFA that they were coming to our city. When I learned about the competition for a state grant, I prepared my project — it was a horror film. I always dreamed of studying at NYFA and it came true!
Tell us about the educational process. Do you have any favorite instructors? Have you had any difficulties?
I have studied at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus for five weeks. I like all subjects and instructors. The three year BFA program at the New York Film Academy allowed me to study for my first year in New York, and the second and third years in Los Angeles.
It was difficult for me to adapt to the local mentality. Everything was different for me. At first I missed my motherland, but I think it’s usual for a foreign student. I hardly made contacts with other students, but as time passed, it became easier for me.
Also, in the beginning it seemed strange for me to learn about the need for permits to shoot outdoors, but now I know that it’s the part of the process.
Aisultan, tell us about your film, “The Jackal,” which won an award at the Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival. How did the idea come about?
I had to shoot my thesis project. At first I wanted to create a thriller in New York. Then I realized that if I did this it wouldn’t be as good as I wanted. And the quality was principal for me. I always dedicate myself to my business and try to do my best.
When I came back to Kazakhstan and met with my friends, I was shocked, they seemed so different. They stopped following their dreams. They had lost their ambitions. And the fight against this system became the main idea of my film.
I always try to do something new. I was lucky to get on board one of the best DP in Kazakhstan, Azamat Dulato. We shot project in the outskirts of Alma-Ata. To experiment, this time we made the whole film in one shot. Of course we had some challenges, it was a nasty day, and only half of the extras were present. We didn’t have a large budget. Almost all the money we spent was for the camera rent.
Who or what inspires you?
Family conflicts are always in my work, but I want to try all genres, because it would be new experiences for me. I am fond of Wes Anderson’s and David Fincher’s films. And of course my inspiration is from simple things. I started to appreciate my friends, my motherland. Different things inspire me. For example, the architecture of old buildings. As I said, my school teacher played an important role in my life as well. My good friend and musician, Max Korzh, taught me to follow my dream. Also, since childhood I have been fond of Steve Jobs, his outlook influenced my personality.
Where would you like to work?
It’s difficult to answer this question now. Soon I may work in Russia or the Ukraine. This summer I visited a lot of new cities and met many interesting people in the industry. I want to live in America and work on projects all over the world. It’s wonderful to travel and do what you like most of all.
Aisultan, what advice would you give to someone who is beginning the Filmmaking program?
It’s important to watch at least one film a day. If you want to create films you should watch them. It is necessary to work hard, with passion. It’s better to create projects that you like. I am a lazy person, but when it is all about my projects, I’ll do the impossible and do it the best way.
New York Film Academy thanks Aisultan Seitov for his time. We wish him success in his creative career and are confident he’ll be receiving more awards for his upcoming films.