In 2013 Dzmitry Natalevich graduated from European Humanities University (EHU) undergraduate program “Visual and Cultural Studies”. Currently Dzmitry resides in Estonia, where he is engaged into sound and cinema industry.
In this special interview Dzmitry reveals details about his working experience on a cinema set, post-production and film industry in the Baltic states.
Dzmitry, you finished undergraduate program “Visual and Cultural Studies” in 2013. What do you do now and is your job correlates to what you studied at EHU?
Now I am engaged into cinema production as a freelancer - I am sound engineer on set and on the stage of post-production; I also record and edit sound effects. I believe that my work is closely related to Visual and cultural studies, what used to be just an abstract "theory" has become an ocean, in which I am immersed. At EHU I studies courses about cinema and partly about the role of sound in cinema. Again we examined cultural sides of cinema, which is not enough to make a film, though helps to the perceive contents of a film much deeper. Even the courses about (audio)visual culture are helpful on practice. Interestingly only now I become more aware of the knowledge I gained in the University and only now I truly seize some of the ideas, theories, which seemed less important earlier. It is unfortunate that some of my colleagues in cinema production do not have such background.
You were engaged into sound-production and post-production in EHU MediaHub. Was this experience helpful?
I gained wonderful experience in MediaHub, where I worked in a “radio-studio” and fulfilled several sound projects. Work in a TV-studio required skills to combine sound and video and it brought me closer to sound engineering. Although this training was far from professional it influenced my creative development and helped to enroll into graduate studies.
You have long been interested in sound engineering and work with audio and visuals. When did your professional interest form? What or who had the greatest impact (people, events, authors?)
I have been interested in sound engineering since school bench - as long as in music. Music and my involvement into various music bands brought me closer to sound. At some point in life the interest in cinema and all kinds of creative professions intensified. And rather than pursuing a sound engineer profession in the Belarusian State Academy of Arts, I entered European Humanities University”Visual and Cultural Studies”, which sounded even more engaging. To my surprise and happiness, I could turn it into “Audio-visual Studies”. Certainly, Almira Ousmanova helped me choose precisely the direction that was so interesting to me - sound, and connect it to the cinema. Throughout my studies Almira supported me and my interest, was the leader of my course and diploma theses, and was very helpful about enrolling into graduate studies.Thus, my research of the “visual” ranged from music in silent films to sound design in the Soviet animation. Due to the lack of courses related to sound and Sound Studies,I had to discover adequate texts myself.
After EHU you continued studies in Tallinn University, Estonia. Was it difficult to enroll into it? Were the knowledge and skills obtained in Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School?
It was not difficult to enroll. It was challenging to do it in time and find a grant, which would cover financial costs. I simultaneously submitted my papers to Aalto University in Finland. It was even more ambitious because they had entrance exams. And I was almost accepted, but I was not able to find a financial support. EHU has fostered critical thinking in me and gave confidence in my rights, including student rights. In the Baltic School I occasionally had to “fight” for the improvement of my course. Advantages and disadvantages of EHU partly served as a basis for this “fight”. Academic writing skills, acquired at EHU, inspired me to write a research paper at Baltic School, while I could simply submit a creative project - create sound design to a short film.
Why did you choose Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School?
As I mentioned before, I did not manage to find financial support live in Finland (where education is free). Unfortunately, there are few Universities in Europe, which offer English language courses dedicated to sound and particularly cinema sound. There is plenty of them in England, but the cost of studies is enormous for non-EU citizens. I chose a joint programs of the Baltic School and the University of Tartu. The University of Tartu offers a special grant from The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia for the students from Belarus and some other countries, who enroll into English language graduate programs. This opportunity motivated me to choose the Baltic School. Thanks to grant support I managed to live and study in Tallinn for two years and concentrate on my specialization.
What brightest episode from your career you could share with us?
Each new film becomes the brightest episode. With each new project you feel that you grow professionally, and you always make new discoveries and feel happy when you look back and acknowledge how much you evolved. The projects become more complex, interesting, the team - more professional. An important point in my development was the opportunity to teach a course on sound engineering at the Baltic School. I enjoy teaching and the opportunity to share my discoveries with students. Moreover, it motivates me to develop professionally.
Where do you live now?
I'm living in Tallinn. I decided to extend my graduate studies to write my Master’s thesis. Here I also established my company called Sound Shot to facilitate my work as a freelancer. I plan to live in Estonia in the nearest future because I already have certain contacts, clients, and in cinema industry it’s not easy to re-establish previous bonds. For such a small country the cinema industry is very well developed. I will do my best to stay here despite the colds...
How often do you visit Belarus?
I return to Belarus when I have some spare time - usually in summer and during Christmas holidays. Hopefully, it is close.
What are your future plans? Maybe there are your dream companies to work at or projects to implement?
My major plan is to relocate to New Zealand, buy soft and fluffy sheep and send warm socks and mittens in our northern countries. So far I will develop my own ears and the ears of directors and producers with whom I work. Well, and I will try to engage into large and serious projects that require much effort. I am very interested in Sonic Arts and sound installations, but had not time yet to take it seriously. If there's something left from my academic spirit, I will pursue post-graduate degree and continue my audio-visual research. I do not mind working with the Hollywood guys, because I like their approach to making cinema and especially the sound, even despite the contents of films themselves. And maybe one day I will a director of my own film with the best sound. About sheep...