Filmmaker Lena Jan on "Mighty Profile Stories"
Elena Roganyan [Lena Jan]
I am an Armenian descendant, born in Moscow and currently living in the UK, London. My main focus is Directing, I also work as a Producer and Cinematographer.
How did you find your path in filmmaking?
I remember the moment when I was 16 sitting on the roof of my house in Moscow, enjoying the view during the night. I knew then and there that I must become a film director. It felt unachievable, and at that age, I did not know how to approach it.
My family was not very supportive, I was always told off and explained that it's just a dream. I cannot blame them, such a career path in Russia is mostly impossible unless you have money, power and connections.
Being a very shy and timid child, at that time already a teenager, I obeyed my parents and never spoke of my dream again. I was afraid even to think about it.
Who or what inspired you?
Years passed. I went to University to study Linguistics. When I was finishing a Bachelor Degree, I was lucky to travel to London with my University. I met a fantastic person who taught me about positive thinking, which became my personal mantra. This person happened to be a documentary filmmaker. That trip changed me. A couple of years passed during which I sacrificed relationships and comfort, family and prosperous career. I had to make a hard choice and lose everything to find myself, real me. Here I am, in London, a filmmaker.
Who was the first person who believed in you?
It was during those summer nights I was spending on my roof and speaking on the phone to my beloved friend Asya Muradian. She had moved to Toronto, Canada, and I was feeling incredibly lonely. There was no skype or facetime, I used all my money on those phone calls. I told her about my dream. I always knew she'd understand, and she did.
When I was already living in London, I started doing a bit of editing for a documentary filmmaker Mark Guard. He believed in me, encouraged and taught me not to give up.
How do you define success for yourself?
Inner peace. When you finally acknowledge yourself as a human being who can make mistakes, but at the same time learning from them and not giving up. Also, to me, success is an ability to work on what you like. Nowadays a lot of people simply cannot afford this luxury. Therefore I can call myself a successful person as I continue pursuing my dream.
What’s been the most important skill you’ve developed?
I cannot name only one as there are a couple which I think are very important in filmmaking.
First is a positive attitude. I keep repeating to myself that precious mantra, Mark taught me about positive thinking. Nobody wants sad faces around them.
Second is teamwork. I see so many filmmakers who only promote themselves, too self-affected, so it brings a lot of arguments during production work. Filmmaking is teamwork. It is essential to remember and never to take all the credit for the work which was done by your team.
The third is problem-solving. I'd say it's one of the most difficult, but an excellent skill for independent filmmakers, especially on a low-to-no budget approach. You've got to learn how to deal with occurring problems and solve them quickly.
What’s been your greatest challenge?
To start believing in myself. It is hard. People say different things, some people cheer you up, some people are mean. At the starting point, you feel most vulnerable, stressed and timid.
What’s been your greatest reward in the choices you’ve made to do this?
My reward is respect. And I am not speaking about respect from other people. It's my personal respect towards myself as I haven't betrayed my dream and my choice. I wouldn't respect myself if I abandoned this path halfway through just because it's not a pleasant journey.
What would you say to anyone just starting out in what you do?
This path is not the easiest one, and it's better to think twice. It will require a lot of time, effort and sacrifice. Therefore you will need to be prepared for it. However, if you genuinely want to follow it, it's better to do it rather than regretting that you haven't even tried.
What do you want to learn from a community of peers?
A lot of things. From funny personal stories on set to such things as how people in the industry manage to survive through stressful situations. Also, it's interesting to get to know more about the technical side and tricks.
Even some stuff like "How To?" as we are all here at different levels of development and it's nice to share your experience.
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