I understand why the ever-pressing creative principle write what you know is important, and I understand that perhaps it applies more to songwriting and fiction than the visual arts, but I think this quote from Ignatiy Vishnevetsky regarding his debut film Ellie Lumme is a refreshing challenge to that notion nonetheless:
Well, I think it’s more fun when something doesn’t come naturally and you have to put a certain degree of effort into it. I’ve made this, and now we’re working on this other project that I’ve done some preliminary work on, so maybe this is just my approach, but I think it’s really important to always cast someone against type, to get some distance — this is just purely dealing with actors — to create distance between the character and the performer. Because then they have to cross that distance. I mean, if you’re playing someone exactly like you, you’re just going to be you. But if you’re playing someone different from yourself, you’re going to have to sit down and think and imagine this person’s world. It comes down to things as basic as appearance. You know, Stephen wears glasses, and it was very specific that his character wouldn’t, just to make it uncomfortable. I think it’s important for the actor to look in the mirror and have someone else look back at them. And I think that’s how I approach everything. I think when you set your goal outside your comfort zone, then you really have to figure out how you’re going to get there. You have to figure out, how do these people live? How do they spend their day? How do they organize their space? And I think that’s where the really interesting creative work happens — in the journey from Point A, which is you, to Point B, which is outside your area of expertise. I have a very limited area of expertise, and I swore to myself I would never make a movie about, y’know, Russian immigrants who become film critics. But the funny thing, now that I think about it, is that the most personal stuff comes in during the process of resolving the disconnect between yourself and your subject. Because you’re constantly drawing on your own life experiences to figure out how other people see the world.