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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best creativity magazine in the UK“, filmmaker Diana Ringo shares the inspiration behind her new film, 1984, and the creative work that went into making it.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Diana Ringo about her life and career, what inspired her to start working in the film industry, and the story of her new film, 1984.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
I am a composer and film director from Helsinki, Finland. For many years I also lived in Vienna, Austria. Since childhood I have loved music and played the piano and classical music has influenced me greatly as a composer.
Now I have finished work on my second feature film, titled “1984”, which I have produced, directed and composed the score for. The film was released on 15 November 2023 and the soundtrack is also available to listen online.
When did you first realize you wanted to make films?
Since I was a teenager I wanted to become a professional film composer. The film composers who have inspired me the most are Ennio Morricone and John Williams. Although I worked as a composer for films made by other directors and I enjoyed the work, I knew that I had to also continue developing my own projects and produce films myself. I always wished to work on films where the music is a lead character.
What is your favourite thing about films?
My favorite thing about film is that cinema is a combination of all arts, literary, visual, musical – it is the ultimate art form.
What classes or research did you take to support you in your filmmaking career?
In 2016, I got into the organization of film festivals which was a very important experience to me which has greatly broadened my horizons regarding independent filmmaking. I have gotten to know many inspiring people from all over the world.
What was your first film industry job?
My first job was composing the score to the 2018 film “Million Loves in Me” by Sampson Yuen. Also I composed music for several short films. My scores received awards at several film festivals, including LAFA and WICA Los Angeles.
What was your most recent film industry job?
My directorial debut was the dystopian film “Quarantine” made in 2021 starring Anatoly Bely and Aleksandr Obmanov – I produced and directed it. It was in the long-list as the Best Non-English Film at the 2022 Golden Globes.
Tell me a favourite experience in your career. Something that stands out in your memories and makes you want to find more experiences like it.
Working with brilliant actors is always an exhilarating experience for me. It is very special to have a strong connection with actors who end up truly living their roles and giving their best performances. Also seeing the finished work on the big screen is important for me.
What was your toughest experience in your filmmaking career?
I started working as a director during the COVID-19 lockdown and there were lots of restrictions, which made working very difficult, however it also inspired me to write the screenplay to my feature directorial debut “Quarantine”. When producing films it is also important to be good at organizing and planning, which is not always so easy when working on a lower-budget.
What is the title of your current project?
My latest work is my sci-fi feature film “1984” based on the novel by George Orwell. I have directed it and composed the score.
I was inspired by various directors when making the film, starting from Fritz Lang to Terry Gilliam. I have had the privilege to film a “1984” adaptation during this milestone year of Orwell’s 120th birth anniversary.
Orwell’s novel continues to resonate with readers across generations all over the world as his story of the perils of totalitarianism and the choices we make regarding the safeguarding of our freedoms remains as pressing today as when he originally penned the novel.
What inspired you to make 1984?
I first read “1984” as a teenager and was always impressed by the novel. However I always found the film adaptations somewhat lacking. A couple of years ago I got the idea to make a modernized version of the novel combined with some elements of “We” by Evgeniy Zamyatin (which was the original template for the novel “1984”).
I aimed to create an unforgettable cinematic experience that delves into the horrifying consequences of totalitarianism and the resilience of the human spirit.
What is the main conflict of 1984?
My film tells the story of a mathematician who finds himself torn between two opposing worlds; on one side lies the controlled existence dictated by the State, where art and imagination are condemned as diseases, on the other side is the spark of forbidden love and the discovery of a secret resistance movement. As he grapples with his feelings and moral choices, he must decide whether to conform to the oppressive system or join the resistance and risk everything for a chance at freedom.
How long did you spend in production?
Shooting period lasted around 1 month.
How long did you spend in post production?
Post-production took more than a year because there was lots of VFX work, as my film features lots of surrealistic and fantastic imagery. Also the film score took some time to get it right as the heart and soul of “1984” lies in the film’s original soundtrack. Music has always been a powerful storytelling tool for me, the soundtrack heightens the characters’ struggles, amplifying their defiance, hope, and resilience in the face of oppression.
Did you work with a writer, or write 1984 yourself? Would you do the same again?
I always write my screenplays myself, and for now I plan to continue working this way.
How did you find your cast and what made you choose them?
The lead actor Aleksandr Obmanov already starred in my previous film “Quarantine”. I was very happy with his performance and was convinced that he had the exact quality needed to portray the role of the lead character in my new film. The other actors I got to know at the film premiere of my previous film and from various social networks. My film has an ensemble cast – all of the actors in my film are high-level professionals who did incredible work.
How big was your crew? Would you choose the same size again?
I did pretty much everything myself, it was a minimal crew. I enjoy having a hands-on approach and wearing multiple hats – it allows me to maintain creative control. I even did all the cinematography myself. Regarding editing I think that it is essential for me to edit my own films since it is specifically in post-production when a film project truly becomes a real film.
How did you find your locations?
I rented various professional film studios. I also had to shoot certain scenes using a green-screen. Only a few scenes were shot outdoors.
Tell me some career goals. What would you like to achieve?
I wish to continue making feature films, evolving as a filmmaker and embracing new challenges. The power of visual storytelling continues to captivate me, and I am eager to embark on new artistic endeavors. I have several screenplays which I am now preparing.
Tell me something you were surprised by, something you had never realized about being a filmmaker.
I ended up surprising myself when I did my new film! The film wound up having an even bigger scale than I expected. What was important was that I got brilliant performances from my cast. I worked on everything step-by-step and it gradually evolved into a rather complicated film running 133 minutes.
What are words of advice you have for other aspiring filmmakers?
Do not wait too long to make your dreams come true, find some people who believe in your work, ignore the nay-sayers and do not let anyone make you feel discouraged. Everything is possible and talent is the thing that truly matters, not big money. If you are an independent filmmaker with a unique vision, you have more freedom of expression than any big-time studio film director.
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