“Silver Skates” press conference report
On October 1, 2020, the press conference dedicated to the film «Silver Skates» by debutant filmmaker Mikhail Lokshin took place. The film has become the opening film of the 42nd Moscow International Film Festival. Director Mikhail Lokshin, actors Fedor Fedotov and Kirill Zaytsev, actress Sofya Priss and producer Pyotr Anurov took part in the press conference.
The film takes place in 1899, at Christmas in Saint-Petersburg. Ice-covered rivers and canals of the capital seethe with festive activities. On the eve of the new century, those who should not be destined to meet, come together. They are people from different worlds: Matvey, the son of a lamplighter, whose only treasure are his silver-plated skates; Alice is the daughter of a high-ranking official dreaming of science. Each of them has his own difficult life-story, but having accidentally met, they rush forward together in pursuit of their dreams.
«My mum told me the tale “Silver Skates”, set in the 19th century Netherlands, and at some point, I had this idea of shooting a similar story, but about Saint-Petersburg, with its system of rivers and canals that we adore. A similar, but completely new story, with its main characters not brother and sister, but two young people from very different walks of life. I offered the brilliant screenwriter Roman Kantor to write the story, Misha [Mikhail Lokshin] joined in and also participated in developing the script. Later on, Leonid Emilyevich Vereshchagin, our country’s best producer and our dear friend, supported the project,» producer Pyotr Anurov told journalists about the pre-production process.
Director Mikhail Lokshin noted that he was inspired by the Dutch painters while developing the visual language of the film.
«We were searching for a new image of the city, a bit of an outside look. It’s not an idealized Saint Petersburg. For us, this city contains two worlds – that of slums and the other, of aristocracy — and they are present in the picture. Also, we know the paintings of the Dutch canals, but found out that there are similar works showing the 19th century Saint Petersburg, with markets and roads on ice. Seems winters were harsh back then. We even found a 1840 painting showing a racecourse on ice, and thought of building one for the film, but didn’t do it in the end,» Lokshin said.
The film's script was quick to be written, but the shooting was a bumpy ride. The winter in Saint Petersburg turned out to be very warm and almost snowless.
«Until March, we didn't get a single frosty week for the ice to freeze. We had to set up wooden platforms on the surface of 7000 square meters, and the platforms were supposed to be frozen, but even that had to wait until at least one week with temperatures below —5 degrees Celsius. Russian Emergency Ministry helped us with all that,» Anurov said.
However, according to Mikhail Lokshin, the weather became ideal for the shooting in March, with «the perfectly frozen Neva river».
«I think that we managed to capture the beauty of the winter Saint-Petersburg in the end,» the director emphasized.
A lot was shot in the pavillion and was later edited with VFX. For the shooting in the Mikhailovsky castle's yard, a set of the Imperial skating rink was built, and the locals were attracted to it. The film features outdoor scenes too, with the characters skating on the ice of Moika and Fontanka rivers. Part of the shooting took place at the House of Science, at Marble and Gatchina palaces, at the Vitebsk train station.
Despite the film being set in the 19th century, the film is relevant now, filmmakers believe.
«When we started discussing this story with Roman Kantor, he said straightaway that a fairy tale is fine and dandy, but we should make a film about the present. The story shows not only social inequality and marxism, it contains a lot of topics that are relevant today. And we make movies about us anyway I think. Regardless of the costumes and setting, we would like the story to resonate with today,» Pyotr Anurov said.
Debutant actors Fedor Fedotov and Sofya Priss starred as main characters. They are both from Saint-Petersburg.
«For me, it has been a fantastic story since day one, when I met Mikhail. I came to Moscow for the casting, and the tired director didn't even look at me… until I said I was a hockey player. I had been playing hockey even before entering the theatre institute. And I treated this opportunity of starring in a movie with skating involved as a golden chance and an absolute miracle! I wrote all the events down in my acting diary. Every day taught me something different. The team was incredible, the process was fantastic. It's been an unforgettable time,» Fedotov said.
Sofia Priss admitted that she came to the casting a few times, and later on discussed the 19th century with the director, but her only screen test was with Fedor.
«The preparations were really serious. I was a theatre student at the time, and there were certain studies-related issues, difficulties with my professor at the Saint-Petersburg theatre institute. In the end, though, it worked just fine: I managed to come to figure skating lessons between my classes, and we rehearsed a lot, both before and during the shooting,» the actress noted.
The film didn't feature emerging actors only, though: experienced actor Kirill Zaytsev starred as the prince policeman Trubetskoy.
«When we started developing my character with Mikhail, I wasn't going to make a villain of him, and I think that we succeeded. Princes didn't usually go work in the police forces, it was beneath their dignity, but we had the idea that Trubetskoy is this very emotional person, intelligent, handsome, he skates, he reads poetry. However, he is explosive and often makes mistakes,» Zaytsev said.
Also, actor Sergey Koltakov, who died in September, played one of his last roles in the film.
«We are sad that we weren't able to show him the picture. He played this role brilliantly, despite being very ill,» Mikhail Lokshin noted.
Actor Fedor Fedotov reminisces that working with Koltakov was incredible.
«He was both professional and very witty. It was an absolute actor's pleasure to watch him live in the role, from the first to the last second in the frame, all day long,» Fedotov said.