A shared advocacy for non-linearity and twisting stereotypes.
Alyssa Trawkina is a Ukrainian-born director and cinematographer based in New York. Her work exhibits a conceptual approach for creating sensual audio-visual atmospheres. Fusing her former accolades as a media technologist, digital strategist, and art director with a passion for expressing music through moving image, Trawkina curates narratives with visual intentionality and humor. Her films are playful and delicately crafted, and throughout them all is a shared advocacy for nonlinearity and twisting stereotypes.
Can you talk briefly about your background, and how you got into filmmaking?
Sure, I had many professions throughout the years. From programmer, designer, art director to building up a start-up. I tried on a lot of skins but repetitively ended up feeling limited. I sought a profession that empowered me to utilize a bandwidth of contrasting abilities that I am passionate about. Somewhere in the process of being in my head too much about it I decided to focus on working with my body instead and that somehow unlocked this calling. As weird as it sounds, I eventually woke up one day and just knew which direction to navigate. To this day, I prepared myself for the world of film. I started gathering experience on sets and googled my way through multiple obstacles of shooting my first projects, mainly as a director. And from there on, curiosity and really enjoying the entire process just kept me going. I wanted to understand the technical side better so I did a year-long cinematography program. And since then I’m doing both and I love being able to switch between the different responsibilities and focuses of being in the role of a director versus the DoP.
Alyssa Trawkina on set for J!MMY – Casio
Do you feel like your experience as a cinematographer helped you when approaching the director’s chair? In what ways?
Absolutely, in many many ways. It helped a lot with being able to communicate better with other departments. First of all, knowing exactly how to bring the imaginary idea in your head into life and having the language to formulate it clearly is key to just being more efficient. It made me more confident in what I’m doing and it just saves so much time. Als more fun. And the other way around, knowing how it is to be in a directors mind helped me a lot bringing other people’s vision into life and being more patient, team-oriented and understanding in general when it’s not my show to run.
Alyssa Trawkina on set for K – Out of luck
«Knowing exactly how to bring the imaginary idea in your head into life and having the language to formulate it clearly is key.»
What is your creative process like?
It’s always a bit different. Sometimes I’m inspired by something that I want to try and incorporate into a project and sometimes the project or song (if it’s a music video) inspires the idea and approach. It’s like weaving a net of visual and conceptual and logistical aspects into each other. And usually I plan out everything rigorously but lately I learned to also enjoy working more spontaneously, go with the flow and then weave it together at the end in post production. Also all depends on who you are working with.
«Another challenge is simply getting the best results while working with so many different people.»
What are usually the biggest challenges you're facing in the filmmaking process? And what are the easiest parts?
The easiest for me is usually the creative and conceptual part of coming up with the idea, getting into the details and putting it down. The biggest challenge has always been communicating it to others in the way I see it in my head. As I said I got better with it but I’m still learning and sometimes I hesitate being clear because I need to try it out first. Another challenge is simply getting the best results while working with so many different people and becoming more intuitive in how to adapt your approach to whoever you are dealing with.
What’s next for you?
Film it will be. And I do want to stay in the world of music-related content and commercials. Can’t wait for the next projects this year, trying new things and meeting more people. I hope I’ll be able to drag my crew along into those projects and get to also work with more women hopefully. That is in fact quite rare.
Stills of K – Out of luck
As a young and promising director and DoP, what advice can you give to aspiring filmmakers in general?
Honestly, just do. Fake it till you make it. Get comfortable with faling too. And money shouldn’t be your motivation. It will come naturally but you will learn the most and get way further if your motivation is passion and the experience itself. I feel like this is a community where the favours you do can come back to you in the most magical, unexpected ways.