Free Spirit

Meet The New Wave / Diana Olifirova


Free Spirit

Meet The New Wave / Diana Olifirova

Filmography (so far):

Features: Liars & Cheats (2019). Feature Doc: London Symphony (2017). TV Pilot: Lady Parts (2019) (for C4). Shorts: Strange Cities Are Familiar (2018), Leash (2018), All Of Me (2017)

When did you discover you wanted to be a cinematographer?

I had finished school. I loved photography and was seeking higher education in that field, but there was none in Ukraine. So I joined the cinematography BA just to be able to do more stills initially.

Where did you train?

Cinematography BA, Karpenko-Kary University of Film & TV in Ukraine

Cinematography MA, NFTS (National Film & Television School) in the UK

What are your favourite films, and why?

Playtime (1967, dir. Jacques Tati, DPs Jean Badal, Andréas Winding) - a great example of pure cinema where emotion is achieved by a clever mix of cinematography, editing, acting and music.

Carol (2015, dir. Todd Haynes, DP Edward Lachman ASC) - a poetic, deep, beautiful story that is carefully, thoughtfully observed.

 The Cranes Are Flying (1957, dir. Mikhail Kalatozov, DP Sergey Urusevsky) - an exceptional, superbly crafted drama, bolstered by stunning cinematography and impassioned performances. Very inspiring!


What's the best advice you were ever given?

"Be patient and don't give up" - from everyone, all the time.

Who are your DP/industry heroes?

Vittorio Storaro AIC ASC - a very talented, strong, bold and imaginative DP who cares about cinematography a lot.

Daniel Landin BSC - exceptional work in commercials and drama, impeccable taste and way of thinking.

Matthew Libatique ASC - his work and energy always inspire and surprise me. I love the way he transforms his style from project to project.

Have you won any awards or received any nominations?

I have shot over 40 shorts that have travelled all over the world. I won the BSC Emerging Cinematographers Award in 2017 for short film All Of Me, and was nominated the following year for Strange Cities Are Familiar.

What's your proudest moment?

Winning my award. Having my film shown to the BSC panel felt like a big deal already, and it was topped-up by the screening at the legendary Regent Street Cinema around my peers and best people in the industry. What bliss!


What's the worst knock-back/rejection you ever had?

Ironically, whilst judging the NFTS graduation films with the panel a couple of years ago, I received an e-mail from the Home Office that my Exceptional Talent visa application was not approved. Devastating! I've managed to get lots of different visas since, but that moment made me truly doubt all my achievements. Be patient and don't give up, remember?

What have been your best/worst moments on-set?

Best: was when I operated for Daniel Landin BSC on a Paralympics commercial and had to shoot a stunt on a massive zoom of someone going down a ramp at pace. I nailed it but it was terrifying as I was on my own on a massive cherry picker.

Worst: a recent commercial. An 18-hour day, with no lunch or time to sleep before the next.

What was the biggest challenge on your latest production?

Running around the sandy beaches of Rye backwards handheld with a 7-year-old while being ill. Looks great though.


Tell us your most hilarious faux pas?

I felt very proud to show my favourite film to a director, although I realised while watching it how much my taste has changed in last couple of years and how terrible and cheesy that movie actually was!

Away from work, what are your greatest passions?

Dancing, jazz singing, Japanese sword martial arts, gym, cooking.

What one piece of kit could you not live without?

Two! SE ND grads and my sense of humour!

Which films are you most proud of to date?

Strange Cities Are Familiar. This film truly makes me feel and think. It has a lot of pauses and very carefully considered shots. We had a very short time to prep with director Saeed Taji Farouky, but we made the most out of it.


What's the weirdest place you've ever shot in?

I shot a war drama in Hengdian World Studios in the middle of China where there was no coffee, hundreds of people and only four spoke English. When the translator asked me on the first day "What does diffusion mean?" I got prepared for the worst!

What's the hardest shot/thing you've had to light/frame?

A 9-minute-long, one take shot for the short Exit To Stage (2019) for the ARRI Trinity Challenge, as we only had eight hours to rehearse, light and shoot.

Tell us your hidden talent/party trick?

Dance like nobody is looking.

In the entire history of filmmaking, which film would you love to have shot?

Amélie (2001, dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet, DP Bruno Delbonnel AFC ASC)


What are your current top albums?

1492 by Vangelis, The English Riviera by Metronomy, The Popcorn by James Brown… and all the jazz standards, live.

Can you tell us your greatest extravagance?

Playing with my style on a day off.

What are the best/worst things about being a DP?

Best: Moments when the composition feels just right. Seeing the happy eyes of the director - rewarding. Having a laugh with the crew - priceless. Camerimage!

Worst: Canned projects. Missed grading sessions. Bad scheduling and overtime

Give us three adjectives that best describe you and your approach to cinematography?

Open, observant and spirited.

If you weren't a DP, what job would you be doing now?

A housewife?

What are your aspirations for the future?

To shoot more drama that requires a great involvement of cinematography and careful development of visual language. Narrative driven commercials inspire me a lot too. And maybe to shoot one of the next Mission: Impossible films!

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