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Day Watch: How this seminal CGI film sparked a revolution
Nearly a decade after this international hit focused attention on Russian filmmakers, producer Evgeny Telegin gives insight to the process.

The art of filmmaking evolves but often does so in bursts. While great storytelling is always at the heart of groundbreaking films, it's often the technological advances which offer new possibilities to the creators of these productions to communicate their tales in new ways.

One of the most notable examples of this is in Timur Bemambetov's iconic 2006 Russian film Day Watch. This film displays components which make it highly unique: the writer/director's signature vision, the emergence of CGI in modern filmmaking, and a stark contrast to former Soviet films and the production process.

Watching this film will give you an idea as to why it was such a hit at the box office (earning more than ten times the production budget; a huge budget for a Russian film at the time) but understanding how such a success was created is best perceived through the eyes and words of producer Evgeny Telegin who served as producer on Day Watch.

More than a decade after this ground breaking film, Day Watch and Timur's Bazelevs Production created the modern template for action films in Russia and beyond. Fox Searchlight Pictures noticed this and obtained US distribution rights for Day Watch, causing Hollywood to take notice and obtain Timur as Director for such acclaimed films as the Oscar-Nominated Wanted, Paramount Pictures distributed Ben Hur (with Academy-Award-Winner Morgan Freeman), and others. 

It's not often that you can pinpoint a moment in which an industry changes; Day Watch does so in an obvious and definable manner. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in the 90s, Russia had not seen a return to epic big budget films. Moreover, there was a tone in films under the Soviet Union that Day Watch would break away from. The precursor film (2004's Night Watch) would begin this but Timur defined it with the 2006 follow up. The film was the perfect marriage of daring storytelling, technological innovations, and the public's readiness for something new; in many ways this mirrored the success of Star Wars in the 70's United States.

Telegin recognized that things were changing and that he was in the midst of a great opportunity. He recalls, "It quickly became obvious that we were all working on something great and revolutionary. It wasn't easy because we had to figure out a new system of working. CG was very new at this time and it required a manner of 'seeing' and preparing in advance that did not exist prior to this period in filmmaking. For these type of tasks, you really need to understand the whole process of production and be able to see five steps ahead because a loss of time in this process costs a lot of money. I would constantly analyze and report to Timur about where we could tweak or improve the process to conserve time and money to be directed where it could be more beneficial. It was a very hard project because Timur basically had to build this system of filming from scratch. After the Soviet Union stopped to exist Russia didn't produce anything like this and, although there was a film industry, no one did such projects with these kinds of special effects. The bar was raised high!"

It's important to note that the system and manner which was used to create Day Watch was completely separate from that which was taking place in Hollywood in 2005. A decade later, via hindsight, it's obvious that what was created for Day Watch was a system that would apply well in both Russian and US film industries. Upon its release, Day Watch was not only the biggest film of the year in Russia but its acclaim led Fox Searchlight Pictures to obtain US distribution rights for it. In addition to the film's award for Best Russian Movie at the Russian National Movie Awards (2006), Day Watch swept the MTV Movie Awards Russia with six wins (including Best Film) and numerous other nominations including Best Film at the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA.

Reminiscing over this pivotal moment in Russian filmmaking, Evgeny Telgin remarks, "I think the world finally saw a product that was made in Russia by Russian filmmakers and it met the modern criteria of a creative and commercial blockbuster. It helped Russia to bring the attention of international sponsors and big production companies. The movie had a direct influence on the market, especially in regards to CGI effects. Day Watch became an example of how things should be done and how to shoot/combine with CGI. For me personally, it led to a lot of attention and work. The recognition was immensely beneficial to my career but more importantly it sparked a new wave of films and production techniques that I am incredibly proud to have been a part of."

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