Max Barskih's Producer Alan Badoev Reveals Secret to Filmmaking Magic (INTERVIEW)

In entering the Kyiv International Exhibition Centre, I am buzzing with excitement at the prospect of seeing Max Barskih in concert three years after last doing so. There's a palpable energy in the venue that starts to build as the show's starting time draws near. But before the show begins, I first approach the tech-island set up in the middle of show floor. Inside there is a staff in place to run the production of the show ranging from pyrotechnics, lighting effects, and the other visual and audio aspects. At the helm of this ship, one man stands tall.

Alan Badoev is Max Barskih's director and producer. As he later explains it, this job is different from the more traditional role of being an artist manager. Badoev is responsible for building the world of 'Max Barskih', famed Ukrainian pop artist. Badoev also directs every music video for whatever singles Barskih chooses to release. While some fans of Barskih flock to Badoev at events due to the professional proximity between the two, my interest in meeting him stems from a love of film and filmmaking in both the technical and artistic aspects.

Though I had previously met Badoev at Barskih's 2015 Stereo Plaza concert, only briefly to ask for a selfie and offer up a few complimentary words for his work, things are different now. In an almost unbelievable turn of events, Badoev seems to have developed a greater awareness of my existence though I don't particularly know how. Once the right opportunity presents itself and Badoev has turned around to face away from the stage, I call out his name, "Alan." Immediately a warm smile lights up his visage and he comes down to greet me where I stand behind the gate separating the crew from the audience.

"I am so jet lagged!" I exclaim with no shortage of disoriented dizziness from having napped immediately prior to coming to the concert. "Of course you are!" He cheerfully responds. A few words are exchanged in which I attempt to convey how happy and grateful I am to be back at another one of their shows. I also ask about the possibility of doing an interview with him. It's presumably a long shot to get someone as high profile as him to agree to a sit-down, but he agrees to set something up with me later.

The show is a spectacular feast for the senses. There's a stacked line-up of Barskih's biggest hits with a few new songs from his upcoming "7" album which he premieres to the public for the first time. There is an intelligently designed colour presentation across the costumes of Barskih and his many back-up dancers (who change outfits more than once), as well as the lighting and retro telephone-booth props that are lowered from the ceiling in the middle of the show. Some numbers have a significant amount of dance choreography and others less so, depending on what best suits the song and how it fits into the overall show. Barskih exudes a warm energy and affection for the audience, repeatedly taking time to speak to them, though the details of these monologues escape me, a non-Russian-speaker.

By the time the show reaches the later stages, Barskih takes even more time to speak to the audience and ask which of his songs they would like for him to sing again before proceeding accordingly. It's easy to forget that the entire show began with a technical malfunction, which Badoev later says was merely due to a problem with a cable. Mishaps can happen for even the best creative teams, but Barskih and co. have no problems resolving the issue and starting the show over from the beginning to ensure that the audience gets exactly what they paid for. When all is said and done, I am more than satisfied.

Last night I went to @max_barskih ‘s latest concert and LET ME TELL YOU some things! I hadn’t been able to make it to another one of his shows since 2015 and it has SUCKED to miss out but this was well worth the wait! Costumes, choreography, tons of dancers, set pieces, pyro, lighting, new songs, and what’s WILD is that the legendary @alanbadoev didn’t waste the opportunity the big screen offered. You thought it was just going to be a multi-cam live feed of what’s on stage? WRONG! Alan served all kinds of camera/visual effects so it was like watching a one/two-hour art film. WHEN WILL YOUR FAVE! 🎬🗣👏🏻 There was a technical problem at the beginning with Max’s mic so once he finished his opening numbers, he left with the dancers so the problem could be fixed. Then he returned and started everything over from the beginning because this is not a team that will let the audience go home without being fully satisfied! THIS is the level I need pop content to be at. Go big, bold, and bombastic! PERIOD! 🤘🏻 #LadyJenevia #Blogger #Blogging #MusicBlogger #MusicBlogging #MaxBarskih #AlanBadoev #МаксБарских #АланБадоев #СделайГромче #Ukraine #Ukrainian #UkrainianPop #PopMusic #Music #Concert #Fashion #Dance #Choreography #Artist #Director #Producer #Entertainment #Media #Promotion #Marketing
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A few days later, I arrive at the address Badoev has sent me at which we will do our interview. The building overlooks the city centre and the space reads less like a stuffy office and more like a luxury penthouse apartment converted to accommodate whatever meetings and other work matters Badoev and his staff require it for. Before Badoev arrives, his assistant asks me some questions about myself and what I intend to ask in my interview. I offer up every assurance that I have no intention of feeding into the exploitative 'clickbait culture' that the majority of contemporary journalism seems to thrive on. There are no trick questions in my long list of notes, and Badoev is free to decline to answer any questions should he decide he doesn't like them. Ultimately, Badoev answers everything I ask with the utmost enthusiasm.

Editor note: The following transcription of questions and Badoev's answers have been modified for clarity.

Though the majority of the questions I have drafted are about filmmaking and the various videos in Badoev's body of work, I can't resist asking why he has agreed to let me interview him in the first place. After all, he is one of the most revered directors of this region, having earned the respect of industry professionals all over Eastern Europe.

Badoev: You always watch and talk about us and it's really a pleasure to me, and a pleasure for Max too because if you're interested it's good for us because it means that our work is going the right way.

How did you get into filmmaking?

Badoev: I studied at the University of Culture in Kyiv. Then when I was 22, I did my first film, "Orange Love". I had producers from L.A. that used to live in Kyiv. They saw my work and asked if I wanted to make a film. I said, "Of course!"

Most of what we see from you is music videos. Some big-name directors start off in music videos and then they move to feature films. What makes you stay in the world of making music videos?

Badoev: I like music very much. I like short stories because it's really not the same as movies. Movies are long stories about one thing. They're quite difficult and really interesting but sometimes when I listen to music, I can't stop imagining a short story. For some directors, it's quite difficult to write short stories. For me it's a challenge I enjoy, to listen to music and do the story.

How did you meet Max Barskih?

Badoev: I met Max on a TV show, it's like X-Factor. It's called "Фабрика Звёзд". We met when I was directing the stage show. I like the music of Max. Every time, I'd imagine some story, some interesting work with him so when the show was over I asked, "Do you want to be my artist and I can be your producer?" So we high-fived and off we went.

How is being an artist's director and producer different from being an artist's manager?

Badoev: It's absolutely different. When you are a producer of an artist, it's not only management of the artist. You do all the work of creating the world of the artist. You create all of the style, story, and legend of this artist, and of course you do the management, but I never do music. The music is all Max. Max writes the text, lyrics, music, and arrangement. When Max gives me new music, I listen and say, "Okay Max, it can be like this." Max listens to my proposal and says, "No! Please no!" Then it's, "Well, okay," and then, "Wow, it's great! Look at me, I'm great!" This is how it all happens.

Can you talk about the "Dance" era and that series of music videos?

Badoev: It was so interesting, funny, unusual, and really difficult. When I listened to "Dance" for the first time, I said, "Wow. You should dance." Max likes to dance and he studied and practiced a lot. But now, Max doesn't like to dance. I think he is so good but he says, "You know, maybe I'm too old for dance." But it's very important to listen to what artists mean. Maybe sometimes he doesn't want to dance because he wants people to listen to something important. But sometimes Max says, "I can dance in this video, I want it!" So I'm happy when he wants to dance, of course. In "По Фрейду" (Barskih's 2014 album), he doesn't dance but it's a really big, artistic work. It's absolutely different videos, different music, Max changes really quick in the music.

But he did do a more contemporary style of dance though for the "Небо" music video in that era.

Badoev: Yeah, it's magical! I like it very much.

I like how there's a distinct style and era with each new album. Do you decide that very early on or does it come later once more songs are out? How does that all come together?

Badoev: Sometimes I listen to one song from the album and see what we need to do. Sometimes, for example with this new album "7", it was really difficult. The whole album is a mix of 1980's and 1990's and I didn't realise what I could do for this music. When we shot the "Berega" music video, I realised the whole concept. For me, it was like a push. When I filmed this video, I said, "This is the style for your album and for our show." Max said it was wonderful, he really loved the style, so I'm really happy.

You also work with TAYANNA. How did you meet her and become her producer?

Badoev: I met Tayanna many, many years ago. I understood that she has a really beautiful, powerful voice. I wanted to help her because not everyone has a voice like hers. When we met and tried to do something together, it was "9 Lives," the first song. We started and never stopped because it's a powerful expression for me.

Sometimes in your music videos, you change the aspect ratio from one shot to another. What is the decision behind this?

Badoev: Sometimes I want two different textures of visual experiences. Sometimes it's like the first line of a script and when I make it bigger, it's like memories. That's why I change this. In one video, it's two different textures.

Do you work with colour grading on every video? Do you have someone specific that does that job?

Badoev: Absolutely, of course. I have a young friend of mine, a girl named Lunar Edge. She has a really beautiful style of colour correction. I like it so much. Of course for different videos, we sit together and talk about what I want exactly and need for the impression of this video and we do this.

How do you decide the colour palettes for videos? For example, you have the Ani Lorak video where everything is black and red and it looks really cool. So how would you decide that a song, visually, is going to be red and black?

Badoev: It's all about emotion. Sometimes, I don't listen to the lyrics of music. I listen to music and the voice. For example, it's how you listen to Russian music. You don't understand the lyrics but you understand the emotion. So for me, it's emotion first. I don't want to understand what she's singing about, I want to understand what my heart understands. It's what's most important. When I understand what I feel, I want to see the whole world of this feeling. Do you understand what I'm saying? My English is so bad.

No, your English is good! I've interviewed artists that completely answer in Russian because they don't understand English.

Badoev: When I lived in L.A. for one month, my English got better because I'd go out to parties, talk to people, we'd drink a lot. There were no problems, everyone could understand what I mean. But when you sit in Ukraine, of course your English dies.

Can you talk about working with special effects? The Elena Temnikova "Вдох" video had some really cool special effects where she's floating in the air and it looks like an alien abduction.

Badoev: I like post-production very much and I know about post so when I imagine something, I know exactly how it's going to be on set. I try to move on and find newer ways and things for post-production for the video because when you go on YouTube, I want you to feel this music and say "Wow, how did they do that?" It's important because if you say this, you will watch it more times and show your friends. For example, Elena Temnikova, that video is about sex. It sounds like feeling the fire of chakra. It's a really sexual feeling, of touching. Sometimes when I have feelings like this and I'm alone, I just put on the music, something R&B, and do it like Elena Temnikova but by myself in my home. I'm dancing, dancing, dancing, and it's like sex!

How was it to work with live animals for the "Отпусти" music video?

Badoev: It's such a funny story, actually! We had ten dogs which played wolves. We did makeup to make them look like wolves. They were so gentle and loved people but I needed them to be wolves. So Max took meat cutlets and rubbed them all over his arms and his pockets. I told Max to grab these beautiful dogs when they came over to him and make these wrestling moves. We shot the first take and it was amazing. But then in the second take they wouldn't come to Max because they thought he was crazy!

Some of your videos are much more aesthetically driven and others have more of a narrative. How do you decide how far in one direction to go between the two?

Badoev: It's absolutely not difficult for me. If I listen to the song and know the artist, I realise what the fans of this artist want to see. Some artists, it's more of a narrative for the video because for their fans it's really important to understand or see some story. Some artists and their fans don't want this. They want beautiful pictures, colourful pictures, dancing, it depends on the age. If somebody presents music for 15-year-old fans, it should be dancing and the right, emotional pictures. If the fans are a little bit older, they want to understand some message.

As someone who isn't Eastern European and doesn't speak the languages here, I find it odd how it seems like the media here puts a lot of pressure on Ukrainian artists and creatives to be political. You're artists, not politicians, and the beauty of art is that it brings people together. I might have never visited Ukraine if I hadn't learned about Max Barskih's music and art. What is your take on this topic?

Badoev: I really try to stay out of the political side. To be honest, I don't understand what happens. I don't understand what it means. I don't understand why people want so much money that they play with people. For me, it's so dangerous. For me, it's not good. I don't want to be in this side. But of course this side comes to you and wants you to do this or that. Max and I try to stay still, be polite, but it's difficult, absolutely.

It's strange because the fans of you as a director, of Max as an artist, or of any of the artists you work with, those fans are not only from whatever place that creative is from. I follow pop music from a lot of different regions and I feel like Ukrainian artists have a lot more pressure put on them than artists from other regions.

Badoev: It's because Ukrainian artists are really good. In the world, many people know about Ukraine because of these artists. For politics, they think it's really important that artists stay on the political side of Ukraine because they can 'represent' Ukraine. Of course, politics want this but for us, it's bullshit.

To me, it doesn't make sense because it's not your job. You're not the one showing up to government buildings, checking in for the day to work on making some laws. But since you mention money, how does the budgeting for your videos work? You don't seem to cut yourself off from working with smaller artists with smaller budgets.

Badoev: I do this because I like music and I like my job. I don't want to do my work only for famous people because sometimes less known artists have such beautiful music and I want to help. Sometimes, for example, I can do my work without money because it's interesting. If I help, maybe sometimes these artists will get bigger.

For example, you did the video with Kadnay.

Badoev: For me it's the challenge, it's a beautiful story. If artists want to do a brilliant music video, they do it. If you want it, you understand how it can be. It's a question of truly wanting it.

Can you talk about the fashion component of your videos? For the Markus Riva "Красива Сильно" video there was so much denim and I didn't think that much denim could look so fashionable!

Badoev: It was easy because I saw Markus, Markus likes denim, the white hair, the smile, good body... I thought, "Markus, denim, and many, many girls with denim!" It's like a Calvin Klein collection.

Do you have a set team of stylists or do you change them depending on the video?

Badoev: I have different stylists that work well for different artists. It's like taking different colours for a painting.

Since Tayanna did Vidbir twice, if she had won either of those times, would you have been the one to stage her number at Eurovision?

Badoev: Of course.

A lot of the fans of Eurovision watch all of the national selections for the different countries and many of these fans really like her and wanted her to win both times.

Badoev: If Tayanna wins, it's cool, but if not, we just represent a new song. We're working on a new song right now and I think this song would be really beautiful.

Is that you saying she's doing Vidbir again?

Badoev: ...maybe yes.

You've worked with Sergey Lazarev on a music video many years ago and more recently for "Сдавайся" so how did you end up working together again?

Badoev: We worked together before and we are friends. When he called me he said, "I have a beautiful song just for you. It's your story, absolutely." I told him I wanted him to walk the street with a big spear, and he said, "Why?!" I said, "Because it's love, and love is hurt, my friend."

Who do you have on your speed-dial that you can call to get a giant spear prop like that?

Badoev: I called a friend of mine, an art director, and said I needed a spear. She said, "No problem."

You recently did a music video for Onuka about environmentalism. Was that concept their idea?

Badoev: No, it was my idea. Onuka is a group whose music and the whole story of this project is more sensitive. It's a project with a big sense. When I heard this music I just wanted to see a story about our earth. For example, in Ukraine, in Russia, in Bolivia, in L.A. too, we have a big problem with plastic. I said, "Come on guys, can we do a story about what we'll have not so far in the future if we don't make changes?" So we did this music video and you know, all the actors you see in the video, they did this for no money. All these actors just wanted to do this for Onuka and for the story. For us, it's really great because we didn't have a lot of money for everybody. I just posted on my Instagram asking who wants to help. We had such a big turn-out for casting!

Well, you're Alan Badoev.

Badoev: No, it's because it's for Onuka, for me, and for the idea.

Yeah but you're a big piece of that equation.

Badoev: Thank you.

I'm sure a lot of people are thinking, "What? I'm an aspiring actor, I want to work with Alan Badoev! I want to put that on my résumé! Oh, and I'll help the environment and it will look good for my reputation."

Badoev: [LAUGHS]

Since you mention the earth, I have to ask about the Mariya Yaremchuk "Ти в мені є" video. I didn't understand what I was looking at with this black sand. It had me wondering if it was CGI and how there were these giant arches in the sand.

Badoev: It's a really funny story. Sometimes I go to Bali for a month, for swimming and rest. I went to the black sand beach and when I was there, it was so beautiful and I couldn't believe it. I thought that I needed to do a music video on the beach so I called Mariya and told her to come. We did a beautiful video. When she came she asked what we were doing and I said, "I don't know yet but tomorrow I will show you what to do." We went to the beach and I showed her the movements in the sand and she looked at me and asked, "Am I crazy to do this?" I said, "Yeah! Why not?!" But she's really beautiful in this video.

It was very visually striking since obviously, I didn't know what I was looking at. But I don't go to the beach anyway, since I don't like sand.

Badoev: It's about sex, too. It's like when the girl and the ocean come together and then she came with a dolphin. It's terrible! [LAUGHS]

You've done a few music videos for Alekseev. What can you say about this collaboration?

Badoev: I like Alekseev very much because he's really talented. He's a shiny boy but then when he gets on stage, he's open. It's really good for artists. When he gets on stage, he opens like a flower. It's really important for actors and musicians. I like the music of Alekseev and I like the style of how he sings his songs.

There's a lot of angst in his videos. He's got the dying girlfriend, rescuing a drowning girl, is that coming from the music?

Badoev: Yeah, for me it comes from the drama of the music that he's singing.

It definitely seems like a red thread through all of his work.

Badoev: I want people to not just see a boy, but to see the hero that helps in love, wants to save the girl, and wants to do something. When you do something, you're the hero.

You also did a video for Arash. I didn't even know you two knew each other!

Badoev: When I was in L.A. with Max, somebody called me and said "Arash wants to meet with you." I said, "Wow, cool! Yes, of course!" We went to Arash's hotel, had drinks, talked a lot, and then Arash came to Ukraine. He saw Ukraine and said to me, "I want to film in Ukraine because it's so beautiful." I said, "Okay, sure! I like Ukraine, why not?" He wanted a really dramatic story. He asked for something dramatic and deep.

I've already taken up so much of your time so we can close things off by bringing it back to Max. I'd love for you to tell me about the "Хочу Танцевать" music video because purely on an aesthetic level, it's probably my favourite video of his.

Badoev: "Хочу Танцевать" is absolutely an easy video. We did the video with passion because I like this song very, very much. It's one of my favourite songs of Max's. I wanted to do a funny video because Max in life...

He's funny!

Badoev: Absolutely, a funny guy. When Max is at home with friends, really he's somebody who [unintelligible funny noises] ~ I wanted to put this character of Max in the video. I like it very much. We did this video on VHS cassettes so it was really, really funny, easy, and not an expensive video.

It was so weird but that's why I liked it so much. It was just aesthetic madness. But thank you so much for talking to me. I so appreciate it, hopefully it was okay for you. I talk a lot.

Badoev: Thank you. It's really, really interesting for me that you came to Ukraine, that you came to our concert, that you're interested, because-

I'm so interested.

Badoev: It's really important for artists to know and to understand that what we're doing is good for people. It's very important in the times when we're really tired and for example when I say to everyone, "I can't. I want to go home and just sit, and not do anything, not listen to music, I just want quiet!" But then I sit at home for a day and say, "Someone wants me to film a new video." It's important. Thank you very much.

CAN YOU BELIEVE?? 😱 It doesn’t even feel real writing this but I just did a one-on-one interview with the LEGENDARY Ukrainian director/producer Alan Badoev! 😳😍🎥 I am so happy and grateful for this opportunity to sit down with such a creative, energetic, and masterful filmmaker! 🤩🙌🏻 He is perhaps best known for his extensive collaboration with @max_barskih but he is also the producer for @tayanna_reshetnyak and has done videos with NUMEROUS other artists such as Ani Lorak, Loboda, Alekseev, Arash, Markus Riva, Kadnay, Michelle Andrade, Onuka, Elena Temnikova, Sergey Lazarev, Dan Balan, Maria Yaremchuk, really, the list goes on and on! 📝 I tried to ask as many questions as possible but Alan’s body of work is so massive and the interview was getting close to reaching an hour... I didn’t want to be a nuisance so I made the decision to try to end things on a good note. 😂⏳⌛️ Thank you SO MUCH to @alanbadoev and to Alan’s assistant Peter for your time and generosity. I appreciate this opportunity tremendously! 🙏🏻✨ Those that have followed me over the years know how big of a fan I am of Alan’s work so I was SHOOK when he said yes to an interview. To all my viewers, stay tuned. This will be a BIG ONE. 😈🤘🏻🎬 #LadyJenevia #Blogger #Blogging #MusicBlogger #MusicBlogging #AlanBadoev #АланБадоев #МаксБарских #MaxBarskih #Ukraine #Ukrainian #Music #Director #Producer #WOC #日本人 #Filmmaker #ComingSoon #Entertainment #Media #Promotion #Marketing
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Despite having numerous other talking points left untouched in my notes, given the sheer magnitude of Badoev's body of work, I opt to end the interview on a positive note. It wouldn't benefit anyone involved to allow the conversation to spiral due to fatigue. It merely leaves the door open for potential future conversations in which other topics and videos of his may be discussed.

Watch the full interview with Alan Badoev here:


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