Last year, Elias Koskimies’s “I’ve Only Just Begun” won the award for Best Independent Music Video. With the help of over 60 volunteers, Koskimies created a powerful and poetic statement about LGBT discrimination in Russia. We caught up with him recently to see how his success at ÉCU has helped him influence LGBT activism around the globe as well as encourage his future projects.
What is the story of the song?
I wrote it to myself – I felt defeated and I wanted to shout out, “That story ain’t over yet!” It’s very Rocky / Rambo-ish! But yes, seriously, that was the beginning of the song, but its message ended up being more universal than I imagined. I wanted to write a “war call,” empowering song.
What were the main sources of inspiration you had for the music movie?
Gay culture. I love gay culture and it’s long legacy. I’m also a fan of Bob Fosse’s musicals. I really like many of Lady Gaga’s music videos and of course my own experiences have been part of the inspiration.
What do you want people to think about after seeing “I’ve Only Just Begun”? I want them to be empowered, enlightened and ready to DO something.
In which way do you think movies and music can have an actual impact on fighting discrimination?
I believe strongly in music and moving images. Music videos are very powerful at their best and music is one of the most emotionally charged art forms. Also, I’m strong believer of new distribution channels (e.g. YouTube) and distributing very short content in general. Six-minute short films or three-minute music videos can spread anywhere if the message and content are good. And by doing that they can spread awareness.
Did the film get any bad reaction from the Russian anti-gay movement promoters?
Luckily I got only few threats via social media. Other than that it’s been a positive ride.
What about that positive feedback? How did the gay communities receive the project?
Positive reaction has been amazing. What can I say! I got messages all over the world, from gay Amish boys to Boy George and everyone between. That was the first time I realized the power of film. “I’ve Only Just Begun” is my tribute to gay culture, to the LGBT community and they responded to it in a very beautiful, welcoming and amazing way.
Did Pussy Riot hear about your project? Would you like to develop a project with them?
I met Pussy Riot members last June in London at Yoko Ono’s Meltdown festival. I’m not sure if they saw “I’ve Only Just Begun,” but we were at the same panel discussion. It was strange experience. Hats off to those young women. Their bravery is extraordinary. I would love to work with them but other than that I’m willing to continue to do my short films addressing the situation in Russia – and that’s because of Pussy Riot.
How would you describe your experience participating at ÉCU 2013?
ÉCU was one of the highlights this year alongside Meltdown Festival. Even though I couldn’t participate at ÉCU, I was so happy to get the award and most of all I’m super grateful about the way ÉCU keeps pushing my work forward alongside other director’s works. That’s so cool and important.
How did winning the award at ÉCU 2013 influence the path of “I’ve Only Just Begun”?
It certainly spread the word and opened many festival doors for “I’ve Only Just Begun.” Also I’m sure it will affect my near future when I’m releasing a new film.
What other future projects are you developing?
I’m working on a new short musical project. It’s silly and fun but very political…full of dance, great music and crazy characters. My first novel will be published in 2014 and most of all I’m going to take a creative break and stay in New York for 2-3 months.
What would you tell filmmakers to encourage them to submit their movies at ÉCU 2014?
Just do it. You never know what will happen, what good will come out of it. The ÉCU gang really takes directors and their works under their wings and constantly pushes your work forward. That’s really something!