Living Room Conversations: Alexander Rodnyansky

Dear friends!

Today our guest is the world-renown director and producer Alexander Rodnyansky!

A winner of a myriad of awards and honors, he has worked on such fantastic projects as West-East, Driver for VeraElena, Stalingrad, Leviathan, among numerous others. Many of his films are known in the West, and his work has earned him a Golden Globe and three nominations for Academy Awards, including for Leviathan. He has adapted some of our screenplays into Inhabited Island, and the series The White Guard, which became the film of the year in Russia.

For years, we have been good friends and creative partners. 

Rodnyansky graduated from the directing division of the Kiev Theatrical Institute under Felix Sobolev, and began his career at the Kiev Science Film studio. It was a peak time for the studio, and they operated on a high level internationally: it was a time of experiments and successes. During this period, Sergey saw for the first time the work of the young Rodnyansky, a short film about the park bridge on the shores of the Dnyepr, Kiev’s main river. The beautiful bridge is called “Lover’s Bridge”, and was built in 1910 by Eugene Paton. Rodnyansky compared Paton’s plans and calculations and found that they hold up well to modern scientific and architectural standards. The film, accompanied by Mozart’s Small Night Serenade, became a mix of science and poetry. It was a hymn to beauty and happiness. Thirty years have passed, but Sergey still remembers the aura of this small film, which turned out to be Alexander Rodnyansky’s first.

Afterwards, we worked happily with the director on several projects, such as the movie Green Card, Stolen Happiness, The White Guard, and the film adaption of Inhabited Island, based on the novel by the Strugatsky brothers. Currently, Rodnyansky lives for art and travels around the planet. We greeted him recently in Los Angeles, where he came from Toronto to represent his latest project, The Duelist. We met on the ocean shore, and conversed about fantasy.

Alexander Rodnyansky is sharp and intuitive, an extraordinary expert on fantasy in all its forms. Nobody has interviewed him about fantasy before, so here’s something exclusive.

Sergey: How do you define fantasy? How do you see it? This one is a tricky question.

Alexander: It doesn’t seem devious to me. Fantasy is nothing more than a convenient platform and space for solving the main issue of literature — and art as a whole — the issue of reflecting key human conflicts and relationships. It places characters in an unusual, extreme and unexpectedly curious situation for the opportunity to tell enthralling human stories. I don’t look at fantasy as a way of somehow predicting the future. That is a curious challenge within itself, but for me it is secondary. I don’t look at fantasy through a futuristic lens. It is a genre of literature that allows us to remove a person from the boundaries of our world, and thus expose their conflicts and interpersonal relationships.

S: Who are your favorites in fantasy? Authors, works?

A: I am quite a literary omnivore, but there are a few authors, very different ones, that I have loved and will love for a long time, starting with those whose work I grew up with. Of course, these are the Strugatsky brothers. I belong to the generation that read the 25-volume collection of fantasy, and one of the tomes was dedicated to the Strugatsky brothers, their Monday starts on Saturday and It’s Hard to Be a God. After that, I read everything they wrote. I have always loved Bradbury, but it is such a romantic, insanely talented and stylistically diverse fantasy, almost a collection of essays. I loved his world of a melancholic future, which really represents the moods of every person in life’s episodes. I always loved gothic fantasy, as in the combination of the gothic novel and elements of an imagined world which we call fantasy. That is why I was a big fan of Martin. Before him, I closely followed Ursula Le Guinn and Sapkovsky. It was always curious to me. Once, the incredible Ilya Erenburg said that he likes paintings that don’t resemble photography, and photography that does not resemble paintings. Similarly, I love fantasy that is nothing like other genres. I love it for its uniqueness, for that which cannot be achieved in other genres, for the combination of polar opposites: made-up universes, genuine and real characters, human relationships. That’s what I like.


S: Very interesting! How do you think that relates to fantasy in film and TV shows? What kinds of new ideas can come up?

A: Fantasy has been victorious on the big screen, because the big screen demands attractions and worlds in which the viewers can immerse themselves. It’s an escapist necessity, the intense desire to run away. The farther, the better, because the viewer does not enjoy the reality around them. So, fantasy does exist in large numbers on the screen, but the issue is the limited amount of stories. It is limited firstly by graphic novels and old comics from an era where the myths and principal characters were first created. Big Hollywood studios prefer not to take risks and to work with something that inspires trust and relation. The only thing they do in a new way is combining different comic characters in one film. Avengers has six heroes, Iron Man has some more, which didn’t exist on paper. There’s not a lot of space for new material, but the demand of a large-scale cinematic event on the big screen is there, so fantasy has some great opportunities.

As for television, I’m afraid things are more complicated, strangely enough. Except, perhaps, the genres of fantasy that allow for extremely realistic characters and the circumstances they are in. That is, it could be anywhere as long as the characters are convincing, inspire understanding, because the nature of taking in television is more documentary, it is like a window to the neighbor’s yard or their living room. However, because the audience is not sure that what is going on at the neighbors’ obeys the laws of nature, one can tell stories of any kind, including fantasy. The number of shows that have been created and revered recently goes to show that fantasy is enjoying a great period both for TV and film. For example, the recent show Stranger Things, as well as Game of Thrones. Basically, everything that is popular in modern television, with a few exceptions, is fantasy, or at least requires a colossal element of an imagined reality — what is called today “augmented reality”.

S: What about video games? Could they be art?

A: Games became art a long time ago, because they have several areas, in which an artist can express themself. First of all, a hand-made, new visual universe that represents a huge amount of work from designers, that has no precedent in the past. It also reflects the efforts of writers that create the numerous stories that lay the groundwork for the game. But the key advantage of games as opposed to traditional genres is the interactive element, as in the opportunity for the player to influence the course of events and feel like a character. In this sense, I enjoy primarily immersive world games as opposed to the popular shooters. I like Assassin’s Creed only because it was created by about 500 artists, rendering each detail of the world. For example, one the the Assassin’s Creed games is set in the world of Rome and Florence at the beginning of the 16th century, perfectly detailed with streets, houses, alleys, bridges and so on. The reconstruction of reality is reminiscent of a time machine, and the same goes for other such games.

 I’m not an avid player, I don’t have time to play “tanks” and most other games, but I do notice them and own a company that works in games. The company is fairly successful, and I have the opportunity to see what is popular and what is not. Of course, today’s games are nothing more than stepping stones. There will be one, two or three steps more where other genres will start including an interactive element. I don’t know when it will happen, but it will in the relatively near future. How one feels about games, including myself, is not relevant. It is the natural evolution in what we call the classic way to tell a story, immersing players into a worlds with the possibility to live out the story.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

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Dear friends,

Today we have the pleasure to introduce a new section – Living Room Conversations! The first visitor is our old friend Andrzej Sapkowski!

Not that he needs introduction, but: a classic of not only polish literature, but of world literature, Sapkowski is known by millions of people. The Polish fantasy writer and publicist has authored the Witcher series, as well as many critical literature essays and short stories. His books have been translated to numerous languages around the world.

We love pan (Mr.)  Andrzej as a writer, and a person.  Attached are some photos from the many times we’ve had the fortune to meet him at Kiev-area events.  We first met him in 2005 during the “portal” convention, where Andrzej Sapkowski and Robert Sheckley were guests of honor. We, Marina and Sergey, were honorary Presidents of the “Portal” international fantasy writers association, which hosted this event in Kiev.

By a wonderful twist of fate, Sergey celebrated his 60th birthday on the 14th of April, the final day of festivities, and our friends combined the party with the traditional closing banquet for the convention. As a result, a magical jubilee was created with much merrymaking, humour, games, and congratulations. Andrzej Sapkowski was one of the guests of the unforgettable evening.

We remember pan Andrzej as a witty, insightful, and friendly person. He was especially popular among young women, who melted with the charm of his prose. However, let’s move on to the present day and get to the questions.

Recently, Sergey wrote a letter to pan Andrzej; here are some excerpts :

Dear Andrzej, 

Personally, I am very angry with you. I’m thinking of suing you. Marina and I have deadlines looming, but it so happens that for her birthday in January we bought a Ps4 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt video game. Marina had already played the first two Witcher games and was very impressed with them. They are her favourite game franchise. My wife is a person of great self-control, and usually she can control the time she spends on video games. I was indifferent to video games, sticking to simple shooters or strategy games. Knowing myself to be easily addicted, I resisted the temptation for as long as I could. But here…. for several months in a row I played Wild Hunt, and then the DLCs “Hearts of Stone” and the recent “Blood and Wine”. I play it and I forget about time and space. Waking up in the morning, my first thought isn’t to kiss my wife or pet my cat, or even have breakfast, but to visit my good friend Geralt! It so happens that my ending to the Wild Hunt was tragic, and I was heartbroken. I still have the scar on my heart. At the same time I had to master the controller with its unwieldy joysticks, and try to decipher the English language. Several months! Who’s going to write the screenplays?

It would be just if you wrote a couple episodes for me, to somehow compensate for the damage. All in all, I would like to file a public complaint.

Online, I found contradicting reports on your attitude on video games. I understand these questions might pester you, but allow me to ask:

 – How do you feel about The Witcher 3?

– How do you feel about video games in general?

and, if you’d allow, another question:

-What, good or bad, can you remember about Marina and Sergey Dyachenko?

And so, pan Sapkowski replied to us:

Marina and Sergey! 

Forgive me for not responding right away, I’m very busy these days. Here are your questions:

– How do you feel about The Witcher 3?

 Generally, I feel positive.  Otherwise I would not have given them permission to use my work. I can’t say much about the game itself, since I haven’t played it and probably won’t. Computer games don’t really interest me. Time flies, and if I am to waste it, I know of better ways.

The Witcher 3 is known for its high quality, especially in the graphics department.

Sadly, though, the game brings some disappointment as well. There’s the opinion – likely held by the game creators themselves – that the video game is what made me famous in the West, and that’s simply not true. The premiere of the game happened in late October of 2007, but the contracts to publish my first books were signed ten years before that in German, six years in Spanish, five years in French, three years in Portuguese, and one year in English. Perhaps the game did help me somewhat, but it hurt me as well. Many publishers use the graphics as cover art. That is why many readers believed the game to be original, and I, Sapkowski, was writing books after the game. Serious fantasy fans don’t buy these books and then insult them.  Currently I am fighting this and I don’t give permission to use the images from the game as cover art for my books.

– How do you feel about video games in general? Are they ever going to replace literature?

 I’ve already answered this, somewhat: games do not interest me, and there are much better ways to entertain yourself: fishing, cooking, reading, writing… However, I have nothing against people who play games and enjoy them. I understand why the market is so large and how well it’s going to develop in the future. Can video games replace literature? What a thought! At first, I wanted to roar in protest – nowhere, no way, under no circumstances! But I thought about it, and I don’t know. Who can know?

– One more question, if you don’t mind. What good and bad things can you remember about Marina and Sergey Dyachenko?

Marina and Sergey! Do you know what I remember about our meeting in Kiev? How many friends you have. I’m jealous to this day. I’d like to have that many friends too. I do not have that same aura of friendliness and magnetism as you do. You are together, and all is well with you. I congratulate you heartily.



14 July 2016

Dear friends!

Before, in 2012, in his interview in the magazine Eurogamer, before The Wild Hunt came out, Andrzej said:

“The book itself is the point of origin, the result of the unique and unmistakable talent of the author. Carry that over into the virtual world? Impossible.”

and also:

“If you compare books and their adaptations into other areas, only the former (the books) are capable of telling an actual story.”

As we can see, pan Andrzej has not changed his views. But let me disagree with many of them. We are sure that The Witcher games, especially Wild Hunt and its extensions, have become the number one game in the world not jsut because of its outstanding graphics. The catch is that the game is based on genius novels. It has what separates Sapkowski’s prose from the rest – vivid characters, unpredictable narrative, juicy details, and his characteristic ironic humour. The tangled twists of the storyline don’t feel forced; they flow from the psychologically accurate character relationships.

Until recently, we ourselves were certain that video games were nothing more than entertainment. But  Wild Hunt and its extensions, contrary to what their inspiration might think, are a new form of art: the merging of literature, film and games. It rises above other games like a mountain above empty plains. It is out future. It’s like being at the premiere screening of “train arriving at a station” by the Lumiere brothers in 1895. There were films afterwards that were written sloppily, naively, and cheap, but after some time it created film as we know today.

Thank you for that, pan Andrzej.

What do you think, dear readers?


Marina and Sergey

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Plans for He’s a Dragon 2: China and Russia to Work Together


After the booming success of “He’s a Dragon” in China (based on The Ritual), which rocketed the movie to fourth place among the top ten new releases in the country, the creative minds behind the film have decided to work together with Chinese filmmakers to create the second part of the Dragons saga, tentatively set for 2018.

Right now what we know is that parts of the film will be shot in China, and new characters will be introduced, but the two main characters will remain the stars. According to the creative producer, Igor Tsai, more epic challenges await. The budget for this production is unclear as of now, but we know it’s a lot more than for the first film, hinting that Bazelevs is crafting a cinematic explosion.


info from #theworldinsideout and



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“He’s a Dragon” Takes Over China On First Day

The movie has been out for little over a day in China, and has already yielded more than its entire run in Russia, plus positive reviews! A new record for Russian films on the Chinese market, and a reason for fans to celebrate!


The Chinese poster for the production.


Representing the cast and Crew is Matvey Lykov, aka Arman. 

Photo credit to vk/theworldinsideout

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Booktrailer for AGE OF WITCHES!

Booktrailer for AGE OF WITCHES by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko with English subtitles was uploaded to youTube after the decision to publish the English translation of the novel in digital was announced by authors’ representative Trident Media Group.


This booktrailer was created under the direction of Oleg Assadulin (Dark World: Equilibrium), subtitles translated by Julia Meitov Hersey. Enjoy!

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Metal Group Recorded Album Inspired by Dyachenkos’ Novel

Metal Group Recorded Album Inspired by Dyachenkos’ Novel

Mirror Morionis - 'Eternal Unforgiveness' Album Cover

Mirror Morionis, internationally known HM band from Tomsk, recently released Atmospheric Doom Metal CD album entitled “Eternal Unforgiveness”, unusual tribute to Marina and Sergey Dyachenkos’ fantasy fiction – all lyrics were inspired bySKRUT, one of the first and probably one of the darkest novels of the authors.


Femme Metal Webzine reviewed “Eternal Unforgiveness” and gave it 95 of 100:

The songs are all masterpieces, but the two biggest standouts on the album for me have to be named: they are “Her Morion Eyes” (seriously epic; and could have been even more epic lyrically if Cataract had not been hindered by writing in his second language, which I feel caused him to miss a few tricks with the potential for vocal interplay between Mirror and himself – their character roles could have played opposing parts more prominently) and “The Sun Will Never Rise” (especially the combination of the guitar and vocal melodies together when “Farewell, your life erases me, forever fail, forever die” first comes in – it is absolutely stunning – a moment of exceptional musical greatness even on an overall great album that is full of great moments). “Eternal Unforgiveness” could well be considered a concept album as all of the songs cover the same topical themes so all of them are connected in that sense, and some of them are directly connected to each other.


Besides tracks linked above, YouTube has also nice atmospheric and beautiful video version of “When Mirror Cries”. Enjoy!

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TRIUMVIRATE by Yulia Andreeva: The artistic biographies of the writers

triumvirateIt’s a rare bird in Russian fandom, but here it is: Yulia Andreeva, writer from Sant-Petersburg, published a limited edition of TRIUMVIRATE, the book with the artistic biographies of the three modern literary fantasy writers – Henry Lion Oldie (aka Dmitry Gromov and Oleg Ladyzhenskiy), Andrei Valentinov and Marina and Sergey Dyachenko.

Yulia Andreeva writes:

“I kept this project to myself for quite a while. Eventually I did bring it to light.
Everyone asks me: “How can you work with these… ahem …titans?” I don’t mind. I’ve written about Herod the Great. Not much scares me after him.
I am so incredibly lucky. Everyone in this book has an amazing biography. There’s martial arts, archaeological excavations, and even underwater hunting. Happiness, sorrow, friendship, betrayal… But the most important is the tremendous work they do every day.”

And now for something completely different… Well, you know, not really… But… It’s…

THE BOOKTRAILER! The real thing mastered by Bronya Gromova, with English narration and subtitles added by Anastasia Dyachenko. Enjoy!

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Alisa Award for THE LAST CENTAUR!

Marina and Sergey Dyachenko’s THE LAST CENTAURwas proclamed “the best book for children and young adults” of the previous year and got Alisa Award at the Russia major national convention RosCon at March 29, 2013.

Rosman Publishing House, the publisher of the book,highlighted the news on their website:


THE LAST CENTAUR began the Dyachenkos’ touching and romantic trilogy about a kind and wise centaur Sebastian who has lost his people and is looking for friends among people and animals. It was published by Rosman in September 2012 and has won the warm affection of readers and critics. During the award ceremony, Sergey Dyachenko announced that the second book in the series had already been finished and the writers were working on the final book. “We do not know how the story will end yet, but this award has inspired us to explore something unprecedented” – said Sergey with the award in his hands.

Congratulations to Sergey and Marina Dyachenko on receiving the prize! The continuation of Sebastian’s story will be available to readers this autumn!

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“The White Guard” Won “The Golden Eagle” Award for the Best TV Production!

TV series “The White Guard”, based on the Marina and Sergey Dyachenko screenplay, was awarded by “The Golden Eagle” as the best Russian TV production of the 2012!

eagle 2“The White Guard” is 6-hour mini-series TV adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s classic novel of the same title. Series dramatizes historical perturbations of Winter 1918-1919 in Kiev during the Russian civil war and focuses on family of Turbins found themselves in midst of tragic world-changing events. Sergey Snezhkin directed mini-series featured many popular Russian movie stars including Konstantin Khabensky (“Wanted”), Sergey Garmash (“House”), Fyodor Bondarchuk (“Inhabitad Island”) and others.

“The Golden Eagle” is a Russian equivalent of an “Oscar” and “Emmy” awards combined, most prestigious Russian annual award presented by National Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences of Russia.


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Happy New Year! – And One More Film

Marina and Sergey just addressed to all of you with the holiday greets:

Dear Friends!

Merry Xmas and Happy New Year for all of you!

We have a modest gift for you – here is a short debute film made by our daughter Anastasia! Hope you’ll like it!

Marina + Sergey

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