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Cinematographer Andrey Nikolaev Discusses the Darkness of Crypt TV’s WATER’S EDGE & More

To some, October means red and yellow leaves, cooler temperatures and pumpkins. To horror fans, the month signifies a month-long celebration of the genre they love, with an abundance of scary movies and TV shows being highlighted.  This year is no different, with both Freeform and Syfy recently releasing their “31 Days of Halloween” schedules. Crypt TV also started a #SaveHalloween campaign declaring “Halloween is not cancelled this year”, due to the pandemic. They are hosting spooky activities and challenges all month long, including a costume contest and a 24-hour live stream on actual Halloween. They are also showcasing some of their films in the “Crypt TV Monster Universe”, including the horror tale Water’s Edge

After losing her mother, Lexi and her father retreat to an isolated cabin to withdraw from their sorrow…but what do we become after death? Can we transform into something more monstrous?

To spotlight how some of these horror projects are created, we spoke with cinematographer and 3D previs specialist Andrey Nikolaev. Not only did Nikolaev do the cinematography for Water’s Edge, but he has worked on other horror films including The Bride and Retzi, to name a few. Read our full conversation with Nikolaev below!

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Andrey Nikolaev

Dread Central: How did you first get involved with Water’s Edge? What attracted you to the story?

Andrey Nikolaev: I’ve been working with Lena Tsodykovskaya (the director of Water’s Edge) for 10 years already, so she asked me to join this project, and I said yes even before I read the script. I always trust her. Then I read the script and it turned out to be a really spectacular concept. Monsters in horror movies are usually portrayed as evil predators, but Woe Bones (the creatures in Water’s Edge) were different, they had emotions, empathy, and Lexi, the hero Woe Bone really cared about her father. I found it very interesting.

DC: Can you describe your creative process for Water’s Edge? How did you decide the look of the film?

AN: Lena and I always make storyboards together and that’s my favorite part of the creative process on any project. We knew the budget limitations, so we made all of our ideas cost efficient. One of the main creative ideas I came up with was to hide the Woe Bone in the shade all the time, so that the viewers couldn’t see much. It was my intentional choice that helped them look creepier and at the same time limit the most cost sensitive part of the monster – its appearance. Special Effects are the most crucial part in any horror movie and if you want to make monsters look real, you have to either spend a lot of money or find creative solutions, which is what we did. We were respectful of the budget at hand and I used a good portion of lighting magic.

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DC: You have worked on numerous horror projects such as The Bride and Retzi. How was Water’s Edge different from some of the other previous horror projects you’ve worked on?

AN: Water’s Edge was different for a lot of reasons. It was my first narrative project in United States, so I had to adapt to the new production guidelines. Before Water’s Edge I shot a lot of high budget commercials and a feature film The Bride back in Russia. I got used to being able to afford almost any equipment I needed. For Water’s Edge I had to go back to the roots, back to essentials. Only necessary equipment was allowed. And honestly – I loved it. I always enjoy low budget projects, they are more challenging and interesting when it comes to achieving great results without having much.

DC: Crypt TV’s films and shows tend to be pretty dark. When you first began working on Water’s Edge did you know it was going to air on Crypt TV? If you didn’t, would you have done anything different knowing this information?

AN: Yes, initially it was intended as a Crypt TV film and we worked closely with the studio to make sure the film would hit the right spot with the huge Crypt Tv’s fan base. It’s actually funny you mentioned the darkness of the Crypt TV shows, because I usually shoot much darker (lighting wise), even for advertising projects. In this digital world a large chunk of the audience, especially young audience, watches content on their smartphones, probably lit by the Californian Sun, so my solution was to go for the more contrasty and brighter image.

DC: What did you do to prepare for Water’s Edge?

AN: Lena and I spent weeks drawing storyboards and making floor plans. We always do floor plans in order to better understand set limitations, camera positions and movements. It also helps my crew and producer to understand the exact way we were going to shoot the scenes.

DC: You are also a 3D previsualization specialist on top of a cinematographer. Can you talk about how you got started in previs work? Water’s Edge obviously isn’t 3D, but did you use any previs knowledge or practices in the film?

AN: I actually started to do 3D previs on the feature horror film The Bride. It was my first feature film, and I wanted to make sure I deliver the proper quality, so I started to learn Cinema 4D on prep. It took me a couple of days to understand how it works, and since then I’ve been using it almost on every project. At first, I used this trick when I was in doubt, later when I gained enough experience I started to use in order to get directors/producers/clients on board with the lighting and framing. 3D previs is a perfect way to figure the images that are floating in your head, but that you don’t necessarily understand how to bring to life. This year I started teaching 3D previz online and I believe everyone can learn it within just an hour.

DC: You are originally from Moscow. Do you think your experiences working overseas have given you a different “eye” or approach to Hollywood projects? If so, what is it?

AN: I think Moscow’s grey sky affected my style. I tent to shoot dark desaturated pictures with soft light, and it makes me a perfect Cinematographer for horror movies, because every day in Moscow is a dark desaturated horror movie, haha. I’m kidding. Actually, Moscow gave me a lot of opportunities to do what I love doing, even though I never went to school for cinematography and I was originally supposed to become a programmer. I’ll always be grateful for that. Moscow definitely is a city of possibilities and opportunities. 

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DC: Are you personally a fan horror films? If so, what are some of your favorites?

AN: Honestly, I always loved shooting horror films, but I was too scared to watch them. But everything had changed after I watched It Follows (directed by David Robert Mitchell). Before that, all I had seen were horror films with some kind of mystical threat at night followed by jump scares and anxious music. In my opinion, It Follows changed the rules for horror films. A threat can be seen clearly, and it can move slowly, but it’s even scarier because no character of a movie could feel safe even during the daytime. For me, it opened up a new wave of horror films and I started to enjoy them. I’m a huge fan of the horror films like It Follows (David Robert Mitchell), The VVitch, The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers), Hereditary, Midsommar (Ari Aster). I hope to shoot something so beautifully disturbing one day.

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Are you a fan of Crypt TV and/or Water’s Edge? What do you think of our exclusive interview with Andrey Nikolaev? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! You can also carry on the convo with me personally on Twitter @josh_millican.

Written by Josh Millican

Josh Millican is the Editor in Chief at Dread Central.

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