Game of Thrones Director Alik Sakharov Discusses Soviet Origins
Published: April 24, 2014 (Issue # 1807)
Prior to the start of the much-awaited fourth season of hit HBO series "Game of Thrones," many Russians were proud to hear that this season for the first time would feature a Russian actor: Yury Kolokolnikov, who will play Styrr, the Magnar of Thenn.
However, despite the attention that this announcement received in the Russian media, few fans are aware of another Russian speaker involved in the production of the popular show. Alik Sakharov, director of two episodes in the new season, was born in Uzbekistan and emigrated to the U.S. as a young man.
Despite having no formal film education, Sakharov managed to find work first as a cinematographer and, more recently, as a director, working on prestigious shows such as "The Sopranos," "Rome," "Boardwalk Empire," "Dexter" and "Game of Thrones." The St. Petersburg Times spoke to Sakharov recently about his rise to success and his current work on "Game of Thrones."
"I came to the U.S. in 1981 at the age of 22," Sakharov said. He moved to the Forest Hills neighborhood in New York City, a popular location for Russian immigrants described in literature by Russian writers such as Sergei Dovlatov and Gary Shteyngart.
"I had no expectations, I did not speak the language: I came to New York like a newborn baby," Sakharov said. "I was 22, I did not have any way of becoming a filmmaker, the only thing I wanted to do was not be hungry and not be on the street." Gradually, Sakharov worked his way through a series of menial jobs, ranging from pumping gas to washing floors, eventually landing a stable job as a watchmaker.
"I do not have any education in cinema, I just learned by getting my feet on the ground and getting my hands dirty," Sakharov said of his career in film. Sakharov had grown up watching films from Soviet masters like Andrei Tarkovsky and Alexander Dovzhenko, and had been curious about film from a young age.
While Sakharov had experimented with home videos while in the Soviet Union, once settled in Queens he started on a more ambitious project. Working as a watchmaker, he saved up enough money to buy basic video equipment and set about making a film about his own community of recent Russian immigrants.
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