Leto is a movie by Kirill Serebrennikov about the cult rock artist Victor Tsoi and the milieu in which he lived. The film focuses on a little-known period in the artist's life before he became famous. Although the characters are based on real people who lived in 80's Leningrad, it depicts the lifestyle and zeitgeist of the entire generation. We wanted to capture the spirit of the age, the sense of optimism and confidence demonstrated by the easygoing and careless way of life, within the wider context of the dissolution and fall of the great Soviet empire. The film reminds us of how we felt, the sense of hope at the end of the Soviet period, dreaming about a brighter future.

 The storyline is driven by a love triangle involving Tsoi, and Mike Naumenko, and his wife Natasha. They live insulated within the microcosm of the community of musicians, to which they belonged. Their community forms a little world inside the big state around them. This dichotomy served as the canvas for the creation of the visual design, with the insularity and intimacy of the musicians' community contrasting powerfully with the soulless and impersonal surrounding context.

 Although the movie doesn't present the musicians as rebels against the system or harbingers of its doom, they live entirely outside the strictures of that society, independently, full of freedom. Music is everything to them, their alpha and omega. The material world holds no value for them. Their living space consists of small environments, which they create carefully around themselves, they are humble and exist only for companionship. Those intimate spaces include Mike's and Grebenshchikov's apartments, Mike's cubicle at the plant, rehearsal rooms, and a home concert interior. They live in old apartments, imbued with traces of previous generations, profound and full of history.

 The external world is the direct opposite, it is the USSR state. It consists of public transport, streets, plants, dining rooms, and concert halls. It is based on constructivist logic and expresses the functional minimalism of 70s architecture. We see it in the industrial power of the factories, in the large-scale propaganda, and in the mass production. Sometimes, however, these spaces intertwine, as is the case with the rock club where the hall and stage are public spaces, while the make-up rooms behind the scenes belong to the musicians.

 At the first concept meeting, Kirill expressed the intention to shoot the film in black and white. This decision was based on the desire to re-create the historical mood of the 80s, and use that classic style to ensure good visual organization. Our memories of that time are rooted in black-and-white photography, and we thought it would be appropriate to present the content using that medium.

 The film features inserts of documentary material which was shot on 8 mm color film by actors as part of the plot. For this reason, although the bulk of the movie is filmed in black-and-white, we decided that all shots should be harmonized in color, and sets were built accordingly. I concluded that the primary would be red, everything was based on it, its opposite and derivative colors. The middle tone of the palette was set around the color of wood, with transitions to olive, dark brown, ochre, and terracotta. The reasoning behind this choice was informed by various associations, from the ubiquitous use of red as the color of communism and the USSR, to the effects of aging which caused older films, in the 80s, to have a reddish tinge, caused by the degradation of the blue color layer in older celluloid film.

 As always, the locations are a central element in any production. I would like to start by describing the rock club. The Leningrad rock club was legendary, with a kind of cult status and identity. It was the birthplace of Russian rock and all fans of the genre gathered there. It is the first space that we see in the movie. The camera follows a group of young girls who enter clandestinely through an open window in the men's toilet. We follow them down a corridor and through several make-up rooms, an equipment warehouse, another corridor, and then, finally, we find ourselves backstage. From there, we watch as the girls reach the auditorium. This long, continuous scene was shot with a Steadicam, and it conveys to the viewer the sensation of being immersed in that atmosphere. The length of the shot allowed us to make transitions from close-up to wide-angle views, portraits of the protagonists, and from one space to another. This type of shot demands careful preparation and special organization of the spaces involved.

 All sets had to be prepared in such a way that the cameras could pan 360 degrees on all perimeters. The rock club was the most challenging for us, firstly because it was a well-known place and we had to stay true to reality, and secondly, besides the club itself, we needed all ancillary infrastructure - the make-up rooms, corridors, the stairs, the space backstage, and toilets - to be visually available when shooting the various scenes. All of them had to be appropriately interconnected, bound with each other, in order to capture the special atmosphere and energy of the club. Initially, we intended to use the real club as a location, but we found, upon inspection, that the venue had been totally reconstructed, sporting fresh paint on the walls and new fixtures entirely out of sync with the atmosphere we were trying to recreate.

 After endless scouting of all chronologically appropriate theatres and clubs, we found matching our criteria. The building was suitable in terms of scale and character for the concert hall, but all other rooms needed work done on them to make reflect the architecture and character of the original club. The dimensions and proportions of the stage were not the same as in the rock club, so we narrowed the stage itself and made it deeper, allowing for more complicated movement in camera shots. Rock Club character was expressed in the texture of the thick burst of oil paint over the soviet stucco moldings, a dusty darned curtain, wooden chairs, and, of course, the old lighting equipment. Because we were limited by the black-and-white palette we were using, we played with different degrees of glossiness - we built a waxed, wooden parquet floor, worn down and polished by countless feet; we designed painted elements with the shiny oil paint contrasting strongly to the layers of dust that had accumulated over the years.

The communal apartment in which Mike lived, shared by four families, was another big, complex set. Each family had their own room in the apartment, and the other rooms, usually neglected and derelict, were sometimes used for rehearsals. The apartment reflects the ebb and flow of time and fortune, with ornate elements surviving from the time of the Czars testifying to the once opulent and successful society of St Petersburg, contrasting sharply with the later deterioration and relative poverty of the Soviet period. The once magnificent and prosperous house, with art deco ceilings and carved floors, was converted into a communal living space and divided into smaller units. The huge panes of glass that once complimented the window frames had been replaced by a patchwork of smaller panes, less expensive and difficult to replace, creating a kind of industrial factory look to the building, rather than the appearance of luxury and wealth as it had been before. In some places, the wallpaper was still pre-revolution, and in others was from the Soviet period. With the passage of time, they, naturally, lost their colour and appeared faded and used.

We completely renovated and rebuilt the kitchen as it had been abandoned recently and was only used from time to time by a single resident. We turned it into a typical community kitchen with four stoves, four fridges, and four food cabinets, one each for each family.

As with all the other sets, the apartment was built on location. It gave us real backgrounds, a complicated patina, and other details almost impossible to create on set with a limited budget.

 Mike's room consisted of four zones - the bedroom, his workplace, the dining area, and a child's space in a corner with a fireplace. The set was intentionally simple threadbare and humble. It contained only the minimum and essential objects. The big rack in a corner was made by Mike. A lot of the furniture was reconstructed and repurposed due to the scarcity of resources and money in the Soviet period, which caused people to adapt objects and furniture to fit their current needs. Some of the things in the production, such as the main poster on the wall were originals, provided by Mike Naumenko's relatives.

 Recording studio was shoot on a real location, only it was empty and every unit was bespoke.

Approaching the Grebenschikov's apartment, you are faced with a staircase leading upwards into the unknown. Grebenschikov at that time was recognised as a god of rock, and the staircase is a metaphor for a stairway to heaven leading to the heights of Olympus, which was, in its time, the focal point of the rock movement and so beloved of the adoring fans, it was covered with graffiti and messages from fans painted in lipstick, pens and pencils. We found a similar and did our frescos there. We replicated the original environment with confessions of love, poems, quotes from songs, and drawings stretching from the ground to the fifth floor, quite an extensive space and task to complete. His apartment was a scanty one, tiny, occupying the top floor. Its main feature was a secret exit to the roof, which opened a powerful panorama, with the whole cityscape unfolding around and below the observer. We built our set on location creating a unique ambiance with details only as the interior itself was as if it had been frozen in time. All the furniture, textiles, and even the kitchenware were time perfect.