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BA Graduate Valentina Khodnevich brings doc to Beyond the Short Festival

By Elise Czyzowska

25 September 2023

In the opening sequence of Valentina Khodnevich’s documentary, The Game You Play, the narrator asks: ‘Do you remember when you were young? How well?’. From here, the experimental film explores Dr. Eric Berne’s theory of psychological games, encouraging the audience to think about the influences on their own decisions and lifestyles.

Valentina, who recently graduated from BA Practical Filmmaking in London, first had the idea for this piece during her Documentary Development and Production Module. The film went on to be produced by 2PLAY, a film and theatre platform co-founded by Valentina, as well as collecting credits from students across London, including Central Saint Matins and Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance.

With the recent news that The Game You Play has been selected by Beyond the Short Film Festival, we spoke to Valentina about the experimental format, her inspirations, and more…

What was the initial idea behind The Game You Play?

The idea came to me while I was reading a book by Dr. Eric Berne about his psychoanalytic theories on ‘the games people play’.

Personally, I think I’ve seen many cases where people are playing their own psychological games instead of talking honestly. So I wanted to raise this, to make them aware of their own manipulations – and what might lie behind them.

At the same time, I wanted to make a documentary that was different, more playful. I’d seen films about Berne’s theories before, but none of them had any ‘special’ visual style.

What about your subject matter drew you towards an experimental documentary?

Well, I don’t really do more classical films – it just doesn’t inspire me. I think that’s the way for most people in the ‘experimental’ genre – we don’t choose it, it chooses us.

I’m actually not a huge fan of the term ‘experimental’, because it’s just too obscure – but if we talk about things like auteur cinema and indie films, those inspire me in how ‘real’ they feel. It’s like having a conversation with an actual person, sharing their actual thoughts – compared to more mainstream cinema, which I’ve always seen as talking with someone who really wants you to like them.

I’m still searching for my exact style, but through that journey I’m learning what works for me. It’s a great feeling, to try new things and find ideas and styles to adopt into my own vision.

A still from Valentina Khodnevich’s film, ‘The Game You Play’

The film was produced by 2PLAY, which you Co-Founded. What led you to start your own company?

I founded 2PLAY with a group of friends who also share an interest in film and theatre. Our original idea was to support young and emerging artists in their creative careers, and to help them maintain their own, special creative approach.

At the moment, we’re in the development stage of the company, focusing on producing the most interesting and outstanding projects that capture our attention. It’s just the beginning of our journey, and I’m looking forward to what’s next!

And now, the film will be shown at Beyond the Short Festival. How did it feel to get the news?

Beyond the Short is such a great online platform, and I thought it would be a great way for people to access our documentary.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity, as it’s really good promotion for the film. The Festival is ‘by filmmakers, for filmmakers’, so I’m also glad to have it up there, where people can watch it and share their thoughts.

Watch Valentina Khodnevich’s ‘The Game You Play’ on the Beyond the Short website

In your Director’s Statement, you mentioned Adam Curtis as an inspiration. How do you see his work reflected in The Game You Play?

I would say that Adam Curtis’s work inspires me through the aesthetic, and particularly the editing style. In The Game You Play, I took Adam’s approach of stirring up the atmosphere of ‘hyper-reality’. We used a lot of fast-paced edits, and lots of archival footage, all with the goal of creating context within the narration and score.

And finally, films have the power to change the way we think and act. Through The Game You Play, what have you learnt about yourself?

When you make a documentary about a certain theme, you have to become a specialist on the topic. For The Game You Play, I did plenty of research – and even faced facts that I didn’t always want to know.

This film – and Dr. Eric Berne’s theory – have changed the way I look at the world. Most of these psychological games are now so visible to me, I just can’t ignore them. My friends and I even have an inside joke now – ‘those Berne’s games again!’.

  • Valentina Khodnevich studied BA Practical Filmmaking (Three-Year) at our London campus. The Two-Year version of this course is also available in Berlin.
  • Explore The Game You Play – and the Beyond the Short Festival – here.