Q&A: Brighton Beach-Raised Filmmaker Melanie Abramov Talks Sex, Women And Brooklyn

Promo shot from Dame Factory

Growing up, the Brighton Beach boardwalk was her playground and the women of the Russian-American community were her living dolls. Perhaps this is why Melanie Abramov’s directorial debut, Dame Factory, is unabashed in its unconventional story structure and startling imagery.

The eight-minute experimental short is about “how society commodifies and objectifies female bodies and how we distort and merge concepts of womanhood and sex.” To note, the film was made by a 99 percent female cast.

This is art cinema in the digital age. The theme, provocative cinematography and interesting directorial gaze has caught the attention of film festivals around the world. Dame Factory won the Best Experimental Award at the Brooklyn Film Festival, Best Experimental Award at the Coney Island Film Festival, and the Award of Excellence at the Accolade Awards. The film has also been featured at the Miami Short Film Festival, The Sexy International Paris Film Festival,and the Malibu Film Festival.

We caught up with Abramov to find out how growing up in Southern Brooklyn affected her storytelling, who her inspirations are, and what she thinks of the meaning of Dame Factory.

How has growing up around Coney Island influenced your art?

I am first generation American and my background is Russian-Jewish. One side of the boardwalk is the amusement park, which then leads to the projects and then to a gated community at the tip of Brooklyn. The other side is a peek inside the Soviet Era. Growing up within the Brooklyn Russian culture gave me a different perceptives on sexuality, identity, respect, and values. American advertisements have nothing on the strict living and grooming standards of Ruski ladies! The dynamics of that multiculturalism opened up my voice as an artist and allowed me to free myself of the social rules I grew up with.

I love surrealism and Coney Island is a dream in that sense. Go to the boardwalk during a snow storm; its indescribable. When I was 17, I couldn’t wait to get out of the neighborhood and go to the city. Taking the train back at 3:00 a.m. to the very end of the line with the homeless guy wasn’t the best move, but it was my move. Winning Best Experimental at the Coney Island Film Festival was, by far, the most relevant award. Brooklyn will always have my heart.

What led you to move from design into film? Why did you make this film?

I started as a painter and ended up as a designer at Parsons—for the sake of making a living, which was my mom’s idea! I became interested in motion graphics soon after. The marriage between motion graphics and live footage is amazing. I shot experimental shorts on my own and it seemed natural. I am not a traditional filmmaker; I am more of a visual thinker.

I had the idea a few years ago and it kept evolving. Once it settled and specific scenes came to life, I knew I had to make it and share it.  As for the perspective of the film, the concept that sex sells is easy. I’m interested at what sex can’t sell and pushing those boundaries. Dame Factory is based on a provocative, avant-garde concept and surreal imagery. Go big or go home!

What impact do you hope this film will have?

I still don’t know the full meaning of the film and I won’t force it. I allowed myself to speak and then see how it would be heard. The impact will be up to the public. This is an experimental awareness piece. The message I hope that comes across is respect.

What are your three favorite films and why?

I’ll go with directors: [Manhattan Beach-native] Darren Aronofsky, Ridley Scott, Salvador Dali, and Stanley Kubrick. They all take me to new destinations that I wouldn’t get to otherwise. I like their viewpoints and intensity.

What’s your next project?

I am working on a super short film meant to be seen as an installation piece. Also, I’m writing a script for my next 20-minute film called No Milk. I am looking to find funding or an executive producer to come on board! Feel free to drop me a line:  www.damefactory.com.

— by Laura Vladimirova

View the trailer to Dame Factory: