Interview with Filmmaker Natalya Mykhaylyuk (SOUR)

SOUR is a dark comedy horror exploring one woman’s experience of lockdown whilst isolating with a sourdough starter!

Set in suburban London, SOUR follows Fiona who is seeing out the coronavirus quarantine alone after a nasty argument with her fiancé Stuart. When one day nosy neighbour Emily drops by unexpectedly with a sourdough starter, Fiona discovers a new target for her affections. As Fiona feeds the starter and sees it grow before her eyes, she develops a morbid fascination with making it stronger. Meanwhile, Emily grows increasingly suspicious as she realises that Stuart is nowhere to be seen and decides to pay Fiona one more visit…

SOUR is a gruesome take on madness in isolation, what happens when reality fails to live up to expectation and secrets we keep to maintain it.

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Interview with director Natalya Mykhaylyuk

1. What motivated you to make this film?

We were completing our Masters in Filmmaking when the Covid pandemic hit. Due to the lockdown restrictions, we had to scale down our original plans for our graduate project and come up with a new idea that could be filmed during the pandemic in one location with a limited cast. That’s how SOUR was born! Our lead writer Jack Smithies baked up the initial concept after hearing his girlfriend’s sourdough starter making strange noises during the night. This inspired Jack to write a radio play which he then turned into the first draft of SOUR. As sourdough-baking mania spread during lockdown, SOUR became a satirical exploration of the effects of isolation on individuals through a lens of comedy and horror. It was also an interesting challenge to make a film about the pandemic while living through it!

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

It took us around 4 months from development to production and a further 3 months till completion, taking us a total of 7 months to make SOUR. The process took longer than usual as we waited for lockdown restrictions to ease so we could meet in person again and go ahead with the shoot. The upside was that we had plenty of time to perfect the script.


Writers Jack, Aaron Kara and I held regular Zoom sessions to brainstorm ideas, each taking turns to write drafts in response to feedback from our producers, tutors and production teams. The film was a labour of love, teamwork and lots of hard work – but it was totally worth it!

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Beautifully Bonkers

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The biggest obstacle was shooting during lockdown with a radically reduced crew size and added pressure of Covid and social distancing restrictions on set. Pre-planning and storyboarding was essential but on the upside, this enabled us to be more organised and efficient on set.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Watching the feedback put a huge smile on my face!! It was so rewarding to hear all the different people on the other side of the world enjoy SOUR, notice the little details and appreciate the time and effort that went into it! It made all the hard work worth it! Thank you!!

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I enjoyed making funny sketches on a camcorder with my cousin when I was younger and living in Ukraine. When I was older and living in London, watching films became a ritual and I knew deep down that I wanted to make my own films one day. It was only when I went to university for the first time that I started working on projects with the Film & TV Society (incidentally, the same one where Christopher Nolan made his first films!). But it was only in 2018 that I mustered up the courage to write, direct and produce my first film Blossoming Fern with a professional cast and crew. In the meantime, I was working and saving up to study Filmmaking and Directing at Masters level.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

I have so many favourite films that I revisit! A lot of them are comedies. My ultimate favourite, however, is the classic musical Singing in the Rain. It’s an ode to the power of cinema, while also being entertaining, funny and heart-warming!

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

I love in-person screenings and events. As film festivals return to normal after the pandemic, I’m looking forward to screenings with live audiences and having an opportunity to meet and chat to viewers, other filmmakers and film professionals.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

FilmFreeway is a great tool for filmmakers! I’ve found it easy to use and a great way to discover new festivals from around the world.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Sourdough! Actually, I love trying cuisines from around the world and am a particular fan of Japanese cuisine and sushi.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

I’ve recently had the pleasure of directing two more comedic shorts about food, Have a Biscuit and Dreamy Brie, as part of a web series called Freewheeling. Have a Biscuit, written by Callum Jones, is about a funeral director who becomes increasingly anxious that her choice of biscuit has offended the grieving widow sat in front of her. The film is currently due to screen at Women X Film Festival in Darlington, United Kingdom this September 3rd.

Dreamy Brie, written by Sydonie Calvert, is about a woman who’s home alone one night when she hears a mysterious bump – is she just paranoid or are there more sinister forces at play?

Continuing the theme of food-based comedies, I’m also developing a comedic TV series about ice cream in addition to working on other comedy and drama projects. You can find out more about my work on www.natalyamykhaylyuk.com

Director Biography – NATALYA MYKHAYLYUK

Natalya Mykhaylyuk is a writer/director who hails from Ukraine but grew up in London. Passionate about character-driven stories with unexpected twists across different genres, her films deal with themes of human agency, perception and the blurring of boundaries. With SOUR, Natalya is excited to explore how one woman finds her perfect match in an unassuming but ultimately very hungry sourdough starter! A fan of Edgar Wright’s style of visual comedy as well as the surrealness of David Lynch, Natalya sees SOUR as somewhere between Blue Velvet meets Hot Fuzz meets B-movie classic The Blob. Her previous films include psychological thriller Beauty about a young influencer’s encounter with a mysterious intruder, experimental film Waiting exploring Laura Mulvey’s theories regarding the male gaze in cinema and Blossoming Fern, poetic drama about a florist in a toxic relationship haunted by a recurring fantasy.

Director Statement

Directing and co-writing SOUR has been an absolute pleasure! I was inspired by the originality of the premise and its fresh perspective on the madness of lockdown. Drawing inspiration from films exploring the anxieties and fears of suburban modern life such as Swallow (Carlo Mirabella-Davis, 2019), American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999), Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986) as well as the iconic TV series Desperate Housewives, I wanted to make a film that would not only make people laugh and smile during this difficult time but also provide a somewhat cathartic experience. Aside from being a comedic exploration of the effects of isolation, I see SOUR as a cautionary tongue-in-cheek tale about what happens when reality fails to live up to expectation and we upset the balance between the organic and the human!

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival www.wildsound.ca

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