“A Day in the Life” with filmmaker & commercial director Alina Vita Kulesh

Alina Vita Kulesh is, first and foremost, a poet. Yes, she is a director and a writer, but in her work and in her life, she carries herself with a poet’s generosity and precision. She brings an aesthetic of sensitivity to her storytelling, and takes great care to be exact in the depth of emotions she captures.

I’ve had the monumental gift of being transformed by Alina’s generosity, whether through unendingly supportive friendship or keen eye in edits. And I’ve been lucky to watch her precision at work, coming through in her bringing to life a vision with astounding clarity.

You, too, can see this at work in BABY BLUE, Alina’s first independent short film which she wrote, produced and directed. It played in film festivals in LA, Portland and Toronto, and won multiple awards including Best Director. That precision is also the guiding force behind her follow up film LITTLE SOUL, which was acquired by the CBC.

In all dimensions, poets elevate. And that’s what Alina does: In words and images, Alina tells stories that move, inspire, shatter — stories that are alive and vital.

-Written by dear friend, Elamin Abdelmahmoud.

This photograph was taken of me on the set of my first short film BABY BLUE. I look like such a dork, but it shows how much childish joy I feel when I direct. It could also be because I worked with actors Lovell Adams-Gray and Kiana Madeira on this one - they are outstanding performers!
This photograph was taken of me on the set of my first short film BABY BLUE. I look like such a dork, but it shows how much childish joy I feel when I direct. It could also be because I worked with actors Lovell Adams-Gray and Kiana Madeira on this one – they are outstanding performers!
I spend a lot of time outside because of my dog Mila. We park-hop regularly and find little pockets of Toronto I would’ve never seen without her. She is quick to make friends, so I often meet interesting people (and dogs) through her.
I spend a lot of time outside because of my dog Mila. We park-hop regularly and find little pockets of Toronto I would’ve never seen without her. She is quick to make friends, so I often meet interesting people (and dogs) through her.
On set with the LITTLE SOUL crew and cast. I love the exchange of energy between all the collaborators - it is an unparalleled experience. I try to keep a grounded disposition, even when I’m worried I don’t (or try not to) show it. My job is to lead everyone to the vision—I don’t want people to feel nervous or fearful, so much creativity is stifled that way.
On set with the LITTLE SOUL crew and cast. I love the exchange of energy between all the collaborators – it is an unparalleled experience. I try to keep a grounded disposition, even when I’m worried I don’t (or try not to) show it. My job is to lead everyone to the vision—I don’t want people to feel nervous or fearful, so much creativity is stifled that way.
My commercial director rep, Christina Bucci from Fyfe Shader, and I spend a lot of time on video chat. We talk strategy, creative development, next steps on projects/pitches and of course, what afternoon snack we’re going to have. Counting down the days ‘til we can do this in person!
My commercial director rep, Christina Bucci from Fyfe Shader, and I spend a lot of time on video chat. We talk strategy, creative development, next steps on projects/pitches and of course, what afternoon snack we’re going to have. Counting down the days ‘til we can do this in person!
In addition to my personal work, I do work on commission as well - which means I’m syncing my vision with someone else’s, and that’s pretty rad. Here I am with DOP Curry Leamen, chatting through my storyboard for celebrity poet, Rupi Kaur’s visual poem.
In addition to my personal work, I do work on commission as well – which means I’m syncing my vision with someone else’s, and that’s pretty rad. Here I am with DOP Curry Leamen, chatting through my storyboard for celebrity poet, Rupi Kaur’s visual poem.
What I do in my time between gigs and shoots is just as important to me: it’s a time to decompress so new inspiration has room to grow. Because of COVID, I’ve been staying closer to home and exploring the beautiful province of Ontario. My mom, Valentyna, and I do a lot of hiking together.
What I do in my time between gigs and shoots is just as important to me: it’s a time to decompress so new inspiration has room to grow. Because of COVID, I’ve been staying closer to home and exploring the beautiful province of Ontario. My mom, Valentyna, and I do a lot of hiking together.
Of course I do most of my writing on my MacBook or by hand, but I love typewriters--there is a tactility to them that makes writing feel like a performance. So now and then, I will spend my mornings warming up on one of the beauties I own. This one in particular, Valentine, made big waves in 1969, it was the most stylish machine of its time. People carried it like an accessory. This model lives in MoMa because of its cultural importance.
Of course I do most of my writing on my MacBook or by hand, but I love typewriters–there is a tactility to them that makes writing feel like a performance. So now and then, I will spend my mornings warming up on one of the beauties I own. This one in particular, Valentine, made big waves in 1969, it was the most stylish machine of its time. People carried it like an accessory. This model lives in MoMa because of its cultural importance.
I’m never alone, and never not sharing a snack with my dog Mila. She is a rescue from Saint Lucia who is the perfect companion.
I’m never alone, and never not sharing a snack with my dog Mila.
She is a rescue from Saint Lucia who is the perfect companion.

Which ‘hood are you in?

I live in West Queen West, around Little Portugal. This neighbourhood has a lot of life; primarily because of the many small businesses that pepper the streets. You can also see some great street fashion, and there are no shortage of dogs to pet – which is the most important thing.

I bought a loft and moved in a few days before the country went into lockdown. Although it’s been a challenging time, I’ve really enjoyed having the time to make my space a home.

What do you do?

I’m a filmmaker and commercial director. I started out as a copywriter in interactive production, working my way to creative director level, before I realized I have many stories to tell and a vision to honour. Looking back at it now, I’ve never been the type of writer who sees words first as an introduction to the story; I’m the type of writer who sees images, fragmented visuals, and I decode them through words. Film, then, feels like such a natural way of self-expression.

I made the transition two years ago and it has significantly enriched my life.

What are you currently working on?

I’m always writing, so I have a lot of different baskets to put my eggs into (this sounds weird, but you get it). The project I’m mostly excited about is DOUBLE DUTCH, a short-to-feature that I’m currently in various stages of development and financing. It’s a coming-to-age story that is inspired by my growing up in Scarborough. I love the characters in it so much, they are like daughters to me.

Where can we find your work?

You can watch my second short, LITTLE SOUL, on CBC Gem (bit.ly/LittleSoulFilm).

My work, nature, mental health, and my dog frequently on my Instagram @alinakulesh.

I also try to keep my web portfolio up to date here – www.alinakulesh.com

And my commercial director work is on fyfeshader.com/director/alina-vita

 

 

Joel Levy
About Joel Levy 2050 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography