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Uprising: How Kamila Daurenova Balances Between Experimentation and Collaboration



Forager Collective’s editor Kamila Daurenova on her Kazakh culture, seeing her work in Times Square and the ethical responsibilities a piece has towards its subjects and potential audiences

Uprising: How Kamila Daurenova Balances Between Experimentation and Collaboration

“I’ve always been in love with storytelling and how integral it is to human communication and culture. Growing up in a post-Soviet household, you learn poems by heart and then recite them to family members starting from an early age. There was something beautiful about having these little rhyming stories filed away in your mind that you could bring up for yourself or for others.”

Forager Collective’s editor Kamila Daurenova grew up as a shy child, spending most of her time reading, doing art projects and playing video games. She always enjoyed finding moments and creating stories that would evoke emotions from others, as well as reading stories that did the same to her. After moving to the UK from Kazakhstan at five years old, and being the only Asian person in the class, she fell in love with reading as both a form of escapism and as a means of learning English faster.

“I was also for some reason really passionate about collecting rocks and sea shells and had a big collection of them at home. My mom says she would always have to check all the pockets in my school uniform before it went in the laundry or she would have a bunch of rocks spinning with the clothes.”

Kamila says that her Kazakh culture had a “monumental impact” on her outlook and is something that she wishes more people had exposure to. “On a worldwide scale, knowledge about Kazakh culture or Kazakhstan itself has been quite limited, which is unfortunate because it has also been a country whose people have been silenced for a long time and whose culture risked being erased. It has been really inspiring seeing cultures that went through the same thing heal by telling their stories and having them heard.”

She expresses her disappointment and sadness with the Kazakshtani government’s treatment of the Kazakh people - highlighting the events ‘Qandy Qantar’, or ‘Bloody January’, which occurred earlier this year. “What started as a series of peaceful protests turned to our government once again opening fire on our people, naming them terrorists and imposing an internet and cellular shutdown while people watched their cities burn and gunfire open on so recently peaceful streets.”

Despite the tragic events and cruel actions of the current government, Kamila is proud of her Kazakh heritage and especially proud of her fellow Kazakh people that have dedicated themselves to rebuilding the country and its culture – many of whom work in film also. “One of these people is the director Aisultan Seitov, who moved back to Kazakhstan after the events this January. He is now actively helping grow our film industry while also creating work that sparks necessary conversations between our people despite all of the obstacles that come up in the way. Some other incredible Kazakh artists working in the film industry are colourist Yerlan Tanayev, executive producer Yerkebulan Kurishbayev, and post-producer Anuar Bazargeldi.”

The young editor initially planned to become a doctor, studying biochemistry in Kazakhstan at 16. However, feeling “confused and lost” as more creative pursuits came calling, she submitted a portfolio, featuring some homemade claymations, to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. “My parents have always been incredibly supportive and helpful but I knew that sending me to the US for university wasn’t really a possibility for us. I still remember opening the financial page for NYU, not hoping for much because I knew that chances were lower as an international student, and seeing that I had been offered a full ride for the four years of study. I remember having to check it over and over again while crying with my mom and my little sister because it felt too good to be true.”

Kamila didn’t expect to get into editing, although – like many people her age – she had experience with cutting together home videos with Windows Movie Maker. At college, she interned at MTV’s and SNL’s post-production departments, returning to MTV as an assistant editor after graduating. “I wanted to pay off my loans and grow my experience faster,” she says. “So during this time I also started assistant editing as a freelancer with Forager Collective, where I’m now represented as an editor.”

She explains that her film school experience and first steps in the post-production world were invariably white male-dominated; an initial disappointment after hoping to see fewer gender barriers at work in the US. This was something that attracted her to Forager and its diverse roster when they first entered the picture. “All of a sudden I learned about so many cool immigrant women that were killing it in commercial editing and, as an assistant editor, it was really inspiring. I still really look up to them and think they are some of the best editors I know.”

Speaking on her proudest achievements to date, she says, “I feel really grateful to have had the opportunity to work on so many incredible projects but some of the most special ones have been those directed by my friend [Greenpoint Pictures'] Ewurakua [Dawson-Amoah]. ‘Gold Token’ and the directors cut for Cricket Wireless are some of them, but three more I’m really excited about are coming out in the next few weeks. Aside from being an incredible person and an absolute ray of sunshine, she’s also a published poet and incredibly talented songwriter. There have been so many times when I’m starting on an edit for her and just looking through the footage or hearing the song she’s working on for it that I’ve gotten chills. I genuinely feel so honoured every time I get to edit something directed by her because I truly think she is a visionary artist with such a beautiful mind and she treats every member of her team with such respect and openness to collaboration.”

She has also derived great pride from seeing music videos that she’s edited premiere on Times Square billboards, such as ‘In My Bag’ by Justine Skye, which premiered on the BET billboard on the Viacom building - coincidentally where she started work in the industry as an intern.

“I honestly love everything about editing and still can’t believe that I get to do it for a living,” she says. “There’s a great balance between having time on your own to experiment and there’s also so much collaboration with the director of the project, which often ends up being my favourite part. Sometimes you’re going back and forth and every revision just feels better and better for both the editor and the director and it feels so great getting to join minds to create something better together.”

Sounding out these collaborative ideas is a large part of the job for Kamila, who describes herself as “a bit of a perfectionist”. She tends to micro-analyse each frame of a first cut, but enjoys the projects with stricter time frames that force her to rely on her instincts. 

Some of her most recent creative challenges have arisen from her work in a favourite genre - branded documentaries. Whilst the genre produces some “incredible and important work”, she says that she has encountered some ethical questions during her experiences. “I’ve been in situations where I’ve seen footage that I haven't felt comfortable incorporating in an edit with the ethical responsibilities a piece has towards its subjects and potential audiences, and I think it’s important to hold ourselves accountable as creatives on every step of the process.”

Now living in Brooklyn, Kamila enjoys a craft project to help her decompress outside of work. As many will be able to attest, she believes that having tactical, physical hobbies and activities to do in the real world is key to a balanced life for someone with a computer-based job like her. But what truly soothes her soul after a long day staring at a screen, is spending quality time with her boyfriend and two cats, Shrimp and Oyster.

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Forager, Wed, 29 Jun 2022 16:57:00 GMT