Born and raised in Moscow, he migrated with his family to the United States in his late teens. He began acting in short films made by fellow students at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee ; and soon after made his first short, Terra Terra which was invited to numerous festivals. He wrote and directed three other shorts and worked on a number of others made at the New York University (NYU) Graduate Film Program. His 2003 short documentary film Inhale, Exhale received the Audience Award at the annual NYU Showcase at the Directors’ Guild of America. He completed the short Auditions just before beginning work on his first feature, Sonhos de Peixe.