Tell us a bit about yourself…
I was born in Siberia, an industrial town called Krasnoyarsk. Countless factories kept the sky wonderfully grey all year round. Regardless, I had a beautiful childhood escaping to my dacha—a countryside house—where I spent my time outdoors. Then, when I was eleven, my family moved to Moscow. Despite constantly getting into street fights and shoplifting as a rebellious youth, I learned to speak French by studying at the Lycee.
You started your career as an actor, how did this come about?
My thespian inclinations stem from my mother. She’s a trained singer and always encouraged me to go down the artistic route; from sending me to a ballet school when I was eleven, to insisting I attend drama school. I ended up auditioning for LAMDA and graduated in 2006.
How did you transition from acting to directing?
I was asked to read a few short stories in 2014 at the book launch of London-based writer, Juja Dobrachkous. She writes these incredible, weirdly atmospheric, poetic stories that stay in your memory for days. One of the stories—Mama—really jumped out at me and resonated a lot with the audience. I realised right there that I wanted to direct it. So, I asked Juja if she wanted to adapt it for the screen. Two years later, I was on set shooting it in gorgeous, snow-swept Saint Petersburg.
Once you’ve finished screening and promoting the film, what’s next?
Right now, I’m working on my second short, One Hit Wonder. It’s a dark comedy about an over-the-hill American pop star who became famous off the back of a hit in the ’80s. She’s invited to give a private performance to a Russian oligarch in London. Her performance is hijacked by the client, who is obsessed with the song and a hysterical night ensues. The film will be financed through a Kickstarter campaign, which is live now—please check it out and support!
How much do you need to raise to be able to fund the project?
£12,460! The campaign went live this past weekend and closes October 22nd. There are pledge incentives ranging from a mention in the film credits to signed posters.
This isn’t your first crowdfunding or film-financing venture, neither of which is an easy feat. What would you say is the hardest challenge that you’ve had to overcome?
Being kicked out of the county! I was forced to go back to Russia after living in the UK for seven years. I’d just finished at LAMDA and had a pretty successful start in the industry, having done a few films and plays. I was really making my life here, and then—boom. For visa reasons, I had to leave, immediately.
It took me two years to get another UK work permit, but more than anything, it was just being in that state of hanging up in the air, of not knowing what will happen and when. It’s so psychologically destructive, so draining. Now that I’m a British citizen, it all feels like a bit of a distant nightmare. I can definitely relate to how Europeans living in the UK feel now.
So where do you prefer to live and work?
I think of London as my hometown.
It challenges me every day, yet gives me freedom to do what I love. Having said that, I was very lucky to shoot my first short in Russia. I don’t think I’d be able to rouse so much support and attract so many talented people into working on a low-budget project elsewhere. Mother Russia can be very nurturing. A spirit of collective effort is definitely going strong there.
Any advice for those trying to break into the industry?
A friend once told me, “You have to start bringing value to the industry, then the industry will notice.”
That being said, what would you like your legacy to be?
Legacy is such a big word. For me, people like Charlie Chaplin are what legacy is all about. He really managed to touch people’s hearts, and his films still do today. I just think it’s such a gift to make people laugh and it should not go to waste. If I could come anywhere near it, I’d be happy.