Leading casting director Debbie McWilliams and agent Steve Cash highly acclaimed the potential of Russian artists and their acting skills
A discussion on “Russian actors: new trends” took place at the Russian Pavilion, July 13th
International casting directors, agents, actors and producers discussed the future of Russian talents on the world stage in a panel discussion at the Russian Pavilion hosted by CASTING BRIDGE, a community of English-speaking Russian acting talents abroad, and ROSKINO.
Russian talent is now thriving and securing more roles in international projects. The incredible pool of diverse talent is rightfully getting recognized by international industry and receiving professional acclaim for the strength of their performances and versatility. There is an increasing number of opportunities opening up for Russian talents, which is beginning to show its value and worth to both the project and the marketplace.
Actress born in Moscow, graduate of The Boris Shchukin Theatre Institute. Appeared in "Loveless” directed by A. Zvyagintsev (Jury prize at Cannes film festival), her filmography includes films and TV series with roles in Russian, English and French. Based in Paris since 2018.
Evgenia Markova, CEO of ROSKINO
‘The Russian industry is rapidly developing in all areas: sales, festival participation, animation and, of course, the popularity of actors. I am certain that many colleagues will agree that the participation of talented artists in a project is one of the most important components of success. Consequently, one of the primary tasks is to promote Russian actors not only within the country but also abroad. We started working in this direction a year and a half ago, paying special attention to the international press. Now we continue to inform foreign partners about the talented graduates of our acting schools. They are shaping a new generation of talent – bright, ambitious and, most importantly, English-speaking. At the same time, we work with the actors themselves, raising their awareness of the nuances of working on international projects.’
Debbie McWilliams. Leading international casting director who has cast the last 14 James Bond films which has taken her all around the world, casting A list stars and unknown actors. She has worked with directors like Danny Boyle, Derek Jarman, Roman Polanski, Stephen Frears, Anthony Minghella, Sam Mendes, Ron Howard to name a few.
‘I cannot fully predict the vector of development of Russian actors, but I think that the industry is really changing. No boundaries, no barriers. People have access to content created in different parts of the world. From my point of view, nationality is not the main thing. It seems to me that education is not that important either. You must have talent and strong character. The lack of one thing makes building an acting career an almost impossible task. Also, I think the main problem is the language. Unfortunately, this is true – if you want to develop in the international industry, you must be proficient. The better you speak, the better you present yourself, the more chances you have. Another obstacle to casting Russian talents is the lack of databases. In the UK, USA and France there exists a unified catalogue to search for someone who will be suitable for the role. There is nothing like this in Russia. The platform must definitely emerge, this is very important, so we are aware of the opportunities offered by Russian actors. Moreover, all information on the platform must be updated, portfolios and acting self-presentations must be available.’ Debbie’s advice is to improve self-taping skills.
Steve Cash. Agent and co-founder of Subtitle Talent Agency, that represents some of European finest established and emerging actors, providing management and development of their careers internationally.
‘Russian film industry is really developing and it's great! Without a doubt, Russia is rich in talents, and several names come to mind at once – Kantemir Balagov, Danila Kozlovsky, Yuri Kolokolnikov… VOD platforms play a critical role in the distribution of the Russian films by deciding whose content to purchase. Americans are very interested in the Russian projects, fortunately, now they are more accessible. However, knowledge of English is an integral part of working abroad. We can say that this is one of the criteria for selecting actors. Moreover, actors need to be able to perform in English as well as in Russian.’ Some advice from Steve is to put English subtitles to showreels, contact details to all your materials and to practice self-taping.
Alexander Kuznetsov. Actor, singer, songwriter and guitarist known for his characters in such films as “Why don’t you just die”, “Acid” and “Leto” directed by Kirill Serebrennikov, in official Cannes competition 2019. And this year, he stars in Rachel Lang’s film “Our men” (Mon légionnaire) presented in Directors’ Fortnight program.
‘Mon Légionnaire’ is shot in French, and to be honest, I hadn't studied that language before filming. I diligently resorted to the help of my French friends and colleagues, who taught me to speak naturally and understand those around me. While working on the film, I realized the importance of the integration process. It's not just about reading lines out loud and flipping a script, it's about communication on set. Therefore, it is important to learn and practice the language. And this work will surely be rewarded’.
Anastasia Reshetnikova. Russian / Dutch actress, based in Amsterdam. Selected from over 3000 applicants from 123 countries as a 1st ever Russian actress at Berlinale Talents 2021. Her filmography includes over 20 projects with roles in Russian, English and Dutch.
‘I am a graduate of the Russian Institute of Theater Arts - GITIS, the largest and oldest independent theatrical arts school in Russia. But soon after graduation I moved to The Netherlands, where I quickly realized that I needed to make the transition from theater to film due to the situation in the local creative industry. I started this transition by working with young film directors, who were still studying or just graduated from the local film schools. This is when I found out that film acting requires a slightly different set of tools. So I signed up for a short but intensive program designed especially for actors transitioning from theater to film and TV. If there is something I can recommend to those who are only starting this journey, I would say: start educating yourself on the business side of acting as soon as possible. Also, learn everything you can about self-representation for actors. Learn how to network and start attending film festivals and other industry events.’
Julia Khamitova. Actress, producer and co-founder of Casting Bridge Community, curator of the Industry Forum and producer of Russian Film Week in UK. Graduate of Russian State Institute of Performing Arts (St. Petersburg) and Lola Cohen Master Class (Lee Strasberg Institute). Film credits include “Conference” directed by Ivan I. Tverdovskiy, “Intervention” directed by K. Zueva and others.
‘Casting Bridge was created three years ago to represent Russian actors in London. Our goal was to establish contacts between casting directors, agents and the actors themselves. More and more people are looking to work with us now. Six months ago we formed a society of English-speaking Russian actors to support them, and such initiatives, in my opinion, should be a trend.’
Sanja Drakulić. Actress, casting director and CEO of Duart Company, the 1st digital casting platform in the South East of Europe. Over the last 3 years, 80 actors were cast in 12 foreign projects thanks to her platform. Her credits as casting director include: the pilot of TV series “The Dark Tower” (Amazon) and films “Ibiza” (Netflix) and “Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” (Lionsgate).
‘We were the first in Southeast Europe to launch digital actors’ database. With the launch of Duart Platform a list of all the actors finally appeared and casting-directors are able to find anyone they would like to. In 2020, we’ve decided to widen the base – now we have a lot of different filmmakers there, as not only actors need promotion and networking’.
A piece of advice from Sanja: to learn as much as you can and to invest in yourself, to be present on-line, on platforms and at film festivals’.
CASTING BRIDGE is a unique project of the Russian Film Week (UK), which includes an international forum, a community of English-speaking Russian acting talents and educational programs. The goal of Casting Bridge is to unite professionals of the casting industry for exchanging their experience and promotion of English-speaking Russian acting talents from Russia, the UK and the EU countries. Website: http://castingbridge.com/eng
Copyright @Gaël Coto