Rising star Anna Danshina is the revelation of this year. She has taken home four awards for “Best Actress” for her role played in Love Possibly, including the Hollywood Sun Awards 2018, the Snowdance Film Awards 2018 and the Royal Wolf Film Awards 2018, and“Best Supporting Actress” at the Laughlin International Film Festival 2018.
YASS Magazine met Anna during the exclusive movie premiere and talked about the phenomenal success of the movie “Love Possibly”, her remarkable career, discrimination in the movie industry and LGBTQ+ awareness and activism.
The film has already won 20 awards so far including 8 awards for the best feature film and 4 awards for the best actress for you; let alone that the film has been selected for 17 international film festivals! Did you expect the huge success of “Love Possibly”?
To be honest, no I didn’t. Even though I believed in the success of this film since the day I was invited to the audition, the results exceeded my expectations. I guess the success we have achieved surpassed expectations of everyone from our team. It is truly amazing to be recognised by professional jury members from many countries. We received awards at film festivals in the USA, Russia, Norway. We have been screened at very prestigious independent film festivals like Raindance which this year received more than 8000 entries. I am very glad that we have just been selected to compete at two more film festivals – Lift-Off in London and Sochi InternationalFilm Festival in Russia. I am looking forward to attending the event in Sochi as it is in my home country.
How does it feel to have received so many awards and international recognition? What is the magic recipe behind this success?
At the beginning it didn’t feel real. Perhaps the most magical experience for me was at the Catalina Film Festival, because we were privileged to be awarded the Best International Feature award on the same evening as some famous film makers and actors including Academy Award Winner Richard Dreyfuss. I could not hope for such a truly amazing result, and when we were walking back from the award ceremony to the boat to get back to Los Angeles, we saw a very remarkable reindeer walking along the streets of Catalina Island. The reindeer was very big and also its fur was of a very light colour, and at night seemed to be white, this amazing creature added to the feeling of an unreal experience. I thought I am probably just asleep and dreaming…
It was also a very memorable experience for me to be part of the Laughlin Film Festival and bring home the Best SupportingActress Award. I have to note that our film was competing with thousands of films from all over the world and some of them had budgets more than 10 – 20times bigger than ours, that is why we were happy and surprised at the same time that our work had been so well received.
I think the magic recipe is that first of all we all worked very hard on this film and were passionate about it. It was my first feature film after I graduated from the Drama Centre London in 2016, we shot it in two months after I finished my studies, and of course I was eager to work and make it outstanding. The directors of the film Che Grant and Michael Boccalini put so much effort into the film, it took them two years to complete it, but I think it was worth spending all this time and effort on the film. We had a truly remarkable team: Jaryl Lim, our cinematographer did an outstanding job, and Daniel Markovitch wrote amazing original music for the film. The lead actor Steve Hodgetts created a very loveable character and made people laugh to tears.
Second, I think this film is very special because it is a romantic comedy with significant elements of drama and it was shot in the format of mockumentary. So, on the one hand we were aiming at making people laugh, but at the same time we tried to create a real-life story when moments of happiness alternate with moments of deep sadness and even hopelessness, we were trying to tell a story which people could believe might have actually happened to someone. This is the hardest in any fictionfilmmaking – making people accept fiction as truth. I think we achieved our aim and we had some viewers who thought that we were not acting, but there were real people whose lives had been filmed.
Third, the film is about love – which is a topic of all times. What is love, how to find it and how to not let it go – all these questions have been approached by millions of creative story tellers, we also approached it from our perspective. A funny fact is that a friend of mine, a famous neuroscientist from the University of Oxford, approached me after the film and asked me to send her quotations from the film when my character describes what love means to her. I thought that it is fascinating that people want to keep in their private archives quotations from our film.
What has been the most memorable moment you have experienced during the journey of “Love Possibly”?
There were a lot of remarkable and funny moments during the shooting. There were a number of challenges as well. I remember when we were shooting at Piccadilly Circus at night and it was still very busy there even at 4 am, with quite a few extraordinary people having a nice time and one of the passers-by tried to abduct one of the microphones we used on set.
Do you feel that all your hard work has finally paid off? Do you consider it a privilege to become so recognised after your first film feature since your graduation from the Drama Centre London?
Because I really like what I do, the main reward for me is the work itself, and not so much what happens after we finish shooting. Of course, I want the film to be successful and the audience to enjoy it, but for me it is the time on set which is the most rewarding. The more timeI spend in front of the camera, the more rewarded I feel. Love Possibly will always be very special for me, because this was my first feature film after I finished the drama school, so the experience of playing Lana will always stay in my memory.
How long did it take to make this movie?
It took about two years. We shot it in summer2016, but it took quite a while to complete the film. I guess for independent filmmakers with limited resources the post-production part could perhaps be very lengthy. But I think it is better to wait a bit more, in order to have a great film in the end. Also, the way the film industry works is that it gives more chances to big players, who have bigger budgets. The market gives much less opportunity to smaller independent filmmakers, who may have a strong talent, but don’t have enough money to shoot a film. But despite the odds, I think our work has demonstrated that you can’t say “no money – no film”.
What was the most difficult part of this process?
For me there weren’t many difficult parts, I really enjoyed the shooting process, I loved the team, everyone worked very hard and were very passionate about what they were doing. It probably wasn’t so easy sometimes for the directors to deal with all the challenges the film making process brings when you have limited resources, but for me it was a very enjoyable experience.
How has the film industry changed over thelast few years? Do you think there is enough diversity and visibility forLGBTQ+ actors?
It is quite hard to comment on that from the insider perspective as it has been only two years since I joined the film industry in the UK. But I do believe that there are some positive changes, but perhaps they are not happening so rapidly as we would wish. The diversity subject is very topical in the actor’s profession, I think it is still much harder for actors who are representatives of gender, race, cultural and sexual minorities to succeed in their acting career. The industry tries to accommodate differences, but I guess the process takes time. For example, being from Russia and working in Britain makes me a cultural minority and believe it or not sometimes it is not very easy. When you are a foreigner, people feel that you are not like everyone else, and in the acting profession it feels particularly acute. When I was still a student at the Drama School, I went to a workshop with a film director. He told me that being an actress from Russia and having aRussian accent I will only play prostitutes in this country. He expressed his opinion, and I am not criticising that. I do understand that people have stereotypes, and for somebody female Russian nationals appear to be either spies or prostitutes. But obviously it is not true. Funnily enough, I have never met any Russian prostitute in Britain. I have met many female Russian scientists, doctors, lawyers, journalists, artists. They contribute with their hard work to the culture and society of Britain, but nobody is talking about them, a lot of people prefer to adhere to the created stereotypes and think that Russian females in the UK can only be prostitutes. So, I do believe that an actor whois a representative of a minority group may find it harder to excel in their career, but the most difficult is for the representatives of ‘invisible’ minorities.
Have you ever received any discrimination for being a woman in your industry? How did you react?
I think all female actors in the UK and I guess in the world are being discriminated on the basis of gender imbalance in the film industry. I remember I read a study conducted by BFI 2017 according to which only 30 percent of actors being cast in films in the UK were women. Interestingly enough, the research says that at the beginning of the twentieth century women were cast more often than nowadays. So, we can see that the trend is not very positive. It is quite depressing to think about it. I don’t quite understand why it is still the case.
Also, I have a feeling that there is an invisible discrimination on the basis of age among female actresses with much more demand for younger actresses to play lead parts in films, I believe there are some positive changes already to create more balance but I think much more should be done in this respect too. I do have to admit that being a female actress and getting older makes me feel terrified. I think if I were a man, I would not worry about it so much. So, to summarise, I haven’t been discriminated at work, but I have, as many other actresses, been discriminated before getting work.
You were born in Siberia and grew up in St.Petersburg. How were your childhood years and what brought you to London?
I was born in the eastern part of Siberia and it was great to spend a few years of my childhood surrounded by pristine nature. I myself can’t believe how I could have lived in a place where in winter the temperature on average was minus 35C and sometimes dropped down to minus 45C. But it was great, for example, I had a pet cow which was following me everywhere like a dog, cows are very clever and devoted animals. I love animals, I have two guinea pigs now, but I hope one day I will have cows again as well.
Later my family moved to the Leningrad region, and then we moved to St Petersburg. I lived in Moscow as well. Before coming toBritain, I worked in the sphere of Public Diplomacy, and was in charge of running campaigns to promote Russian-British relations in political, economic and cultural areas. I came to Britain because I received a scholarship from theUniversity of Oxford to do a two year Masters in Russian and East EuropeanStudies. I really enjoyed my time in Oxford.
What has been your your biggest achievement?
I don’t think I have any real achievements yet.I have received many awards throughout my life for my previous academic accomplishments, and then in my career in public diplomacy, and now for being an actress. But I don’t think I have any real achievements yet. I think a true achievement is when you do something nice to someone else without yourself benefiting from it or maybe even against your own benefit – this I see as an actual achievement. For example, once I met a lady in London who has a charity which helps ill squirrels, she brings them to the vet to be treated. I admire people who help animals.
What are you most proud of?
Oh, such a difficult question. I am proud that I am not giving up, I have life goals and aspiration, I am trying to do as much as I can, I am proud that I am doing what I love despite all the odds. Please ask me in a few years, maybe I will have something more interesting to be proud of!
What are you working on at the moment and what are your future plans?
This year has been quite busy for me. We have recently finished shooting the feature film “Break” directed by Michael Elkin and starring Rutger Hauer in which I played the part of Alena. Also, I have played the part of Natasha in the feature film ‘Cordelia’ directed byAdrian Shergold. I did two theatre plays as well. My last play was “Ajax” bySophocles, I was playing Odysseus. If all is fine, we will perform with this play at the Festival of Ancient Greek Theatre in Cyprus in June/July 2019. I have just signed with a new talent agency – BBA Management – and I am very excited to work with the new team. In the next year I am planning to spend more time in Moscow and LA doing professional projects there as well. I am very excited about that.
More of Anna Danshina here:
*all images are courtesy of Anna Danshina