Having starred in last year’s The Bromley Boys and filming for brilliant recent release Love Possibly, we caught up with Anna Danshina to find out all about her experience working on the latter movie, industry favourites and more. Here’s what she had to say…
For those who haven’t yet seen Love Possibly what can you tell us about the film and the role you play?
Love Possibly is a romantic comedy shot in the format of a mockumentary. It is the story of Alex, played by Steve Hodgetts. Alex is a rom-com obsessed virgin who suffers from social anxiety and is on the quest to find the love of his life. Alex falls in love with a Moldovan mail order bride called Lana, whom he meets online on a dating site. However, when Lana moves to London and moves in with him with her son, Alex learns that true love is more than just ordering a mail order bride.
In Love Possibly I play Lana, who is a single mother of a young boy and lives in Moldova. She also tries to find love, but her past life experiences don’t allow her to romanticise too much anymore.
The film has a lot of funny scenes on the one hand, but at the same time it has a strong element of drama. We tried to create a real life story to make people believe that this could actually happen to someone. The film is suitable for a wide audience I guess, it is a film that can be enjoyed regardless where you are from and what you do, you can watch it with your family, friends or on your own. Also, we had audience members coming to watch it for the second time, so I can say that this is a film that you can enjoy a number of times.
Can you tell us a little bit about a typical day on the set of the movie? If indeed there were any ‘typical’ days!
On a typical day you come to the set, and after your hair and make-up is done, you start shooting. However, such typical days are not very typical particularly when you work on a smaller budget film. Instead, you are dealing with unexpected challenges. For example, we had a situation when one of the actors couldn’t make it to the film set and our directors had to completely rewrite scenes and add different scenes just minutes before shooting. But I think such unpredictable situations have a strong positive side – they stimulate creativity and new ideas arise, sometimes the best ones. Thus, a scene that our directors created at the last minute is one of the best scenes in the film. I remember working on “The Bromley Boys” film, when the director gave me a new scene written with pencil on a scrap paper, allowing me to prepare for just a few minutes, and again this was one of the funniest scenes in the film. As an actor you should always stay flexible and respond professionally to changes and challenges as they occur on the film set all the time.
The film has been selected for 17 international film festivals, it already won 20 awards including 8 awards for best feature film and you won 4 awards for best actress. Did you expect such a positive response?
We all loved what we were doing and hoped we would do it well; however we couldn’t expect such great results. Many of the festivals that we have been invited to had thousands of submissions a year, like Raindance and Catalina Film Festival, so it is already a great privilege to be shortlisted, but to win so many awards made us feel very proud of our work. I am very grateful to our directors Che Grant and Michael Boccalini for making this film and very thankful to them for giving me the part of Lana. For me to receive best actress and best supporting actress awards felt very special. It gave me a lot of confidence that somebody could potentially enjoy my work. Acting is a very challenging career which also doesn’t necessarily give you criteria against which you can measure your performances and say whether it is good or bad. So you always ask yourself: am I a good actress or not? But who can tell you that really? You could get some feedback from teachers being a drama student, but later to get such a feedback is much harder. I saw situations when actors approach directors at the end of their shooting day asking whether they think they were good or bad, I never do that. So for me to receive appreciation from professional jury members felt like receiving a distinction for passing an exam, and it gave me a sense of confidence in what I do, and also encouragement to do it even better.
What have been some of the biggest challenges in your career to-date?
The biggest challenge in my career is that I started it very late, I graduated from the Drama Centre London two years ago, and I am not in my early twenties now. Before becoming an actress I had a completely different career, I worked in politics and international affairs and my last job was as Head of Public Diplomacy Campaigns at the British Embassy in Moscow. So when I moved to professional acting I wasn’t at a young age when you still have a lot of time ahead of you, when you have a chance to “warm up”, try, look around, make mistakes, recover from them and repeat them. I don’t have this time. This is a big challenge. Also, as a female actor I understand that the industry tends to cast younger females for lead parts more often, so I feel that every year counts for me and if I want to do something, I need to do it now. Sometimes this idea of missed opportunities, losing time overwhelms me, and it isn’t a great feeling. Also, I think that if you become desperate to get something, you never achieve it. So the challenge is to have a balance between wanting too much now and planning your future. Also, when you are younger, you are much bolder, you are inclined to risk more, so you can get more. When you get older, you switch the gear and develop strategies to avoid risk, to find a safe haven. In acting this doesn’t work, there is no safe haven, no stability, no predictability. It is very tough, so in a way you have to stay in a bold, crazier gear. This is what I try to do.
Are there any directors you’d love to work with in the future?
First of all I have to say that when I work on set or stage, I find that building a good relationship with the director is crucially important for me. When I trust the director and his vision, I find it easier to take directions. Some directors appreciate that actors are not there only to display their ideas, actors also bear responsibility over their characters. So cooperation between a director and an actor is vital when you are developing and living the life of your character on screen and stage. Some people say that actors must obey directors without questioning them, but I wouldn’t always agree with this opinion, when you develop your character’s life inside yourself, you are also responsible for this new life, even if it is just for a few days. So I do enjoy directors who appreciate a collaborative approach and don’t cast slaves. And I would love to work with such directors in future. Also, I would like to work more with female directors. In future I would love to work with Andrey Tarkovsky, Alberto Fellini, Inmarsat Bergman, but unfortunately they are not with us anymore. I would very much like to take part in a mystical film, I appreciate the work of David Lynch for example. I also enjoy watching the films of Pedro Almadovar, Lars Von Trier and Andrey Zvyagintsev.
Who are some of your favourite stars of the big screen?
It is a good question which I always struggle to answer because perhaps I like the work of too many actors: Catherine Deneuve, Audrey Hepburn, Kirsten Dunst. I find them outstanding because they have amazing personality and charisma which I think is crucial for an actor. When people watch you on the big screen they want to see the very depths of your character’s internal life, and I think this depth can only exist if an actor fills it with their personality. Acting is living in imaginary circumstances, but living truthfully, and great actors can do that, they also leave you with the feeling of something mysterious, something you like but can’t quite explain. I remember I was at a festival and a gentlemen who had watched Love Possibly approached me saying that he was fascinated with my performance and will remember me, but he said he can’t really explain why he felt it was so special, he said there was something that he liked so much, but he couldn’t really explain what. This is exactly what I feel watching great actors on screen, I love watching them, but I can’t really explain why.
You are also stage actress with impressive theatre credits and graduated from Drama Centre in London. How is film acting different from stage acting?
Film acting and stage acting are very similar and at the same time very different craft. You build your character and then live his life in both genres, but perhaps in theatre the physicality and the voice is crucial because you need to be seen from a distance, while on screen the projection should perhaps be a bit less and more subtle, expressiveness is more contained. But it really depends on the production and the film. It is very interesting, but I have seen some actors who are brilliant on stage but not so interesting to watch on screen, and some vice versa. I myself trained as a screen actress, and I love screen work, but I also developed a strong interest in performing on stage, and now I can’t say which I enjoy doing more. I definitely enjoy live contact with the audience when you perform on stage, you see they are watching you, their presence gives you a lot of energy that you transform and give them back. But the camera lenses have their own magic, these lenses take you away to a different fictional world, they also create films that may outlive you. It is scary to think about, but when I die, I will still be living on screen.
What advice do you have for anybody trying to carve out their own career in this industry?
For aspiring actors and beginners I would like to say that it is important to invest time and effort into drama training, as acquiring professional acting skills may prove very valuable in your future career. Second, I wouldn’t recommend to get too frustrated immediately if you can’t get what you planned and give up on this career too soon. It may happen that you will work for few years without a strong feeling that you are achieving much, but it doesn’t mean you are bad, it means you need to work even harder. I remember, a famous producer once said that actors tend to expect that there will be a lot of doors opened for them, but it may not be true, there are doors of course but sometimes you have to break them down. I think an acting career requires a lot of dedication and hard work, and you must be very passionate about it if you want to be successful. Also, some people may disagree, but I recommend to play only those parts that you want to play and play them well. When actors don’t like what they do, they can rarely do it well, so I think it is better to have less parts, but play them with passion.
Finally, what else do you have coming up that you can share some details about?
I’ve been very busy this year. We just finished shooting the feature film “Break”. This is directed by Michael Elkin and stars Rutger Hauer. I played the part of Alena. Earlier in the summer I also played the part of Natasha in the feature film “Cordelia” directed by Adrian Shergold. I have done two theatre plays as well. The last play was called “Ajax” by Sophocles. I had the part of Odysseus! We hope to perform with this play at the Festival of Ancient Greek Theatre in Cyprus in June/July 2019 if we are selected. On top of all of that the big news is that I have just signed with a new talent agency – BBA Management – and I am very excited about that. It will be great to work with a new team. Next year I am planning to spend more time in Moscow and LA. I have plans for some professional projects there as well, which could be very interesting.