Movieville International Film Festival: September 20, 2012
Behind the Scenes
Director * Actress
WHITE SWAN (Assassins Run -new title)
Dressed in a stunning gown by Roberto Cavalli, Sofya Skya arrives at Movieville International Film Festivals Cocktail Party at Hyatt Place accompanied by her husband; Sergey Veremeenko. She flew in from St. Petersburg Russia; her hometown, to attend the World Pre-Release Premiere of White Swan; a feature film she not only starred in but also directed.
White Swan filmed two years ago in St. Petersburg, Russia and Las Vegas, Nevada starring Sofya Skya, Christian Slater, Cole Hauser and Angus Macfadyen. Cast as Maya, a beautiful ballerina, mother and wife of a successful American businessman whose husband is killed by the Russian mafia. She is framed and imprisoned. Upon her release her daughter is kidnapped and Maya must fight to save her life.
What I found fascinating while sitting down with Skya was the back story, how she fell into the directing role. She told me the original director was seen making changes to the script with actor Cole Hauser as they were shooting. The main producer didn’t like the changes, especially in the middle of the production. They fired him and the movie came to a stop. The production office realized the movie had more depth and wasn’t one dimensional. Skya was the only one on set from beginning to end and she stepped up, told them her vision on how the movie cold be saved, they loved it and in turn she kept the production going and earned the title of director. She found her own editor, re-wrote the scripts, storyboards and even wrote lines for her character as well as the other characters.
Skya is no stranger to the spotlight. As a child she went to ballet school, left her parents and became a professional ballerina in the theater. She was invited to America after winning five beauty competitions including Mrs. World in 2006. While visiting, a producer from Paramount Pictures invited her to audition for the movie Flashdance, but her English wasn’t good enough. She was encouraged to stay in Los Angeles where she studied acting for six years finishing two studios; Larry Moss Studios and Joanne Baron D.W Brown Studios. She studied with private coach’s everyday for two years straight and after a half a year started speaking English, “I am so thankful to Lisa Milillo, I still study with her anytime I get a role.”
Her first role ever landed her the lead playing Legeia Romanova in the feature film based on the Edgar Allen Poe’s short story; Legeia. “It was a very interesting experience,” Skya tells me, “I worked with Michael Madsen, Eric Roberts, Wes Bentley and with Jeff Most producer of The Crow.” Six months after she was invited to be the lead in Shadows in Paradise followed by a role in the film; The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler working alongside Anna Paquin. After three more projects she moved back to Russia to film one of her favorite lead roles; Kate in the film Happiness Club directed by Igor Kaenov. ‘One year before I am playing an intense woman with a child,” says Skya “to an 18-year-old girl from the country moving to a big city trying to make her career.” When I ask her if she likes one role better than the other she says, “I love to change myself; I like to work on different characters and trying to find more of me.”
During the filming of White Swan, Skya experienced the pressure that comes along with wearing several hats; directing, acting, dancing and doing her own stunts, “On this level I would prefer to just do one thing act or direct,” Skya shares, “I got an experience I won’t ever forget. I’m going to direct, but later on around 35 or 40 years old.” How does one decompress at the end of the day? –Tears and cold water, “I was stressed out and felt very lonely, it’s very emotional,” Skya states, “I don’t have a kid and have to play very sentimental stuff and also deal with the reality. I would have to tell them to leave me alone and let me prep for the screen.” What she tells me next is great advice for actors as well as people who are interested in how someone preps for a role, “You go into a totally different direction where you don’t think, you feel – actors minds – they don’t help, you have to switch off your mind and feel and re-live through the emotion of the imaginary circumstance.” What Sofya tells me is powerful and insightful, upon hearing this I feel her conviction and know exactly why she lands all her roles.
I wonder and ask her where her strength comes from? She tells me she got it from ballet school and her mother, from being separated from her family at such a young age. Skya describes her character Maya in White Swan, “My character is in the middle of a situation where she has to scale walls, save her child and encounters many bad situations. She fights for it and is strong being raised as a ballerina, we are all very strong, independent with no childhood. Becoming light and beautiful, you become tough and strong.”
Many of the scenes that would normally require a stunt double, Skya did on her own. The toughest stunt was on stage, she was doing the Swan Lake scene where she had to do it over and over. The flooring had a curve to it making it challenging since she had practiced on a flat surface. Another was a fight scene, one of the actors got carried away and did not realize they were hurting her, “Actors are not stunt actors and they do a bit too much and it hurts, “Skya explains “the one guy was choking me and you can see the veins on my face, after I asked him to not be so rough.”
When you come out of the theater after watching White Swan, Sofya Skya wants you to feel that there is always possibility, humans can accomplish anything, you have to believe, and work and you have to be strong. She is very happy the way the film turned out and is waiting for the feedback from the audience to be sure they are happy as well.
What does the future hold for Skya, “I want to work, I want to try different things, I don’t want to sit and wait, “she tells me. I believe this multi-talented young woman will go very far. She has proved her dedication and passion through the accomplishments in her life so far. Perhaps she will add another title to her résumé on Sunday when Movieville International announces the winner of Best Actress; she is nominated for her role in White Swan.
As for Sarasota, it reminds her of Los Angeles a bit. This is her first visit and wishes she could stay longer to enjoy the hot weather, but plans on exploring the area throughout the weekend.
You can learn more about Sofya Skya on her website www.sofyaskya.com or head out to Burns Court Cinema on Friday, September 21, 2012 at 6:30 to watch White Swan followed by a Q & A. Visit www.movievilleinternational.com to find out what events are happening throughout the weekend. Written by Dayle J Hoffmann