Television, cinema and Ukrainian heroes of American comics: how a Ukrainian actress tells Americans about the war
Actress Lana Shcherbakova has only been living in the US for 2,5 years and is already acting in films by renowned independent director Rob Nilsson, working on her own series and helping Ukrainian refugees trying to escape the war in the United States. Behind her shoulders is a successful career in Russia, the Shchukin Theater Institute, experience in conducting television programs in Moscow and filming famous films and series.
However, after the start of a full-scale war between Russia and Ukraine, the actress admits: in a sense, she has to start life from scratch, since there can no longer be any talk of any cooperation with the aggressor country. About how to find yourself in immigration, and how the war affects creativity, Lana spoke in an interview with ForumDaily.
First job at age 12
Svetlana Shcherbakova was born in Odessa, where she graduated from the Water Institute - by the way, the same one that she graduated at the time Mikhail Zhvanetsky.
«During my studies, I realized that my vocation is the stage, because, while still a student, I enjoyed participating in all kinds of concerts, performances, freshman days and the like. We created a faculty day for the first time, and I was its organizer', Lana recalls.
In fact, the girl began her career long before the institute. Having been involved in ballroom dancing since childhood, she found her first job at the age of 12.
«It was 1993, when prices were rising almost daily. Just then my father died, and I felt that I should help the family. I began to help lead a younger group of children who were learning ballroom dancing. Then it was very fashionable, and many parents sent their children to dance literally from the age of three. When I was 14 or 15 years old, I was assigned a separate group, and when I turned 16, my partner and I opened our own branch of the ballet studio - the Yuventa Dance Development Center. Officially, my partner was considered its head, because at that time he was already an adult', says Lana.
In addition, while still at school, the girl was engaged in a theater studio, and connects her most vivid childhood memories primarily with theatrical or dance performances.
«Probably, I was influenced by the Soviet upbringing, when we were inspired that the actor is not a profession, but at best a hobby. Therefore, I chose an institute that had nothing to do with the theater”, Lana admits.
On the sidelines of Russian television: living legends and Vladimir Solovyov's anti-example
Shortly after graduation, Lana married a resident of Samara Alexey and moved to him, and then the couple moved to Moscow. Continuing to dream about the stage, the girl began with a two-year course at the Moscow Institute of Television and Radio Broadcasting Ostankino. The training was conducted by the legendary announcer of the Central Television of the USSR Svetlana Zhiltsova.
«She turned out to be an amazingly kind, tactful, wise person.Lana recalls. - In addition to her, we had other outstanding teachers: Mayak radio announcer Valentina Mokrousova, radio host Ilya Prudovsky - a famous announcer with a voice similar to Levitan».
Exactly Ilya Prudovsky recommended that his students attend the show of the now infamous propagandist Vladimir Solovyov. Lana says that back in 2005, when Solovyov was not yet so odious, and hosted the popular program “Duel”, the masters of the “Ostankino school” demonstrated him as an example of how a journalist should in no case behave.
«At that time, Solovyov was almost the only example of a complete lack of journalistic ethics. He is really a talented, erudite person, distinguished by sharpness of mind and lightning speed of reaction, but the lack of ethics turned him into an anti-journalist. The teachers showed it to us as an example of how you should never do it. In those years, Solovyov was the only one who put pressure on his interlocutors, did not allow them to express their opinion, distorted his words and was rude. Now it has become the mainstream of Russian talk shows, but it was Vladimir Solovyov who laid this style, which has nothing to do with journalism.' Lana explains.
Finishing the courses, Lana had an internship as a correspondent in the Real Estate program on the RBC TV channel, where she led the Design section. According to her, despite the fact that RBC was then considered an independent channel, back in the middle of the XNUMXs, she noticed that there was no longer true freedom of speech on federal TV.
«I grew up on the leading times of perestroika and the 90s, but the television I got on was already very different from that time. I remember how naively I asked the chief architect of Moscow: "What can you say about infill development?" After that, the management thoroughly cleaned up my report"She recalls.
Even then, behind the scenes of Russian television, Lana faced self-censorship and duplicity of individual journalists. The girl remembers: a popular presenter Mikhail Leontiev in personal communication, he said something completely different from what he said in his program “However”.
In parallel with her journalistic work, Lana earned money by bringing out trays with prizes to participants in the Raffle program. Then, at the initiative of the actress, and at that time - students of the theater Maria Kozhevnikova the girl began to go to acting auditions. Just at that time, the actress, who played the main role in the graduation performance of GITIS, announced that she would not be able to participate in the premiere. She was replaced by Lana Shcherbakova.
«I had to learn all the parts of the dances and songs of the musical in 3 weeks", - recalls the actress.
The performance was successful, and Lana's first serious role was one of the main roles in the youth series "School No. 1" in 2007. After that, the girl entered the Shchukin Theater School to master acting at a professional level, and began working as the host of the Night Games entertainment program on TNT.
Following the first film role, others went: in the films New Year's Tariff, Newlyweds, in the TV series Zhurov, Balabol, Univer, Traffic Light, Caramel and others. In parallel, according to the girl, the secret world of show business was revealed to her with all its dirt, including intrigue and harassment. This was one of the reasons that Lana began to think about moving to America. The events of 2014 (the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbass) only strengthened her resolve. In the same year, Lana gave birth to a daughter, and after some time a divorce occurred in her life.
«By that time, I had already left television and was engaged only in cinema. But all the same, it was increasingly difficult for me to withstand internal censorship, not to say too much or engage in self-deception. I began to feel like a stranger in Russia. After the murder Boris Nemtsov I already knew that I needed to start my journey to America“, she admits.
Way to America
Lana applied for an EB-1 visa, a work visa for people with extraordinary abilities, which makes it possible to obtain a green card.
«I understood that the psychological, social and everyday adaptation would take about 3 years, especially considering that I had a small child who needed to be placed in school", she lists.
Lana planned to go to Los Angeles, but an accident intervened in her life. The arrival in America coincided with the beginning of the pandemic, and the girl was “stuck” in San Francisco. However, this is what brought her unexpected luck.
«I almost accidentally met the legend of American independent cinema Rob Nilsson, having accepted the invitation of a familiar operator-trainee to try himself in his film as an extra. I spoke with Rob at that time still in broken English, and it turned out that he knew both the Shchukin Institute and my native Odessa. He saw that I was not afraid to improvise, and unexpectedly invited me to go on an expedition with him to shoot his new film. Of course, he didn’t have a role for me, but I was ready to just watch from the sidelines, cook food or help on the set.', says Lana.
It was about the movie. Center Divide. On the second filming trip, Rob Nilsson had already chosen a small role of a dancer specially for Lana, which became her debut in American cinema. Following this, the director invited the Ukrainian woman to his next film - the continuation of Center Divide, and then to the third part of the trilogy, where Lana already had a big role as a Ukrainian gallery owner.
The American Dream and the War in Ukraine
At the same time, Lana worked on her own series, Emigrants, a tragicomic story of girls from Russia and Ukraine who became American “emigrants involuntarily” during the pandemic. According to the author, girls periodically find themselves in various difficult situations due to the difference in mentality, and their "American dreams" are sometimes shattered by the reality of emigration.
You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York.
«For a year I could not find a screenwriter who could write dialogues for the heroines, and here my acquaintance with Rob helped me a lot. He taught me his method of improvisation, where the actors create their own dialogue as they play.”, she says. Once Rob gave Lana the opportunity to work as a cameraman on his project, handing her a camera and just walking away.
«I was amazed at how much freedom he gives to both cameramen and actors. In Shchukinsky we were constantly intimidated by authorities, did not allow any initiative and were convinced that a good actor is a completely trampled human pride. Here you are given complete freedom of creativity and the ability to create your own", - explains the actress.
According to Lana, it was then that she began to feel the American dream: freedom and respect for someone else's personality. In addition to working for Nilsson, she filmed a pilot for the Emigrants series at her own expense and has already begun offering it to Russian online platforms. The war changed everything.
«I realized that I do not want to have anything to do with Russian cinema. The series itself, of course, will also have to be changed: at least, to make all the heroines Ukrainians who ended up in America because of the war. But the rest of the idea remains the same. The series is a guide to survival in American immigration based on the stories of Ukrainian refugees. Now the whole world admires the courage of Ukrainians, their dignity and ability to unite in the face of mortal danger. I want to try to reveal the secret of this Ukrainian “Cossack spirit” in art form”, Lana shares.
The premiere of the pilot issue is planned for August this year in the form of a charity evening. The actress hopes to use the proceeds to help Ukrainian refugees and rework the series.
In parallel with the beginning of the war, the girl, as a volunteer, went to the southern border of the United States, meeting on the American side of the border Ukrainian refugees who arrived in the States through Mexico. Now that a new program for accepting Ukrainian refugees has been adopted, Lana is trying to inform her compatriots as much as possible about it and helps them buy preferential air tickets to get to America.
«In addition, one American author and I are making comics about the war in Ukraine. The main character is a girl who volunteered for the front. In a manner understandable to American teenagers and youth, we show the horrors of Bucha, Mariupol and other episodes of this war, using, among other things, my social networks TikTok and Instagram', says Lana.
Now the actress is full of creative plans, first of all - to shoot an updated version of her series and to help as much as possible those who have, often forced, to repeat her path and start a new life in America.
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