An Interview with Jenia Tanaeva, Director and Star of See You Soon
- What was your inspiration for this film?
“See You Soon” is a reincarnation of Cinderella story. This time Cinderella is a single mom. We read fairytales to our kids so they believe in good, in love, in stories with a happy ending. I think that big girls- single moms, divorced women, etc. need that fairytale maybe even more than little girls do. I wanted to create a heartfelt love story to give a hope and maybe a motivation to those women who are out there on their own, raising their children, or maybe being stuck in a dysfunctional relationship. I hope that “See You Soon” will motivate them to take that first step towards new life, new opportunities, to believe in themselves and be brave enough to start changing their lives. I’m a single mom. I’ve been there, and I want to inspire others and remind them that true love and happiness exist!
- How did you get started? What was your first step?
I had a story in my head that I wanted to tell. So after my divorce I moved to Los Angeles from Russia with my 2 little daughters and started figuring out how it all works here. Learning, meeting new people, trying, failing and trying again….
- When did you decide you not only wanted to make this film, but star in it as well?
That was my desire from the very beginning, my dream I would say. I told everyone that I’m writing this story to be able to star in the film. I’ve created my character and I love her very much. It would’ve been heart breaking to give this character to another actress. She’s like my baby.
- What was your motivation to make this film?
First, I just thought that if others can make it in Hollywood why can’t I? I just need to figure out how. I was learning so much every day – script writing, acting, producing… The more I developed the project, the more important messages I saw in it and my desire to bring it to life was grew more and more.
- Did you always want to be an actress?
Honestly no, not always. It was always fascinating to me though and then when I actually started believing in myself, that I’m capable of doing many things, I thought “why don’t I try it? It’s definitely worth a shot!”
- Is this story based on anyone you know?
No, the story is not autobiographical. Although I have a lot in common with my character. We are both from Saint Petersburg, we both had a relationship that didn’t work, became single moms, and various small things as well.
- Did you have any formal training as a film maker?
No, not in Russia. I was learning everything in the process and started when I moved to Los Angeles 9 years ago.
One of my favorite quotes is: ” if someone asks you if you can do a job, tell them – certainly, I can. And then get busy and find out how to do it”. That’s been a story of my life.
- What do you want people to take away from seeing the film?
Warmth that this story carries, hope to find true love and happiness, belief that everything in our lives can be the way we want it to be, inspiration and motivation to take the first step.
- How did you cast the film?
A friend of mine mentioned Liam Mcintyre’s name, and I immediately thought that he looks the way I pictured Ryan in my head! We sent him the script and he loved it! He was very excited about the story and his character. Harvey Keitel and Poppy Drayton were suggested by casting director . Needless to say, I was flattered and honored when Mr. Keitel had a very positive reaction to the material and wanted to work with us. Poppy was also very excited, she’s such a great person, very talented actress and a very beautiful girl! To find a boy to play my character’s son, the director and I went on a trip to Russia. We met so many talented actors who spoke pretty good English, but when we met Peter Tereschenko we were both in love with him and felt that we found our perfect Danny!
10. Did you know which actors you wanted to work with?
I was trying to stay as open as I could. I knew that lots of actors would say no to work in an independent film with a first-time director and a first-time actress who was also a first-time writer 🙂
- Do you think being a woman made it harder for you to get this film made, especially as a first-time film maker?
Being a Russian woman – yes. Unfortunately, there’s certain stereotype when it comes to Russian girls. Plus, I had and still have an accent. I was completely new in America and in this business, I had no credits whatsoever. I also had 2 little girls to take care of, so I wasn’t free and available all the time. I had to juggle a lot of things and break some stereotypes.
12. What would you tell the next generation of women trying to make it in Hollywood?
Love what you do and believe in yourself! Your belief in your project and in yourself must be stronger than disbelief of many people you are going to meet along the way. And nobody’s got to be able to break your belief. Also, you have to have something good and interesting to offer to Hollywood. So many people want to take from this city. You have to be able to give before it’s going to give you anything. Know what you have, know the value of it, believe in it, love it with all your heart and never give up. Work hard on achieving your goal.
- What are you working on next?
I have a few ideas cooking, but right now I’m fully focused on finishing the post production and making “See You Soon” the best movie it can be.
- What inspired you to go to Hollywood?
Hollywood, America, the idea of American dream. I wanted it truly and I had a story I wanted to tell. I wanted a better life with more opportunities for myself and for my daughters.
- What was growing up in Russia like?
Oh.. I was born during communism. Then that regime was taken down when I was little. It was very tough times, the early 90ies. My family lived in small, tiny 3 room (not 3 bedrooms) apartment in the suburbs of Saint Petersburg. There were 7 of us – my grandparents, my parents, my elder sister, my cat and me. I barely saw my mom and my dad – they were at work most of the time. Although my family always had money for food, the problem was to buy food. There was barely anything in stores. My grandmother used to spend her days standing in lines to the stores hoping that a truck with food will arrive and she’d be able to buy something. Sometimes she’d stand in one line and put me in another one. I hated it – when after school I had to do it for 2,3, sometimes even 4 hours. But overall, I had a pretty happy childhood. I always had food, some clothes and loving and caring family, which is the most important thing for any child I believe. On the other hand, all the kids used to play outside- it was safe and always lots of fun.
- What’s something about yourself that fans would find interesting?
I think my journey from having literally nothing in Russia to where I am today is interesting, and so many things that happened on the way. Lots of people told me that I should write a book, that it would become a bestseller:-)
- Is there anything else you want people to know about the film?
I’d like to say it’s a story about people, about true love, about man becoming better and stronger because of the woman he loves. It’s a great story for kids too with its magic moments, it’s a beautiful story where we can see and feel Russia, not the way it’s usually pictured in films. I love Russia and Saint Petersburg very much and another big motivation for me was to show on the big screen the beauty of my hometown Saint Petersburg. “See You Soon” is about believing, trying, loving, growing and finding happiness.