film

Maya on casting, fashion and film

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By Ryan Keating-Lambert

There are some incredible expats living in this city. Each and every one as inspiring as the next, especially for an expat like myself who is constantly searching for the next step; the next challenge. Maya is probably one of the original expats in Prague. Arriving shortly after the Velvet Revolution, she has seen it all and has played a huge role in this insanely addictive city. Her influence can be felt all over the art and fashion scene and speaking to her in her hidden Ujezd studio of Myrnyx Tyrnyx was not just an interview, but invaluable advice about creative life in Prague from one generation of expat to another. Hopefully in the future I can pass down the same wisdom. And also.. her first great love was superman! Read more. Now!

Where are you originally from?

I’m from California, from Santa Monica.

What was it like growing up there?

I grew up during the 80s. Performance art was just emerging and the punk scene was happening. It was so thrilling and new for me! The scene was the beginning of a rebellious voice that I could relate to. That doesn’t exist now. It’s hard when everything has been done.

Why did you come to Prague?

Well, I knew that I didn’t belong in the United States. I wanted something much more challenging. My idea was to set up some kind of business that would be successful but also would be beneficial to the city. Originally it was a little squat in Betlemske namesti where we made a performance centre for about 4-5 months. But after talking to local artists, I eventually decided on a vintage clothing store. But I chose the Czech Republic out of absolute serendipity.

I read that your casting agency Myrnyx Tyrnyx has been pushing racial and cultural boundaries since the beginning. Tell me a little bit about it.

There was a very homogeneous commercial industry here at the time – everybody was white, and not just white but very straight and classically attractive. To me, this was very boring. I tried to shake up the scene a bit with some fashion shows so that people could understand how to wear the clothes I was selling in the store. It was 1995 and at that time people here had just come out of communism. They weren’t individuated. They were very careful not to stand out. And I’d come from this internal and external universe of people shining and being themselves in L.A. So I invited talented interesting people, pierced, dreadlocked, African, South American and Asian, all different body types. And this was the first time the Czech Republic had seen multicultural elements, and I added other elements such as a man wearing a dress, and looking gorgeous! I was also not pro models being thin and classic, I was pro models being healthy and alive.

So you’ve recently started casting for films as well. Tell me about The Zookeeper’s Wife which was recently filmed in Prague Zoo with Jessica Chastain, I’m a huge fan of hers.

She is incredible, isn’t she? It was a unique project. Very deep. A wonderful director from New Zealand, Niki Caro. Something that was very unique about this project and something that I’d never seen before, was that she pretty much didn’t leave the set. She stayed within the mood of the scene that she was shooting. You never saw her floating around and gabbing with people nor did you see her in a classic director’s chair. It’d been said that the film would get some attention for the Academy Awards, so there was a lot of pressure around it but it was actually very calm on set and everyone was in good spirits. I cast 54 roles from people that live in the Czech Republic, and other Eastern European countries.

What are some of your favourite films?

Well, I love The Great Beauty, You, Me and Everyone We Know, and also What About Bob!

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

I’ve been thinking about that and they’re all dead (laughs). Maybe Gilda Radner, she’s from ‘Saturday Night Live’. She was my first idol, or maybe it was superman?.. No, actually superman was my first great love. He was also the only person that I had a poster of on my wall. I went to see one of the old superman films one night and my mum and I were seated behind Christopher Reeves… I saw him kissing a girl and was absolutely flabbergasted!

That’s such a good story.

My heart was crushed! He was MY superman.

How would you describe Prague?

Sparkly and unknowable. In these streets there are possibilities for things to happen that don’t happen anywhere else. You are thinking of someone and they run into you or other coincidental things. There is a lot of that going on here. If your eyes are open and you’re here, a lot of amazing things can happen. It can be very heavy though, especially in the winter.

What is your favourite word in English and in Czech?

I love the word embark. In Czech.. maybe my favourite is one of the first difficult Czech words that I was able to say. So mine is trychtýř, which is a funnel! Whyyyyyyy? (Laughs).

Mine is ‘zmrzlina’.. for the exact same reason.

What advice to you have for creative people that want to establish something in this community?

Have tolerance and compassion. It’s the same advice I’d give to someone who wants to stay in a relationship. Be prepared to stand your ground and persevere, but be diplomatic. Always look for the next challenge and the next adventure.

Photo: www.marielletepper.com

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Mirek on Old Prague Legends and Sean Connery

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By Ryan Keating-Lambert

I stumbled across Mirek’s project Old Prague Legends when I was doing some research on Czech legends to write about for a client. Had no idea that this even existed but it actually premièred in 2013… Thought I might put it out there for other expats to get stuck into. Stunning animation that pays homage to famous Czech animator Karel Zeman and others, coupled with creepy creepy tales of Prague’s past, plus a little moral message embedded in each one to keep you all well behaved. Mirek is also a cameraman by day and has managed to film some interviews with some VERY big international names. Read on for more info.

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Jeseník, but I moved to Prague in 1987.

What is Jeseník known for?

Good skiing!

Nice, and what did you want to be when you were a kid?

I wanted to be a musician and travel the world.

What do you do now?

I’m a cameraman.

Great, how did you get into that?

I studied at a film school in Zlín and have worked for a lot of Czech TV channels. I’ve done a lot of interviews with many interesting people, for example Ozzy Osbourne, Mark Knopfler, Ian Anderson, Ron Wood, Michael Hutchence, Sean Connery and Michail Gorbatschow..

Wow! I’m not even sure who to ask you about.. What about Sean Connery? What was he like?

The interview was done at the premiere of the film The League of Extraordinary Gentleman here in Prague. He’s a great guy and a very good actor. It was also just a great atmosphere to be in.

Who was your favorite?

Definitely Václav Havel. I shot a lot of interviews with him and I really respected him.

He was an icon. How did you start your Old Prague Legends project?

I’d had an internet project for a while and I was looking for some good content. I like the history of Prague so that was an impulse to create the animated legends.

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Why do you think it’s important to know these legends?

Legends can be interesting to anyone who visits Prague or likes history. Each legends takes place in a different part of the city and the audience will discover some very interesting secrets and mysteries about these places.

What is your favourite legend?

Well, I like all of them but my favourite is The Innocents of the Jewish Cemetery (pictured below).

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Sounds pretty chilling. Tell us a little bit about the creative process.

The animations were created by director Ondřej Žatečka and the main animator was Marek Berger. Basically, it’s a mix of a few techniques – silhouette animation: which closely resembles shadow plays, as well as classical drawing animation and realistic elements.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

I’d have to say Kevin Spacey.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

The time of Rudolf II in Prague.

For more information and to order Old Prague Legends, check out the website and stay updated on Facebook.

 

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Photos: Mirek Vesely

 

Film artist Kurt on Sense8 and other work

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Concept and storyboard film artist Kurt van der Basch is surely a name that many in the Prague art and film scene would recognise. Originally from Canada, he moved to Prague to pursue a career in art which inevitably led him to film. Like many of us expats, he began teaching English. Kurt’s journey and career has been incredibly diverse and I’ve personally been looking forward to this interview for some time. On top of that, I’m also a major movie nerd so editing and listening back to this interview took a while – there were moments that I had to say to myself ‘Ryan, just shut up…” From working on recent Prague based films like Child 44 to sketching 100s of storyboard frames for the new Netflix series Sense8, there are some interesting insights into the film industry in Prague, and Central Europe… Not to mention some of Kurt’s early obsessions that got him into drawing in the first place. Enjoy!

Where are you from originally?

The east coast of Canada, Nova Scotia.. Halifax. Well, not really from Halifax, but from a suburban little town near there…. But we moved around a lot.

And what are your greatest memories of growing up in that part of Canada?

The landscape and the weather. The long winters, meter-high snow.

Do you miss the snow?

Sure, because I’m not into driving so it’s never really affected my day. I just love it. And there’s something cozy about the snow reflecting off the ceiling too – it kind of lights up a whole room.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

I really wanted to be an Egyptologist. I had that worked out for years. I took it so seriously. I even had a newspaper cut-out of me somewhere saying “I want to be an Egyptologist” when I was about 12. 1986 I think it was. There are actually a lot of Czech egyptologists. It’s a specialty here, it’s always been a dream to go there but it would be really hard now.

When did you get into drawing?

I was always into it, as far as I can remember. I was always into drawing black and white, in pencil. My Mum would just sit me down and I would draw.

And what would you draw? 

Well, I would obsess and draw one thing over and over again. I had a mermaid obsession, and the egyptology was a part of a lot of the stuff that I would draw too – I think that had a big impact on my drawing because it was so graphic and standardised. You know, a hand always looks exactly the same, so does a foot. So I’d really try and nail it. But then I got into music which became a huge diversion in my life. So then I would draw pictures of Beethoven over and over and over.

That’s really nice. To be so young and drawing Beethoven? That’s quite unheard of.

When I was 12 I broke my arm doing gymnastics in rubber boots on the grass… the wet grass (laughs). And it hurt so badly – it was coming out at a 90 degree angle.

Ouch!

Yes.. anyhow, I was in the cast for about a year and when I got it off I met a girl who played the piano and she was really good and she taught me some Beethoven so then I became obsessed. So my parents got me a used piano and a teacher. And as an obsessive gay boy with no friends, I would go home and practice and practice and all of a sudden I went from a total beginner to quite advanced in just a few years. Then I went to university and studied music. Everything was music. But the whole time I was drawing and drawing and drawing. You know, we have sort of a romantic idea of artists – that they should suffer and it should be really hard, and practise 7 hours a day. A lot of people, including me, find that very attractive. So I was a good artist, but because it came easily to me and there was no romantic suffering involved, I didn’t feel like it was a very special skill. The whole time my Mum was saying “why don’t you go to art school?” and I thought “please, I’m a pianist” (laughs). So then in my third year of studies I realised that I wasn’t mean to be a pianist, but an artist.

How did you get to Prague?

I was finishing music at university, and I sort of wished that I wasn’t because I wanted to be an artist. Originally I thought I wanted to be a painter, so I thought I had to go to Europe. I had a friend, Moira, who had moved to Prague to teach English, so I just copied her and came here to teach for three months and then all these fateful things happened… and that’s why I’m still here 16 years later.

Wow, a long time.

Yeah, I arrived the summer of 99.

That almost sounds like that Bryan Adams song.

Yes! Canadians roll their eyes at Bryan Adams, because he’s Canadian. We often give people from our own country a hard time.

How did you make this transition from teaching into art?

It’s so weird, you know when you think, oh god if I hadn’t met that person at that time.

Sure.

I had a friend who was a teacher and he had a friend who was working for Barrandov studios here. And she said that she knew some guys doing a movie who needed an art department assistant… Which means tea and photocopies but you have to sort of know something about art. So we got in touch and I brought them my sketchbook and they gave me the job, and yeah I did a lot of tea and a lot of coffee. But it was a fantasy movie and one time some things needed to be designed and drawn up earlier so they gave me a chance at it. So I just kept drawing and making photocopies. I could draw and also speak Czech which was good for them. Eventually I became a set painter and did that for three jobs and it was so great, I could have almost done that as a career actually. You’re filthy all the time and building scaffolding and stuff.

It’s nice to be able to use your hands like that.

Yeah, it was really great and we would go for lunch together and some people wouldn’t let us in because we were so dirty and black. 90% of what you paint is black. When we did Blade 2 we had to paint a big tunnel that was just hundreds of metres of white plaster bricks that we needed to paint to look like real bricks. Brick, brick, brick, brick (laughs).

(Laughs) Could get a little monotonous?

Monotonous but fun and the guys we worked with were really great. At the end of the day I just wanted to draw, so I left the set painting and got into the illustration side of film making.

How long did it take you to learn Czech?

Well I met my boyfriend after working here for two months and he didn’t speak any English – we’re still together after 16 years. I was gung ho because I’d just arrived and wanted to learn Czech. But you learn Czech mainly from arguments, so you know I would write words on my hand to arm myself for the next argument, like “irresponsible” (laughs). Hmmm I have to remember to say that to him. And I worked in bars too where my Czech improved a lot.

At what point did you think “I’ve made it, I’m living out a dream job”

The first time I saw my name in the credits, that was pretty cool. But cooler than that was the first time my parents and my sister saw my name in a credited movie that they went to the cinema to see. That was really cool.

Would you have any advice for other expats that come here and want to pursue their dreams?

Well, for me it was really useful to learn the language. I mean in Holland or Germany it’s hard to learn because everyone speaks English, but here it’s possible to learn it and really integrate with it. So that’s a big one. Learn the language. And also to get friends who are Czech.

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What are some of your fondest memories on film sets?

Me and my friend Chris who also works in the movies, we worked on this movie Doom and we were doing this bio lab filled with hearts and lungs, and a veiny dildo that we snuck into the background 🙂 Anyway, we rigged them up with LEDs, it looked really cool. And during the filming we had to lie under the tables aqueezing air pumps to make them beat and move which was great. So that was a funny one.

(Laughs) That sounds brilliant. Now from what I understand, you’ve worked with some directors and filmmakers more than once. Tell us about some of them.

Well I have worked with Tom Tykwer on several things now and through him Wachowskis. Tykwer always uses the same team who I met on Season of the Witch. That was an amazing gig in Budapest but I also just fell in love with this art department and we’re really close now. And it was around this time that Tykwer’s designer Uli Hanisch said I had to buy this book called ‘Cloud Atlas’. This was in 2008 and he said a movie might happen, and then a couple of years later it did so I went over to Berlin to do a week long illustration workshop and then they used this as a pitch for the studios while the Wachowskis were doing the same thing with their art department in Chicago. Then a couple of years later it happened. I also had a job working with a Dutch designer on a children’s film. We really hit it off together so I’ve worked with him a bit. And there are also some commercial directors I always go back to, particularly those who specialise in hair. So for a long time the only commercials I did were hair commercials. Have I told you about this hair world?

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Cloud Atlas

No, please do.

Well with these hair commercials, the directors really guard their tricks. There is this one trick where they use a phantom slowmotion camera and there is this big rig that the hair model sits in like a guillotine with all these holes in it and they’ll bring the hair up in strands and spend about an hour setting this up. Then when they drop it, the weights fall down and it flies into the air and you think her head’s going to come off but instead the hair falls in these beautiful individual locks that they catch with a phantom camera. Then you get this slow beautiful Lars Von Trier look (laughs). They always want to use the same people, it’s very close. Commercials are great.

Now, you worked on Child 44 that was released recently, and it was actually filmed in Prague. For people that see the movie, can they recognise Prague there?

Constantly. Any exterior, even if you can’t see exactly where it’s done, you can still tell the sidewalk or a doorway and know that it’s Prague.

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Child 44

I really look forward to seeing it. So, tell us about Sense8. Everyone is talking about this on the internet at the moment.

Wow, Sense8 is crazy. The crew said it was the hardest job they have ever done. It was filmed in Nairobi, Berlin, Chicago, Deli, Iceland.. everywhere. But I only worked on the Tykwer parts in Berlin, there was a director for each section. I think it looks really good, the trailers look great. Also Darryl Hannah seems so interesting and weird. All the crew on Sense8 pulled really long hours – I did too. For scheduling and budget reasons, Tom Tykwer could only bring me over to Berlin for a few days with the plan to storyboad only the trickiest action sequences but as we were considering them there was always one more and one more that would be great to have boarded out. SO in the end we were hammering them out in rough form at an incredible speed. I did more frames per day on this job than I ever have on any other one. I counted 280 drawings in 3 days. Though it shows! They’re awful but they do the job. It’s great to see how positive the reaction to the show is after the divided reception of Jupiter Ascending (another Wachowski film) and Cloud Atlas.

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I think your hard work paid off. What work are you most proud of so far?
Cloud Atlas definitely. I think it’s a masterpiece. And as far as drawing work goes I really liked what I did on Child 44. I was quite impatient for that to come out. And also Jupiter Ascending. There were over 30 concept artists on that film.

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Cloud Atlas Mural

It was stunning, and I also remember seeing the Prague dancing house in that movie!

Yeah! I noticed that too! That was funny. It really worked in that scene and in that environment, it doesn’t work here in Prague.

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Jupiter Ascending

You don’t like it?

No, I don’t. It sticks out like a sore thumb. I think it’s arrogant to take such a beautiful vista and do something so attention-grabbing.  I also did a comic book prologue for Dead Snow 2 which they passed out at Norwegian cinemas – that was nice.

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I also saw on IMDB that you worked on the new Star Wars.. What can you tell me about that?

Nothing at all. The NDA on that job is major.

And what are you working on at the moment?

I’ve been in London for nearly six months on a big studio movie with another crazy strict NDA so you’ll have to wait for it to come out 🙂 Something else I’ve worked on that is due to come out soon is a Tom Tykwer and Tom Hanks film called A Hologram for the King. That was a really enjoyable Berlin job and I think it will be a good movie.

For the first time this July I’m also teaching a one week course at the university of West Bohemia about storyboard illustration and I’m very nervous about it.

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Sounds great! I’m sure you’ll be fine. How would you describe Prague in a few brief words?

Prague is trashy and chic all at once – a great combination.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

I would love to go back to ancient Egypt or late 18th century Vienna with Beethoven and Mozart around. That’d be really cool.

What is your favorite word in English and in Czech?

Does Polari count as English? Because I do like ‘Zhoosh’. In Czech I think Jejda is funny.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Some friends used to say I looked like Jonathan Rhys Myers, which I didn’t see. But then recently there were some pictures of him looking puffy and sad drinking straight out of a bottle of vodka on the street and I thought ok now I can sort of see it (laughs).

Where do you like hanging out in Prague?

Well actually I’m not a big hanger-outerer. Once in a while I go crazy but I spend a lot of time on my own. I really need it. So I hang out in our kitchen with our three cats a lot (laughs) and I also like going to the movies a lot. I’m also learning to play the accordion.

Keep updated with Kurt’s work on his Facebook page.

Check out the Sense8 trailer below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9c_KSZ6zM

Written by Ryan Keating-Lambert. Photos by Ryan Keating-Lambert and Kurt van der Basch.


Jan Wolf on ‘Siciliana’ and Czech film

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Jan’s cozy and stylish flat sports a lot of film and art memorabilia setting a nice vintage feel and atmosphere for our interview about the Czech film industry, and of course the release of his new film Siciliana, which was rendering as we spoke.

Read on for an inside look at this neo-noir film and for a look into the workings of the Czech film industry.

Thanks for having us today Honza. Are you from Prague originally?

Yes, I was born in the 80s.

An 80s baby, like myself! Where did you grow up?

In Dejvice. I had my elementary school around the corner from our house and spent a lot of my childhood running around outside with my friends and riding a bike. I also loved visiting my grandma and taking long walks around Baba looking at the beautiful old buildings. I also travelled the world a lot because my parents both worked in aviation.

Excellent and did you study film at university?

No, I actually studied graphic design in Žižkov, back then it was called advertising graphics. I also worked in television for a while and then a production company in 2007. I spent two years there and learnt everything about film.

Have you always been interested in film and art?

Since I was a kid – I was always drawing posters for non-existent films and I got my first video camera for my 18th birthday.

What was the first thing that you filmed with that camera?

My first film! It was called 1976. The movie was so shitty and it was filmed in 14 days with my schoolmates in our cottage. It was supposed to be a drama, but it was terrible.

Well it mustn’t have been too bad if you’re still making films now. Tell us about your new film Siciliana

It’s a short film, 26 minutes long and the reason why it is short is because of the rejection of the previous script for a feature film by the Czech Ministry of Culture. We had already casted it and everything so I said to myself we have plenty of time, let’s make a zero budget film with the same crew. I wrote the script, which is only 9 pages, in 14 days. It is basically a simpler version of the feature with zero budget of course (laughs).

14 days? That’s quite a short time.

Yes! So, it’s set in the early 60s in Sicily in a sleepy little town by the sea shore. The main character Maddalena (Petra Nesvačilová), who is in love with a travel agent that is married of course. The agent’s wife is very jealous and begins to make plans for revenge… It may sound cheesy, I did get some inspiration from cheesy TV movies, but it’s still a thriller.

I believe you also helped with the costumes? It looks very vintage.

I asked for help from ‘Lazy-eye’ who designs remakes of original 1950s dresses. I think it’s called neo-vintage. She is one of the partners of the film and without her we would never have made it.

I see. And what will happen after this film? What’s your next project?

I’m still developing some scripts, one main script in particular which took me over two years to write and rewrite. We always ask for some financial support from the Ministry of Culture… but they always want rewrites.

What do they want you to change?

Well the jury once said, “You know in this country we don’t shoot movies like this…” It was like going back to the stone age.

I see, and have your parents always supported you in terms of your art and film?

Not really. Mum was an air hostess and my father was a navigator. But my Mumis quite supportive now.

If you could choose an actor to play you in a movie about your life, who would it be?

I want somebody cool, of course! Hmmm.. Let’s say Ewan McGregor or Jude Law.

Good choices. What do you want people to get out of this film?

I suppose that life can be unfair sometimes.

Is this film based on true events? Maybe events in your own life?

No and I’ve actually never been to the Sicily either!

No? Would you like to go there?

Of course, maybe this Summer.

What’s your favourite part of the movie?

The climax or generally the whole second part which is at night, but shooting at night was terrible. We were all tired and wanted to go home.

What kind of movies do YOU like watching?

All types of movies, from the cheesy stupid comedies to cabaret.

What do you need to have to break in to the Czech film industry?

A good project. It’s hard to have one though, there are a lot of films that are the same, nothing is special that you remember. It’s all the same actors and stories every year.

What do you think the industry needs to fix that?

Something special. They shouldn’t be afraid during the development of the script and shooting. Be original. Of course, it’s much harder to have success with a non typical Czech movie. The audience always wants that nice little film.

Nice. Change of pace now..Who could you not live without in Prague?

My friends and my mother of course.

Where do you hang out in Prague?

I like Bukanýr, Le Clan and Pioneer of course, it’s one of the best parties. Also, Groove bar, Q cafe and in the summer I like to be outside in Riegrovy Sady, for example. Basement Bar is good as well.

Describe Prague in adjectives..

Quiet but loud. Fast but slow. Prague is not black and not white, you can just find whatever you want here. I like the quiet little pubs with my friends and I also like loud parties..

Very ambiguous, sounds like the way Charles Dickens would describe a city! If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

Maybe the Roman empire.

Cool. Also, your surname is ‘Wolf.’ Have you ever been compared to the animal?

Not really. It’s a German surname originally. It used to be spelt with a ‘v’.

What animal would you compare yourself to then?

Something lazy, not a wolf (laughs). A fish I guess, something slow..

Thanks a lot for your time and the best of luck with the film!

Be sure book tickets to the premiere of Siciliana this Friday the 23rd of May at 8pm in Lucerna. For more details, go to their Facebook page.

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Written and transcribed by Ryan Keating. Photography by Petr Kurečka.

Gabriel Cohen talks about new LGBT short film ‘PUT[IN]LOVE’

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Written by Ryan Keating

Kazakh actor and singer-songwriter Gabriel Cohen has an inspiring artistic career that is constantly taking on new form in the Czech capital. Whether it be acting in Mission Impossible: Ghost Patrol or singing at the top of Žižkov’s TV tower, Gabriel aims to bring a great deal of positive energy through his work and believes that everyone deserves a chance to truly live.

I recently sat down in the centre of Prague’s old town labyrinth to enjoy a coffee with Gabriel, as well as have a chat about life in Prague, and also to talk about his latest role in the provocative LGBT rights film PUT[IN]LOVE. Talking to the handsome and extremely easy-going young man was an absolute pleasure, and throughout the interview I found myself asking the same question over and over; “How can he possibly be the bad guy?”

PUT[IN]LOVE is a new short film which premiered to the masses of the internet on Valentine’s Day. The film explores gender identity issues in modern day Russia and forces us to delve into a day in the troubled world of main character Zhenya. Directed by Greek-born Eirini Karamanoli and written by her sister, PUT[IN]LOVE is a short film that will have you thinking for a long time.

Thanks for meeting me today Gabriel, let’s start by talking about PUT[IN]LOVE… What’s it all about and how did you get involved with it?

I liked the idea of this project, it’s all about fighting for freedom. In our countries, Russia and maybe also Kazakhstan – it’s all about discrimination. There is a lot of aggression and violence towards the LGBT community. I hope people who watch the film will start to think about the situation more. A small percentage of people in Russia will be affected by this… There will definitely be support and understanding from Europe and the USA, but not so much from Russia.

As for getting involved, I saw the post advertising auditions on Facebook from the Prague Film and Theatre Centre (PFTC). And my audition went well, I think. The director Eirini said it went well anyway (laughs). She was actually scared, I was shouting a lot!

Who did you play in the film?

In this film I play a homophobe. A very aggressive man with a typical Russian thug mentality – he doesn’t respect people who are different. It was hard for me to recognise myself when I saw my facial expressions on the monitors! I look very scary and I’m always chewing gum which makes it more intense.

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Photo: Gabriel Cohen

How do you feel about being the antagonist of the film? Have you played one before?

No, I had never played anything like this before. But when I was younger I did jiu-jitsu and also karate until I was about 21, so you could say that I know about the art of fighting (laughs). I also did some cage fighting at one point and THAT was intense. So, the physical preparation was already there, but to do the emotions was really something special. My character in this film is basically the leader of the pack, he likes to sit back and watch the violence happen – it’s very psychological.

How has the film personally affected you? Have you ever been the victim?

Yes, I have. Especially in Kazakhstan when I was younger. Not only was I fighting for sport, but I also had some problems in the streets. But this project has definitely brought in some new emotions. I’ve always believed in fighting for freedom.

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Photo: Gabriel Cohen

And what about the Winter Olympics? Are you boycotting them?

I don’t want to watch it. I like sport, but these games are very political, there are a lot of problems. And I really don’t care for politics.

Ok, and Why Prague? Was it acting that brought you here?

No, originally I came here to study at Charles University. I am currently studying theology and really love it. Right now I’m writing about the Jewish Kabbalah. I’ve always been interested in art, so in Prague I now do a few things. I act, I also do modeling even though I’m short (laughs), and I am also a singer-songwriter trying to bring my soul out through my lyrics.

That’s interesting, what do you sing about?

Everything, it’s all very personal though. I think the most important thing with expressing yourself is to go into the smaller details of things. Everything must be written down in my songs! Even the stars in my morning coffee!

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Photo: Gabriel Cohen

And what are you currently working on? Where can we expect to see you in the future?

I’d really like to concentrate on songwriting, but actually I’m starting work on a short horror film next week too. I read the script yesterday and it’s about digging!

Digging? (laughs)

Yes, and I will be the main “digger” …the bad guy again (laughs).

For more information on PUTIN[IN]LOVE, check out their Facebook. Also be sure to keep updated on Gabriel’s music through Soundcloud.