1. Hi Rina, it’s a great pleasure to have you as our guest. Let’s start from the first question and have a jump into the past. What was your dream since you were a kid?
My dream as a child was to be a ballet dancer. When I was four years old, my mom sent me off to a ballet school as I could be seen dancing incessantly, and there was nothing to stop me from dancing. I used to do ballet until my dreams confronted reality when I was 13 years old – I turned out to be not tall enough to build a career. I realized that I didn’t have a sense of purpose, and I quit. It later turned out that it was all to the good.
2. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Who is Rina Gri?
Rina Gri is an actress, a co-founder and director of the Moscow Shorts international festival. She is single-minded, confident in herself and her goals, and passionate about her profession.
3. How did you start, and how was your first experience in the industry?
After I stopped dancing ballet, I joined a theater and was offered children’s roles. In the same year, when I was 13, I found myself in the film industry. My first role was an episode of the singing beggar woman in the Crime and Punishment project directed by Julian Jarrold for the BBC TV channel. The project was shot in St. Petersburg, where I lived. The shooting process left a lasting impression on me, and I fell in love with the atmosphere forever.
4. Who were your inspirations growing up?
I guess there were no specific persons. I was raised in an atmosphere of beauty and creativity that my mom was creating – books, paintings, movies, life stories of various geniuses who achieved their goals – it’s the atmosphere that inspired me.
5. Where did you study or get your training as an actor?
I graduated from the Saint Petersburg Theater Academy after making several attempts to enroll. After graduation, I lived in Los Angeles for a while and studied at the Lee Strasberg Institute. My teachers included Anna and David, Lee’s wife and son.
6. Do you prefer theatre or television and film? How, why, and when did you choose between film and theatre?
I’ve always enjoyed acting on screen more than on stage. Since my philosophy is that you should do something you enjoy, at some point, I removed theatre from my life and have been involved only in the film industry since then, plus from both perspectives. From the inside – as an actress – and from the outside – as the Director of Moscow Shorts.
7. What’s the best and worst aspect of your job?
I’m really fond of my profession, that’s why I try to find something good even in some moments that may at first seem not so good. For example, on the one hand, there’s nothing stable in this profession, and sometimes you have no idea what awaits you. On the other hand, it’s the freedom that made me choose the path I take – the freedom that, let’s say, a job in theater and certain stability wouldn’t have offered.
8. Do you comply more to your head or to your heart?
I follow my gut feeling.
9. About job proposals, what’s the one you’d absolutely refuse, and the one you’d like to receive but you still haven’t?
I’d rather not talk about what I’d like to get but haven’t got yet. I quite often say no, while reading the script. If the idea of the script doesn’t ring the bell or, as is often the case, is simply not there, then I say no.
10. What is your creative process?
I have a personal pre-production process, and it’s my favorite period. The more challenging the role and story are, the more interesting my internal practices are. I thoroughly select a role copybook for every project to conduct research. I already have a very extensive collection of these copybooks; no one has read them because they contain many secrets of mine.
11. What kind of research are you doing to prepare for a role?
It depends on my character in many respects. Sometimes I have to thoroughly immerse myself in the time and place where my heroine lives, the industry and profession she works in. What helps me is books, movies and everything that has the potential to give information and inspiration.
12. Do you have a subtle theme running through most of your characters? If yes, can you tell us more about it?
Yeah, this kind of topic has come up in recent years. It’s the topic of loneliness. Loneliness is my greatest fear, and I like exploring this topic and sharing my personal stories with the audience through my characters.
13. What is your mission as an actor? Name the most important thing that you want viewers to experience when watching your projects.
I’d like to think that I inspire people both as an actor and a person. I’d like my works to give viewers the power to move on and get on with life no matter what.
14. What would you say is the biggest illusion you would shatter for young actresses starting out today?
It’s probably the fact that few people realize that our profession involves hard work. Walking the red carpet is preceded by many months of meticulous work. And that, in fact, walking the red carpet is not a goal but rather some sort of result. But that result is less important than the process. Yet, many people forget to get involved in the process.
15. Social media is an incredibly powerful tool for actors if you know how to use it. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience in this area? How are you using this tool to help your acting career?
Yes, I agree. I use Instagram, and I view it at least as a free space to promote myself, covering more than half a million readers. It’s a lot of people, more than the population of some cities. You’re offered an incredible opportunity to lead those people – your viewer – and speak about your projects. Likewise, some producers and motion picture companies are now paying much attention to that. And they often opt for the actors who have “their own viewers.” Not to mention that social media allow you to change people, inspire them and communicate with them directly. And that feedback is important to them, just like they are important to us. Ultimately, it’s for the viewers that we make any cinematographic product; we want to get across any story we’re telling through our roles.
16. What about the Moscow Shorts International Short Film Festival? How difficult is it to manage a short film festival?
Our festival has already marked its third anniversary. It’s Russia’s only festival with monthly screenings. Initially, it was the most challenging part as everybody is used to annual festivals, whereas this country even has no laws covering monthly ones. But we’ve already gone through that period. And it turned out just right.
Our festival builds on the enthusiasm and love of viewers and our team for the shorts genre, with no support whatsoever for the time being. That’s why we still encounter some difficulties from time to time, but good things prevail. It’s because we’re lucky no matter what. Apparently, we just feel enthusiastic about what we do. So, it’s not hard to organize a festival if you want it and believe enough.
17. What do you enjoy most at Moscow Shorts?
I like the atmosphere of our screenings. I call our monthly gatherings “Gatherings for Love.” The thing is that it’s not just watching a movie together. They bring together 500 viewers; many of them are habitual frequenters, many make friends there. I attend every screening, we’ve got a big friendly team. We also have a group discussion with viewers and the festival lecturer at the end of every screening, creating a very warm atmosphere. That makes you want to come back.
But what matters most is, of course, movies. We receive about 100 submissions per month and select the best of the best very scrupulously. During the screenings, I’m always certain that our shorts will resonate with viewers, inspire them, or give them pause for thought. Leaving no one indifferent.
It was a pleasure to talk with you, Rina. Thank you so much for your time!