Her Story, Her Future: How did your love story with movies start? What did little Zhana want to become when growing up?
Zhana Kalinova: Growing up, I had numerous dreams: from being a paediatrician to a dance teacher. In fact, only
acting was the single cinema-related job I could have imagined myself doing. I have always admired arts but my decision to enter the film industry came in quite later in my life.
HSHF: What are the personal skills a professional needs in this industry? Do you think that a woman brings something different to the table; not better, not worse, just different?
ZK: A personal advice I would give to everyone, entering the film industry, would be to be open towards getting to know people. In this industry, there is a huge amount of people involved and it remains crucial for a young professional to get to know as many people as possible. Therefore, although it is challenging and even scary, just go alone to this reception/cocktail/festival and get to know people. One will be surprised how many doors open whenever you manage to build your network. Of course, does a woman bring something different with her, especially keeping in mind the fact that there are predominantly men in this industry. Women have a different work approach, men
also do. As an example, I believe a woman is more careful towards the details (in a production, for example), which allows her to be more precise in her work duties.
HSHF: Did you have unrealistic expectations about your profession? If so, when did you realize that was the case and what did you do about it?
ZK: Personally, I am a very realistic (slightly leaning towards optimistic) person. Nevertheless, when it comes down to my work, I try to remain with a clear view on my surrounding. Indeed a profession in the film industry sounds always very glamourous to everyone, but only the insiders know the true cost of it- be it on personal, mental or emotional level. It is not an easy path to choose, but it might be one of the most exciting rollercoasters one can ride.
HSHF: What helps you get up and show up every day?
ZK: My love for life, let us be grateful to every given day and make use of it.
HSHF: It is generally a safe assumption that people make mistakes: can you name the ones you’ve made along the way and that you have learned from? How about the ones that you feel you keep making even now?
ZK: A mistake that I am still doing is undermining my own well-being. As a proactive person, I usually end up not only having a job, but also executing several freelance projects at once. As expected, this results in exhaustion, shrinking social life and time, spent with family and friends and other similar problems. I am slowly learning to decline projects and prioritize myself and my well-being. (for me, it is a loooong process).
HSHF: What is your piece of wisdom that goes against conventional wisdom in your field?
ZK: I do not believe that I can count my words as pure wisdom, neither to generalise the wisdom in the cinema industry. I like to give people a chance to present themselves both in professional and personal levels- I would not judge you, based on your years of experience or how big the company is, in which you are working. I am interested in what people have to say, not what their CV is.
HSHF: Can you name three women that have inspired you professionally?
ZK: The director Chantal Akerman, my first manager in my first real job in the cinema industry- Mira Staleva, Angela Davis.
HSHF: How about three women that have supported you?
ZK: My mom, my great-grandma and my grandma.
HSHF: What advice would you give to a young professional, that you have received or would have wished to receive yourself?
ZK: As I already gave one in a previous question, I will give a bonus one. As a young professional, one constantly feels intimidated by the others’ success. There will always be someone who has more experience, has been to a better university or had done bigger projects. This should not discourage you, it should affect you in the opposite way- be inspired by the people who have walked down this path, learn from them and apply the acquired knowledge through your own prism.