International casting directors and producers discussed the future of Russian talent on the world stage in a panel discussion at the Russian Pavilion co-hosted by the Casting Bridge Community — a community for promoting English-speaking Russian actors abroad. The event was moderated by the head of ROSKINO Evgenia Markova and Russian actress Daria Pisareva.

Russian talent is now thriving and securing more roles in international projects. The incredible pool of diverse talent is rightfully getting recognised by international industry and receiving professional acclaim for the strength of their performances and versatility. There is an increasing number of opportunities opening up for Russian talent, which is beginning to show its value and worth to both the project and the marketplace. What is this – a trend or a new wave of Russian talents is taking over? The participants have been looking for an answer to this question with help of one of the leading casting directors of the international level, who was engaged in the selection of actors for the last 14 James Bond films, Debbie McWilliams, co-founder and agent of the Subtitle Talent Agency, representing both eminent and emerging actors from Europe, Steve Cash, actress, casting director and CEO of Duart Company, the first digital casting platform in Southeast Europe, Sanja Drakulić, actor Alexander Kuznetsov, Russian-Dutch actress Anastasia Reshetnikova and actress, producer, co-founder of Casting Bridge Julia Khamitova.

Evgenia Markova, CEO of ROSKINO:
‘The Russian industry is rapidly developing in all areas: sales, festival participation, animation and, of course, the popularity of actors. I am certain that many colleagues will agree that the participation of talented artists in a project is one of the most important components of success. Consequently, one of the primary tasks is to promote Russian actors not only within the country but also abroad. We started working in this direction a year and a half ago, paying special attention to the international press. Now we continue to inform foreign partners about the talented graduates of our acting schools. They are shaping a new generation of talent – bright, ambitious and, most importantly, English-speaking. At the same time, we work with the actors themselves, raising their awareness of the nuances of working on international projects.’

Debbie McWilliams, Casting Director:
‘I cannot fully predict the vector of development of Russian actors, but I think that the industry is really changing. No boundaries, no barriers. People have access to content created in different parts of the world. From my point of view, nationality is not the main thing. It seems to me that education is not that important either. You must have talent and strong character. The lack of one thing makes building an acting career an almost impossible task. Also, I think the main problem is the language. Unfortunately, this is true – if you want to develop in the international industry, you must be proficient. The better you speak, the better you present yourself, the more chances you have. Another obstacle to casting Russian talents is the lack of databases. In the UK, USA and France there exists a unified catalogue to search for someone who will be suitable for the role. There is nothing like this in Russia. The platform must definitely emerge, this is very important, so we are aware of the opportunities offered by Russian actors. Moreover, all information on the platform must be updated, portfolios and acting self-presentations must be available.’

Steve Cash, agent:
‘Your film industry is really developing and it's great! Without a doubt, Russia is rich in talents, and several names come to mind at once – Kantemir Balagov, Danila Kozlovsky, Yuri Kolokolnikov...
VOD platforms play a critical role in the distribution of the Russian films by deciding whose content to purchase. Americans are very interested in the Russian projects, fortunately, now they are more accessible. However, knowledge of English is an integral part of working abroad. We can say that this is one of the criteria for selecting actors. Moreover, actors need to be able to perform in English as well as in Russian.’

Alexander Kuznetsov, actor:
‘Mon Légionnaire’ is shot in French, and to be honest, I hadn't studied that language before filming. I diligently resorted to the help of my French friends and colleagues, who taught me to speak naturally and understand those around me. While working on the film, I realized the importance of the integration process. It's not just about reading lines out loud and flipping a script, it's about communication on set. Therefore, it is important to learn and practice the language. And this work will surely be rewarded’.

Anastasia Reshetnikova, actress:
‘I am a graduate of GITIS, so my transition from Russia to another country was also a transition from the sphere of theatre to the sphere of cinema. At that time, I had no idea where the new opportunities would come from. And then I started learning English and Dutch to work with young directors in Amsterdam. To be honest, they work in a completely different format, and it was difficult for me. I am proud that I have graduated from a Russian acting school. Now I understand that it would be great if I had more training for acting on camera, more lessons in financial literacy because I realized that I know very little about how to promote myself, how to work with casting directors. My advice is to learn as much as possible. To study acting, economics and languages , to attend festivals, and to develop new contacts actively.’
Julia Khamitova, co-founder of Casting Bridge:
‘The Casting Bridge was created three years ago to represent Russian actors in London. Our goal was to establish contacts between casting directors, agents and the actors themselves. More and more people are looking to work with us now. Six months ago we formed a society of English-speaking Russian actors to support them, and such initiatives, in my opinion, should be a trend.’

Sanja Drakulić, actress, casting director and CEO of Duart Company, the first digital casting platform in Southeast Europe:
‘We were the first in Southeast Europe to launch digital actors’ database. With the launch of Duart Platform a list of all the actors finally appeared and casting-directors are able to find anyone they would like to. In 2020, we’ve decided to widen the base – now we have a lot of different filmmakers there, as not only actors need promotion and networking’.

From the audience, actress and director Yang Ge joined the discussion and shared her experience of advancing into new markets:
´For me, life in Russia is a very interesting experience. When I arrived, I realized a very simple thing – everything depends on yourself. My teacher at the university said: «Don't try to be different, be yourself». If you want to become someone, this is your decision, only you can achieve what you want. For ten years, I have been working on my career, always keeping in mind that I want more roles, more films, and most importantly, I know what I want.
At the moment I flew to Berlin, no one knew me and I did not know anyone. But two months later, all the agencies were aware of who I was and what I was capable of, I wrote to each of them, and this is how you can work on self-promotion and career development. Be open and courageous’.

Casting Bridge (UK) is a unique project of the Russian Film Week, which includes an international forum, a community of Russian-speaking actors and educational programs. The goal of Casting Bridge is to unite professionals of the casting industry for exchanging their experience and creating a single platform for Russian-spe