Shootings Stars 2019 / Emma Drogunova (Germany) © Harald Fuhr / EFP

Emma Drogunova

Emma Drogunova, the youngest of this year’s European Shooting Stars, was born in post-soviet Russia and was raised in Berlin. As a young girl, she first took to the stage before appearing in 2012 in the highly acclaimed German TV mini-series ”Adlon – A Family Saga.” A year later, for her role in the short film ”Don’t Hit the Ground,” she was honoured with a Best Actress Award at the Filmfestival Cinemaiubit in Bucharest. Between 2014 and 2016, she completed her studies in Contemporary Dance while appearing in several TV productions. In 2016, Drogunova was cast in her first feature-length film ”Kalinka,” followed by roles in Nick Baker-Monteys’ ”Leanders letzte Reise,” Constanze Knoche’s ”Under the Family Tree” and Mia Spengler’s ”Back for Good.” She could also be seen in the series ”Wolfsland” and the leading German TV crime series ”Crime Scene: We-You-They.” In 2018, she demonstrated her talent for comedy in ”A Jar Full of Life,” where she plays opposite Matthias Schweighöfer and Jella Haase. She was also cast that year in the role of Anezka in the adaptation of Robert Seethaler’s bestselling novel, ”The Tobacconist,” directed by Nikolaus Leytner. The critically acclaimed TV drama ”Blind Spot” (2017) by Stephan Lacant in which she has a leading role received a nomination for Best TV Movie/Mini-Series at the 2018 Emmy Awards.

 

Tara Karajica talks to Emma Drogunova about being an actress, a Shooting Star, women in film and her next projects.

 

 

 

 

What made you want to become an actress?

Emma Drogunova: That’s a good question… Actually, I never had this big dream of becoming an actress. It was never my plan. It just happened naturally and it chose me. But acting has always been in my life, ever since I was five years old. I started acting in a kids’ theater at that age and then I started acting in front of the camera five years later and I just kept going and never stopped. So after graduating from high school when I was eighteen, I decided to try it a little bit more professionally. Actually, that is how it happened – it wasn’t a big dream of mine, to be honest. But it is now!

We have recently seen you as Anezka in Nikolaus Leytner’s film The Tobacconist. How do you see her?

E.D.: From the beginning on, when I first read the book, I just fell in love with her and with her whole personality and spirit. I see her as a very strong and independent woman; a very atypical kind of woman for this specific era. She is so wild and so free and I love that about her! She is just doing her own thing and she doesn’t care so much about other people. Anezka is also maybe a little bit manipulative for her own best interest, but that’s what she has to do to survive. In that sense, she’s very flirty and very light too. She’s not heavy in her personality, which is also something I love about her.

With their marginal positions, the female characters in this film live in particularly precarious living conditions. Can you talk about that?

E.D.: That’s definitely something that is very special about that era. Of course, women had to do a lot of freaky and unhealthy things just to survive and to be able to live their lives. It has changed a bit, but it is still a little bit like that. We, as women, have to see how we can achieve our goals and, during that time, men had even more power than nowadays, so it is, of course, very frustrating to see that women had to play the sexuality card. But if you live in such a world, you have to do whatever it takes, I guess…

How do your dance skills inform some of your roles?

E.D.: I am very happy that I can mix those two things together. It is really fun! I started dancing even before I started acting because I am a Russian kid and all the Russian kids have to play instruments and go to dance lessons! (laughs) I definitely see that it is helping me to find my body and to also use it for a role. In The Tobacconist, Anezka is a dancer, so it was wonderful that I was able to do the choreography in the theater scene by myself. That was also a big step that I have never made before… With all these big feathers… I loved it! I am very happy to be able to play dancers. Also, there aren’t so many actors and actresses who can do that, so I am in a very lucky position – at least in Germany!

You have starred on stage, on TV and in film. Which medium do you prefer? Why?

E.D.: I love film! It is definitely my special medium! I fell in love with film when I was sixteen; it was the moment when I realized that I am immensely attracted to films and that it is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Being on stage is, for me, something typical for dance. I associate it especially with dance. I have also never acted on stage as an adult, so it’s definitely film!

How much of you is there in every character you play? Do you manage to dissociate yourself completely from your own persona in order to play someone else?

E.D.: I think that you always have to put something of yourself into your roles, otherwise it will not work out. There’s always a special side of me that just multiplies so that it becomes a person and that’s basically what I do.

What does being a Shooting Star mean to your career and how do you think it will impact it?

E.D.: It feels so wonderful! It is just such a big honor! It is especially exciting to be a Shooting Star because I saw all the previous Shooting Stars that I admire – there are so many amazing actors and actresses among them. How will it impact my career? I mean, of course, it would be wonderful, but … I don’t want to put too much pressure on it… For now, I’m just very happy to be part of it and I look forward to experiencing all of it. Whatever will come afterwards, will come afterwards…

What does it take to be a star, according to you?

E.D.: To be honest, I don’t use that term. I think that to be an actor you have to be open-minded, courageous and curious, but above all, you have to be yourself. That’s what I try to live by. There’s nothing worse in the world than trying too hard! That’s just not cool and most importantly, as I see it, it doesn’t help at all!

There has been a lot of talk about women in film this part year. What do you make of the situation of women in film? How is the situation in Germany?

E.D.: I would say I am a feminist even if I think that the word is a little bit stretched out and there are so many people who say they hate that word. It just means equality to me. All the feminists know that it is a term for equal rights and that’s what I want. I want to be able to work with both men and women and to have both sides in my professional environment. Every time I worked with a female director, I didn’t see a difference. I just saw humans who work and who have ideas. But I also see that women often have stronger female protagonists and that’s also something I was looking for when I was younger. But I also see a change in a lot of young male directors. More and more young male directors are writing female leading roles, which is awesome and very important for the future.

Who is your favorite female filmmaker? Is there one you would love to work with?

E.D.: Yes. Actually, I like Julie Delpy a lot. I had an audition with her once. I just think she is so strong and so powerful. She knows what she is doing and she knows what she wants. She is someone I look up to and someone I would definitely work with!

What are your next projects?

E.D: I have a very interesting film coming out this year that is called Bonnie & Bonnie and it’s about two girls who fall in love with each other. I play a young Albanian girl whose family is Muslim and very conservative and she meets a girl who is totally different; she is German and she is very punk and wild, but also very lonely. Both of them have their own issues, but then they break out and have their “Bonnie and Clyde” or “Bonnie and Bonnie” moment together. That’s an amazing film about a topic that is very close to my heart – freeing yourself from norms that society puts on you and dictates how you have to be. Of course, when you’re young and you’re gay, it is so difficult, even now – especially when you have a family that doesn’t support you, it is even much more difficult. That is something I want to see more of on the big screen as well as more queer characters. After that, to be honest, I can’t say. There are castings and negotiations running about upcoming projects, but nothing to tell at this very moment. I will just see what the future brings…

 

 

Photo credits: © Harald Fuhr / EFP

Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

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