It’s not very often that people get to see their dreams come true, right before their eyes.
But for actress and model Jenia Tanaeva, that’s exactly what happened after leaving her Russian motherland with her two young daughters, and settling in Los Angeles. Jenia will soon be featuring alongside Liam McIntyre and Oscar nominee Harvey Keitel in a new romantic drama that she wrote herself.
Born in the beautiful Russian city of Saint Petersburg, Jenia’s upbringing helped form the woman who’d later take the brave step of making a new life for herself:
“Growing up in Russia under communism was a kind of experience you don’t really enjoy while it’s happening, but then, looking back, you feel really thankful that you had it and understand how much it gave you,” says Jenia. “I learned what pressure is and that I can take it, I have to say. I have definitely become stronger, more determined. But in the meantime, I always recognize and truly appreciate kindness, empathy, warmth, real friendship, help and care; I never take those things for granted. When I was little, I did what I had to do and now it’s time for me to do what I want to do, and to feel passionate, which I didn’t have a chance to do back then.”
Jenia’s move to the US would appear to many to be a bold and brave decision, especially as she had her two young daughters in tow.
“It was a step into the unknown of course, but it was a step towards my dreams, which was very exciting! I was in my twenties and my daughters were 3 and 5 years old. I wanted a better life for them. I had my own dream and I was determined to explore every option to achieve it. Honestly, somehow, I knew that everything was going to work out, and I couldn’t wait to begin that journey. I strongly believe that if you can dream it, you can achieve it,” says Jenia.
Jenia’s new movie, See You Soon follows a US soccer star who embarks on an unexpected journey of self-discovery after suffering a career-threatening injury in the run-up to the 2018 World Cup. The film co-stars Downton Abbey star Poppy Drayton, Oleg Taktarov, retired Spanish soccer star Carles Puyol, and Larissa Malevannaya. Jenia was inspired to write the script after catching An Affair To Remember one night while watching movies.
“See You Soon is a reincarnation of a Cinderella story. This time, Cinderella is a single mom. We read fairy tales to our kids so they believe in good, in love, and in stories with a happy ending, and I think that big girls – single moms and divorced women need that fairy tale maybe even more than little girls do. I wanted to create a heartfelt love story to give hope and maybe a motivation to those women who are out there on their own, raising their children, or maybe being stuck in a dysfunctional relationship. I hope that See You Soon will motivate them to take that first step towards a new life, new opportunities, to believe in themselves and be brave enough to start changing their lives.
“To see See You Soon on the big screen was always the plan. At times I thought it wouldn’t work though, but I never gave up,” adds Jenia.
The movie is about giving love a chance at all costs. Jenia has incorporated several aspects of her life into the movie.
“I’m a single mom,” she says. “I’ve been in a relationship that didn’t make me happy and I went through the struggle when I had to make a big decision that would dramatically change mine and my daughters’ lives. The decision was made, and now I can’t even imagine what our lives would have been like today if I didn’t have the courage to make a change back then. I want to inspire others and remind them that true love and happiness do exist! You just have to believe that you deserve it and go on a journey of self-discovery and building your life the way you want it to be.
“I wrote the story and, of course, I imagined it in my mind many, many times. It was mind-blowing when I was on set watching everything coming to life – all the characters, decorations and relationships. I’d first imagined it and then I was there, watching a few hundreds of people working hard on making it real! It was one of the sweetest feelings I’ve ever experienced.”
But making a dream come true wasn’t as straightforward as people might think.
“Getting people to talk to me and getting the attention of Hollywood people who could really help, then polishing the script was tough. When you work on it for a few years, trying to make it perfect, it becomes so difficult to figure out what works and what doesn’t. You’re too close to it for too long. And then of course, when we were filming, I was still a writer, sometimes having to make creative decisions with our director. I was also a producer and an actress. Although we had a great team, multitasking on that level was not easy for me. But again, it was all worth it!”
So, what can movie-goers expect from See You Soon?
“It’s a story about people, about true love, about a man becoming better and stronger because of the woman he loves. It’s a great story for kids too with its magic moments. It’s a beautiful story where we can see and feel Russia, not the way it’s usually pictured in films. I love Russia and Saint Petersburg very much and another big motivation for me was to show on the big screen the beauty of my hometown Saint Petersburg. See You Soon is about believing, trying, loving, growing and finding happiness.”
A real-life soccer fan, Jenia plans to watch this year’s World Cup in her home country.
“I love watching soccer!” she says. “It gets so exciting and I love being in a stadium or watching it in a sports bar. The atmosphere is very energizing! I’ll be in Russia during the World Cup, but I don’t know which team I’d be cheering for – USA didn’t make it there and there’s not much hope for Russian team. Unfortunately, they haven’t been playing well but of course I hope they will do better this time!”
And after See You Soon, and the World Cup, Jenia will then focus on new projects:
“I have a few ideas cooking, but right now I’m fully focused on the last touch ups of post-production, making See You Soon the best movie it can be.”