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Pavel Shuvaev: Its a tough business, guys


 Most of the viewers that frequently watch the show Track on Russia’s Channel 1 have long loved the character Sergey Mayskiy, Major of the GRU. But, who exactly is behind this image? Pavel Shuvaev was born on April 23, 1977, attended the Moscow Conservatory and studied economics, but he chose to focus on his creative work…

- So tell me, Pavel, how did you become an actor? Was it the advice of someone close, a childhood dream or something else?

- I don’t think I can fully call myself an actor, but really an amateur as I don’t have any formal education in acting. When I was young, I acted in school plays and Young Pioneer camps and pretty much everyone enjoyed watching me perform. At age 12, my father started teaching me how to play the guitar and I further improved on my own. When I was 21, I went with a buddy of mine, who was an actor, to audition at a theater. I was asked to dance and sing a bit and read something. So, I did and I can’t remember any of the details now, but I made it and he didn’t…

…but I used to dream of being the captain of a long voyage at sea and still to this day, my soul becomes restless as the sight of the sea puts a tear in my eye. Oh well. So I had completely prepared myself to take the entrance exam for the Tuapsinskiy nautical school, and then the Soviet Union collapsed and everything went down the drain. My parents decided that I needed to choose a profession that I could guarantee would be able to feed me in the future. When I finally finished college and decided to become an actor, I realized that getting a second degree wouldn’t be cheap and that young acting majors never made that much money. And again, my parents and my brother, a student, were already receiving financial aid. So basically, I had to start working.

   But I decided not to give up on my dream (or “pipe dream“, as my parents had called it until just recently) and so I began to get involved with all kinds of amateur, creative projects. I’ve paid my dues and it’s taken me a long time. Now things have started working out, but…at the moment I am sure that there’s a time for everything. Basically, there’s nothing worth regretting.


 - What is more important for an actor, an education in theater or just talent and practice?

- But really, who am I to judge? Honestly, I’ve seen a lot of gifted, talented and hard-working people without any formal education and a lot of lazy hacks with three degrees. I think what is important is one’s self-determination, when you feel some kind of inclination, want or aspiration to do something – go for it, try to get into the right college. Isn’t that really how it’s done? People go right off into acting school for the first time and after coming in so smooth and polished, or even after finishing, they become disappointed in the profession and get out of it. And then there are those who come out for the first time and hear “Thank you, that’s enough” for five (!) years straight and strive for so much just in an acting career. But in my case specifically, I’ve had many good teachers, highly skilled in the art of acting and I’ve tried to work on a lot of things myself. Practice, that is. But, if I had studied in a university, this probably would have taken a lot less time and energy. Education is necessary, whatever kind it is! Still, I was trying to get into this profession in roundabout ways, taking the Kolyma River to Penza, as they say. And I’m continuing to learn something every day.

 - Do you ever find it difficult to get into your characters?

 - That all depends on the character and the director. The process all starts long before the audition, you know. For example, you’re pre-selected after they’ve looked through your portfolio photos, meaning the director of the project saw something in you; something that matches his view of the character. “Yeah”, he thinks, “his image fits, he’s close, so, let’s see now what this guy can do!” And then you get invited to an audition. At the audition you talk to the director and you are given a task. You have 10-15 minutes to prepare and that’s it, you’re up. If he’s pleased with the results, then he approves you for the role. This is where the work on the character and the role begins. It’s likely you’ll spend hours sitting with the director, the writers and all of the people working on the project (even the producer participates sometimes, if he’s a creative minded person) and delving deeper into the character, the way he looks, walks, feels and reacts to things. Working through sketches and models, basically. The approach in film is slightly different, though nevertheless similar to theater. In any case, the director’s insight and the actor’s artistic palette are always important, as after all, the more you know how to do, the more accurate and solid the character, thought up by the writer and thought over by the director, will turn out in the end. I haven’t yet got used to any particular role I’ve played. If for some reason, the viewer has ever noticed that, then it shows that our work has been going in the right direction. 


- The show has been on the air since 2007. What keeps you from getting tired of your role?

- Now this is the real question! What’s helping? Ha-ha. The thirst of life and optimism always helps…but seriously, the format of our ‘film’ – one series, one story – helps a lot, as the conditions are always changing, as well as the scenarios, the characters and the directors, that is to say, the “soaps” are never the same. Things are constantly moving. Of course it’s impossible to put out 16 original scenarios in a month (but nonetheless, they’ve already filmed more than 500 episodes!) and they are kind of similar and frankly, they’re often silly or boring. In my opinion, the budget is really lacking in some areas, like the stunts and the shootout scenes, but I, basically, still find this role interesting. That Mayskiy’s not really too bad of a guy, you know? And it also helps that our group of actors on this project is very close and honestly, they don’t let us get bored.

- You’re not only an actor, but a musician as well. You have your own rock band, OddisS. How do you manage your time successfully to combine your busy acting schedule with playing music?

- Yes, that is the burning my case, having time for anything else besides Track is hard enough, but even more so with another creative activity is, practically, unrealistic. So I’m bursting at the seams about OddisS being able to keep on its course. The guys in the band have been really helping me out with this and they’re taking quite a few things on themselves that are actually my responsibilities. Also, the band’s American management, represented by Marina Schogolev, is making a major contribution to the progress and development of the OddisS team and I can’t express how grateful I am for them.


- Don’t you plan to film something of your own? Does a career as a director or screenwriter interest you?

- One can plan to film their own thing at a young age and even at a mature age, but in any case, you got to be realistic. You should know what you want to tell people with your ‘own thing’ and why you want to do it. Whether it’s to satisfy your own artistic ambitions or to yell out ‘lights, camera, action’. I feel like I’m already past that. In our country, doing it for the money is not really a reason people get into the film industry. Or maybe you’re shooting something for your uncle, who’s a producer? But there’s no sense of independence in that. And if you film something of your own, they’ll then clean it up and some more agreeable director will take your place. Eventually, it will be far from what you originally envisioned and anyways, the producer will edit the film to make it more commercial. A lot of good projects were ruined like this during the editing process. Yeah, they made money, but they film didn’t turn out well. It made a dent in the box office and well, that’s it! You got to keep the flow going a little farther. Like the classic saying “Get more for less!” You need to see a film, not just watch it. And I do have some scripts and some ideas. I have everything, except the money.

- It’s possible that one of the people reading this is planning to dedicate their life to filmmaking. Do you have any words of encouragement to that younger generation?

- Yeah, and not only filmmaking, but theater too. So, yeah. It’s a tough business, guys. In part, it’s unappreciated. But it is a sacred profession. If you can do without this, it’s better not to try for it. But if you just can’t seem to see yourself doing anything else, then fight for it! Everything will prove to be more difficult than you think, but it’ll pay off. It will if you get that far! The compensation, money, fame and success, is in no way guaranteed and these are things that are, of course, temporary. Yeah, it’s more of a feeling that you’re doing your own thing. A thing of a lifetime. You’re bringing the light of God to people, a part of which God gave you. It’s called talent. It’s called persistence. It’s called faith. Hope. Love! Happy New Years, guys! I wish you health and happiness! ( I say this like Ded Moroz with an eight-year-old’s mindset. And Trace isn’t creating an obstacle in any way. So, it’s a habit, that the New Year won’t really be a new year if I go into it without a beard and a goatee!)

  «Telenedelya» (New York) January 3-9, 2011

  (Translated by Mikhail Mullin)