Interview: Actress, Writer and Director Aleksandra Svetlichnaya

Interview with Aleksandra Svetlichnaya about her career so far, which includes Writing/Directing the short film Dinner and being a part of Death House

I got to talk to multi-talented Aleksandra Svetlichnaya about her career so far, both in front of and behind the camera.

Q. You have had a lot of experience in both film and TV. What first got you into acting and did you ever consider taking a different career?

I did take a different career. I have a Bachelors of Science (graduated with Honours, thank you very much) in Fashion Design because I thought that I wanted to be a fashion designer. Except I quickly realised that I did not enjoy the fashion industry whatsoever. So I turned to costume design, which was still using my degree and the skills I learned, but more creative in a way that I craved. From there I transitioned into acting. I kind of sneaked in through the back door, while everyone else rang the doorbell up front.

Q. What was your inspiration for making the short film Dinner (2015) and why did you choose to make it a horror-comedy?

When I began acting, I thought I would have the opportunity to do cool, action type stuff. I wanted to be John McClane from Die Hard (1988), instead I was told over and over again that the only roles that I was considered “right” or “marketable” for were the “girlfriend”, “model” and “victim” type roles. This didn’t sit right with me. It was boring, it wasn’t what I wanted to do and it was a horrible generalisation of women, as far as I was concerned. So, I decided that I wasn’t going to wait for someone to hand me the character I wanted, I was going to create her myself. Those were the ingredients that became Dinner. And as far as genre, I didn’t set out to make a horror-comedy. I sat down and wrote what sounded good to me and it turns out that what sounded good to me was a horror-comedy.

Q. Like Dinner your follow up short Breakfast (2016) relates to a meal and forms part of your aptly named Dinnerverse. Can you explain what the Dinnerverse represents?

From the start, I can’t say that I set out to make a series of meal movies, it just happened organically. And when it came time to name the Universe of the series, rather than coming up with a brand-new title I took a page from The CW superhero universe, which began with Arrow (2012-Present) and is now referred to as the Arrowverse.

In the synopsis of the first Dinnerverse film there’s a line that states, ‘Suddenly the reality is that instead of going to dinner, she may soon become dinner’. The entire opening of the film was a take on this stereotypical horror movie scenario where a girl is walking alone at night and quickly becomes the victim of some heinous monster. In Dinner that was clearly turned on its head.  The Dinnerverse always represents girl power.

Q. You currently have 3 more Dinner movie films in different stages of development. Can you give us any information regarding these films and when they are likely to be released?

As far as the next three Dinner movies, I can say that DM4 has been shot and is currently in post-production. I also intend to shoot DM5 this year as well. Release dates are hard to predict. Those will depend on how the films do on the film festival and comic con circuits. And on that note, we just announced recently that Breakfast will be heading to San Diego Comic Con in July to screen the film as part of the Comic Con International Independent Film Festival. So, exciting and such a huge honour. After that, the film will definitely be released to the public by the end of this summer. So, get hungry.

Q. You are playing a Guard Captain in one of the biggest horror movies of the year Death House (2017). Can you tell us a bit about your character in the film?

There’s really not much I could say without spoilers. There’s this; in comparison to others, she’s definitely a small part of the film. But she has an important role to play. You’ll see when you watch the film.

Q. As well as acting in the film, you also form part of the stunt team. Why did you choose to become a stuntwoman and how was your experience working on the set of Death House?

I can’t in all honesty call myself a professional stunt woman, I would say that I’m more of an actor who really enjoys fight/stunt work and is reasonably good at it. I grew up doing dance and martial arts and watching lots of 90’s action movies and then TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) and Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001). Unfortunately, when I started acting there weren’t really any opportunities for women to play those types of roles and therefore I didn’t have any opportunity to use the skills I had; until I created the Dinnerverse and after that, until I was brought in to work on Death House. That’s one of the reasons why I am so thankful to have been a part of this film. Not only did I have the opportunity to work on it in an extremely active role, but there was no separation between female and male stunt performers. We all came in, did what was asked of us and received the exact same treatment on set. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience as my first ‘official’ stunt team member.

Svetlichnaya in Dinner (2015)

Q. In the Dinnerverse your character is a strong independent woman. Did you incorporate some of your own personality into the role and are there any other influences for the character?

She’s comprised of everything I didn’t get to do as an actor on other projects: physically strong, yet feminine; expressive, to the point of being considered over-the-top; kicks ass but is also funny and compassionate. So, in that sense, I think she is a lot like me and I like to think of myself as a strong independent woman too.

And as far as influences, we get a lot of comparisons to Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) which make me jump with joy every single time. Buffy had a huge impact on my life from a very young age, and she’s frequently an inspiration or an influence in things I do, so I would say the Dinnerverse is no different.   

Q. Having spent time both in front of the camera and behind, do you prefer directing or acting.

I don’t prefer one over the other. I prefer having the option to do both.

Q. Do you have any upcoming film or TV projects which we should be looking out for?

Of course, there are the upcoming Dinnerverse films and Death House. I also have a small part in the Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston film Untouchable that’s slated for a 2018 release.

Q. For other independent filmmakers who are looking to make their own movie, do you have any advice?

I’m going to borrow a line from Shia LaBeouf here “JUST DO IT!” Seriously, it’s easier than ever to produce and distribute your own content. You can shoot and edit right on your smartphone and then upload to YouTube or social media. Don’t wait to have a budget, or the RED camera, or Oscar-winning actors. Get together with your friends, or find local like-minded creative people, and just do it, the rest will come.

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