Jenia Tanaeva’s journey has become an inspiration for a beautiful heart-warming love story. “See You Soon” written by herself. It evolved through a chance meeting with a Warner Brothers exec that led to a subsequent meeting with the former Disney CEO Michael Eisner. He loved her script and gave her notes to turn it into a movie script. Her very own modern-day love story film about an unlikely romance between two people, who against all odds give true love a chance. Starring Academy Award Winning Actor Harvey Keitel, Poppy Drayton (Downton Abbey, LITTLE MERMAID), Liam McIntyre (Starz’ Spartacus). It truly is a great story which I tried to emphasise in this interview and we’ll get the chance to watch it on the big screen very soon.
Please tell us a little bit about where you are from and what life was like growing up?
I was born in my favorite city – Saint Petersburg, Russia. My early childhood was during communism, then that regime was taken down when I was still little. Early 90’s was a very tough time. My family lived in a small, tiny 3 room apartment in the suburbs of Saint Petersburg. There were 7 of us – my grandparents, my parents, my elder sister, my cat and I. I barely saw my mom and my dad – they were at work most of the time. Although my family always had money for food, the problem was to buy food. There was barely anything in stores. My grandmother used to spend her days standing in lines to the stores hoping that a truck with food will arrive and she’d be able to buy something. Sometimes she’d stand in one line and put me in another one. I was also doing rhythmic gymnastics on a competitive level – 4 hours a day, 6 days a week. Most of the time I was busy and tired.. But overall I had a pretty happy childhood. I always had food, some clothes and loving and caring family, which is the most important thing for any child. On the bright side it was very safe – all the kids from the buildings nearby used to play together outside- it was lots of fun.
What kind of person did those experiences in Russia and your early years help you to become?
I learned what pressure is and I can take it, I have to say. Growing up in Russia during those times was a kind of experience you don’t enjoy while it’s happening but then, looking back, you feel really thankful you had it and understand how much it gave you. 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.
As a single mother in Russia, you moved with your 2 daughters to Los Angeles How was that experience for you?
It was a real adventure that, who knows, might become a movie one day. 🙂
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. I met a lot of new people, some of those meetings were really fascinating to me. I remember meeting Arnon Milchan for the first time – the producer of “Pretty Woman” – one of my favorite movies ever (that I probably watched at least 50 times). I had so many questions for him and he was patiently answering them with a smile.. I just couldn’t believe that I got to hear the story of making this Hollywood movie from its creator, the movie I was watching over and over again while living in a tiny apartment in the suburbs of Saint Petersburg. It was very inspirational and reassured me that I was on the right path! Meetings like that helped me get through tough times and keep my hopes high when I was getting an endless amount of rejections. And, of course, the unconditional love I was getting from my daughters gave me a lot of strength..
At what point did you start writing the book and what was your motivation and vision?
I was really moved after watching “An affair to remember”, in particular how 2 people inspired by the beautiful feeling for each other become motivated to change their lives for better, to become better, more complete, how they become willing to overcome so many obstacles in order to keep the promises they’ve given to each other.
“See You Soon” is a Cinderella story where Cinderella is a single mom. We read fairy tales to our kids so they believe in good, in love, in stories with a happy end. And I think that big girls- single moms, divorced women need that fairy tale maybe even more than little girls do. I wanted to create a heartfelt love story to give a hope and maybe motivation to those women who are out there on there 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 new life, new opportunities, to believe in themselves and be brave enough to start changing their lives.
I’m a single mom. I’ve been there and I want to inspire others and remind them that true love and happiness exist!
How did you deal with the knock backs in the beginning when you were trying to pitch the story?
First it was not just hard, but really painful. When you have your idea, the story you love so much, believe it’s got great potential and you hear something like “it’s nothing special and I don’t think it’s ever going to get made… ” it’s not easy to take it and move on especially after 10,20,30 NOs, but then at some point I decided that when I hear something like that the only thing I’m going to think is that my project is not for this person Nothing else. It doesn’t mean it’s not good, or I’m not talented, it just means that I have to find someone else to help me make it. I think it’s the right way to take rejections. But I had to learn it with experience.
At last, success!!! How did you feel when you were told it will become a film and who your co-stars will be?
Shock, disbelief, tears, lots of jumping and screaming, thanking God… and then I realized that it’s not a victory yet, the real work was only about to begin.
What was it like to work on ‘your’ film?
I’ve imagined it thousands times, I pictured in my head how it would be for years… so for me, to see it with my eyes was watching a miracle happening. I felt so thankful to every single person involved for being with me on this, for investing their energy into making my dream come true. It was extremely exciting, inspiring, I was getting a real confirmation from the Universe that everything is possible.
Your life is an unbelievable real Hollywood fairy-tale about your journey from Russia to the US- what advice would you give to other single mothers or others that have the same dreams and ambitions?
Believe in your dream. Believe in yourself. Please know that it’s absolutely possible! And take an action! “In order to get something you never had before you have to DO something you’ve never done before” it’s very important to understand it and not to be afraid of failure. Just start doing whatever you can for making your dream into reality. Do something every day. Even a tiny step, a little thing. Remember that doubts and fears killed more dreams than failure ever could. Don’t let that happen to your dream.
As Jenia lives the ‘American Dream’ what are her plans for the future?
I can’t wait for the movie to be released! I’m very excited to participate in other projects, to explore new possibilities. I have a few ideas cooking… But right now I focus on completing ‘See You Soon’ and making it the best I can for the world to see it.
By Fykaa Caan
Hollywood London Magazine Current Affairs and Lifestyle Editor