My journey into film began when I was only eight years old, when after my then four-year involvement in a local drama school, I felt confident enough to rewrite the script, direct and act out one of my favourite films at the time. The success of the show (or so I thought from the encouraging applause of my grandparents) encouraged me to continue this growing passion, and at 10 years old I had already directed and starred in two original music videos. Despite the fact that the results of both projects are better left hidden away at the bottom of my computer's recycling bin, they provided me with an early start to a growing passion to Film.
And so years later, upon graduating from the American Academy Larnaca, when I was informed that I had been accepted for the 28 Times Cinema “Young Jurors” programme, I didn't know how much this event would impact my life.
The programme was held in one of the biggest film festivals in the world – the Venice Film Festival - and I was the Cypriot representative for the international European jury of the Venice Days film selection, the third competition section at the festival. On the first day we were given a fully packed schedule for our 10 days on the island, which included compulsory screenings, jury meetings, workshops and panels. And what could we do with the few hours in between? Although the possibilities were endless there's only a few things we really wanted to do: eat, sleep, catch a few A-list stars on the red carpet and of course watch more films.
One thing that I particularly enjoyed was meeting new people. I made 27 new friends from all over the world, with whom we are still in contact with, and met a lot of people working in the film industry that shared their fascinating stories and experiences – something that will stay with me forever.
But it wasn't all fun and games; firstly we had a difficult task as a jury of 28 people (29 including the jury president Bruce LaBruce) to come to a common decision in regards to the winning film, and secondly we were also assigned contribution tasks to the Europa Cinema blog where we shared reviews and stories from the Festival. And although we commonly worked under time pressure, this was an invaluable writing experience, especially combined with the film criticism workshop I participated in, that encouraged me to continue writing about film after I left the festival.
I came back to Cyprus feeling inspired and decided to make the most, creatively, out of my gap year ahead. And so, following the Venice experience, I began writing for the popular film website Taste of Cinema, as well as becoming a volunteer at the Larnaka Cinema Society, helping to share foreign cinema with the local community. My festival journey didn't stop there either. In April I travelled back to Italy after being accepted into a journalism campus program at the Far East Film Festival, which invited five young European and five Asian journalists. There we watched films from all over Asia, met with Asian film veterans such as Fruit Chan and interviewed many Asian directors and actors, as well as contributed articles and reviews to Asia Times and the Campus Newsletter. This year, before heading to university I also tried myself out in new areas of film; I directed a program for a television channel in Moscow and in volunteered at the Lemesos International Documentary Festival held in August.
Although film is a very competitive industry to be in, as I have seen throughout the past year it is an industry full of opportunities, especially for young people, that are waiting to be sought out, and I can't wait to continue this exciting path.
Polina Zelmanova, Class of 2016, will be joining Warwick University to study Film Studies in October.