Yelena Sabel is an actress and film director with vision and passion. Her film ‘Sex, Blood and Fairy Tales’ is a tightly plotted, brilliantly written and totally professional work and having had a sneak preview I will tell you watch this space for her name. She makes dark films. She knows what she is doing and delivers great drama. She has been a model, but she is first and foremost an actress. She is versatile and can play comedy as well as serious roles, her style is highly expressive and she can reveal a range of emotion through a physical style of acting that doesn’t need her to speak. She met me at The Slaughterhouse where I served her a bottle of Chateau Lafite and we talked about the fashion industry and the film industry.
Click below to watch a trailer from her film ‘Sex, Blood and Fairy Tales’.
Do you think the modelling and fashion industry is inherently misogynistic?
The word “Misogyny” is an angry word since it translates as Hatred of Women.
When you think of the Fashion Industry, what first comes to mind? The Beautiful Clothes that are designed for Women, to dress them up and make them more beautiful than they already are. So what does Hatred have to do with it, right?
Well, maybe we should ask a Size Zero Super Model who starves herself because she’s afraid to death of losing her job if she gains another ounce. But no, it’s not hatred, it’s a “Sacrifice”, we all put up with a lot pursuing our careers. Or, maybe we should ask a Super Model who just turned 30 and she was told that a 30 is a new 50 in the Modelling Industry, and that she should hurry and do liposuction, boob implant, lip filling until it’s too late. Maybe we should ask them.
Better yet, let’s ask the Fashion Designers who mostly consist of Gay Men what does a Beautiful Woman should look like? The description might be umm… she should look like a young boy? I’m sorry, I have nothing against gay men, I love them, I have many gay friends, but really, what does a woman with no breast, no ass, and no hips look like to YOU?
Karl Lagerfeld once said: “Curvy women have no place on the catwalk. No one wants to see curvy women”. Here comes the question: had the Gay Men Designers truly appreciated a healthy, normal woman’s body, would they prefer having sex with men in the first place?
Since when have women of size 6, 8, 10 and UP stopped being considered beautiful enough to model clothing and walk the Runway? Are you trying to tell me that clothes do not look good on her in order to model? Also whoever builds a Runway should consider a woman’s safety and make that “Catwalk” less slippery so when a Model walks on it in heels she doesn’t fall! I’ve seen so many of those “Oups” blooper moments when a model trips on a Runway and falls, while everyone applauds and laughs.
Today, the goal of most Fashion Magazines is to shove down your throat that whatever you see on the cover is beautiful, and everything else is unfit. All I see are the advertisements of how to lose weight so you can look like that anorexic supermodel with a big smile on her face. All I see are the ads of plastic surgery clinics. But of course, a breast that doesn’t look like a weapon and doesn’t feel like a plastic sex toy is not considered beautiful anymore!
For me personally Fashion comes from within. My dress has to match with my mood.
I have nice clothes, bags and shoes, but I buy what I feel like wearing and what goes with my personality (I have quite a few of them) and my inner world (it constantly changes) and NOT what the Fashion Magazine tells me to buy. Dear designers and marketing people, just because you want to sell something by convincing me it’s a piece of art, I do not necessary feel that it is.
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’ Hester Prynne becomes outcast from a provincial religious community because she is beautiful and independent. In Victorian patriarchal society if a woman was intelligent and beautiful she was resented and deemed threatening, do you think that things have changed, and do you think a beautiful and intelligent woman is more resented by women than men?
Times have changed and things have changed but what hasn’t changed and will never change is that a beautiful and intelligent woman is and always will remain a threat to other women. But anyone can be a threat, regardless of gender. What about attractive and successful men? Aren’t they resented by other men? Even more so! Here is an example: Attractiveness and Intelligence give you Power. A Powerful Man can have any woman he wants while a Powerful Woman still cannot have any man she wants! Why? Because a Powerful Man is only intimidating to other men less powerful; and a Powerful Woman is intimidating to BOTH women AND men. So from any way you look at it, it is always harder for a Woman.
Interesting fact but I’ve never felt resentment from women, and I consider myself beautiful and intelligent. Instead, I get a lot of support from women of all kinds: actresses, models, dancers, nurses, housewives and even women soldiers. I respect women, I understand their mentality. I know how hard it is out there for a sister, and when I cross my paths with another female I never strike. I never want to take something from her that isn’t mine. I’ve always been this way, and maybe that is why women feel comfortable around me. A woman feels threatened by another woman simply because she’s afraid to lose and feel small next to another, and I understand that.
How did you end up in New York making films?
I have watched hundreds of movies and only a few left an epic mark in my heart and soul. I remember how I felt watching those movies. First, I was in love with the visuals and my mind was so intensely focused on devouring those visuals that I wasn’t able to follow the story. That made me come back to watch the movie again this time for the sake of the story. The story was so intense that it made me come back to watch the movie again and this time to absorb it as one. And each time I was back it opened up new things to me that I haven’t seen there the last time. This feeling reminds me of Love, when you want to come back to the same person and each time you know it will be a different experience. Watching those films I wasn’t just being entertained munching on a pop-corn and sipping coke, I was experiencing a rainbow of the most intense emotions, and movies that carried subliminal messages had such a powerful effect on me it helped me to change into a better person. My biggest dream is to create something as intense and powerful to not just entertain people but rather take them on a journey they will never forget and will always want to come back to….
The media is full of stories of miscarriages of justice, families are torn apart when loved ones are murdered while the offender walks free, conversely innocent men and women are arrested. Do you think it is possible for an individual to bring someone to justice without using the law and if so how?
You’re kidding, right? You think that if highly paid and highly educated attorneys still make “well-planned” mistakes, you think a common person can do a better judgment? Give me a second, because I’m rolling on the floor in agony of laughter now, forgive me. Well, okay you might say “lawyers are greedy”, okay I must agree with that to some extent but if you put justice into the hands of a commoner we will have chaos and anarchy. And, come to think of it, do we really want another Robin Hood?
As a film maker what ingredients do you try to put into your films?
Writers are like Chefs: the better ingredients they have the better, the heartier meal / story they’re going to cook.
One of the Ingredients is the Emotional Depth of the story. If your heart starts aching while watching the movie that means you’re relating to what’s happening on the screen and you trust me as a writer to be experiencing that with me.
The next Ingredient is the Sense of Truth. No, you don’t have to believe that aliens or zombies will walk the Earth but I want you to believe in my characters and feel that whatever has happened to YOU has happened to them too or is happening now. I want you to feel that they’ve been there, they have felt it and now you’re watching the Aftermath of your hardships and love stories on the Big Screen in a more beautiful and glamorous way. Oh my God, did I confuse you?
Another Ingredient is the Story Paradox. I strongly believe in Paradoxes and I encourage them. In Life we try to follow logic and common sense. But how many times when you do your best and hardest to complete the task and you’re not slacking in any way but things still go wrong? Or vice versa, when you’ve done everything wrong and went against all the proper routines and even yourself, things start looking up? How can you explain that? I stopped asking this question and I opened the door to Paradoxes.
The next ingredient is the Payoff and it is a very sensitive subject to me. Think about the time when you’re watching the movie and it’s so intriguing, so captivating and intense, you’re enjoying every second of it. Actions switch one another, major things are happening, major topics are being brought to the table and then it…ends. Well of course it ends because you’ve just spent two hours in a movie theater and you can’t be there forever, but you feel like…what the fuck was that? What has just happened? You’re trying to rewind the film in your head and think like …all these actions and intensity sum up to…THIS? How can this BE..? Well, you should ask a person who wrote the story. Ask them why they have held you hostage for two hours and tortured your brain and then in the end they decided to get rid of you. I’m not saying that every story has to have a resolution and it’s great to remind the audience that everything doesn’t have to be resolved and many things are better left unsaid. BUT I strongly insist on giving a loyal hard-working viewer a great Payoff! God! Don’t they deserve it? And in my movie I’m going to give them more than enough, in the end there will be three payoffs they don’t expect. A Payoff does not mean a “Happy Ending” but a Payoff is a REWARD to a viewer and I’m going to be very generous and gong to give them what they want, to all of them!
So these ingredients must be a Shock Value and a Wow Factor. I want my viewer leaving the theater thinking: “Wow!!!” and “Damn, that movie is crazzyyyyy!!!” and “I want to see it again!!”
That would be a fair emotion.
Another Ingredient is a character driven by the Power of Love. A character that is driven by Love will never be boring or dull.
How important are dreams to you?
Dreams are very important to me as they take me on a journey into an imaginary world.
I almost never have nightmares, even after I see a Horror movie, I go to bed and still do not have nightmares. I read about that when people grow up they stop seeing dreams in color and some barely even have any dreams at all. I have dreams every night and not only they’re full of color they’re also full of this light I can’t describe how it looks, it looks like a mix of shades of blue, silver and purple colors, and, most of the time I see that light around the happening actions within the dream. Sometimes before I go to bed I “order” a particular I want to see dream as if there was at the Movie Theater. Sometimes, I even know that I’m dreaming. It’s called “Lucid” dreaming when you’re aware of that you’re having a dream, and you can stop the dream at any time. I did that just the other day when the synopsis of the dream was me at the 15th Century going to be hanged because I was accused being a Witch. (haha). So I knew I was dreaming and made the dream stop. Now I kind of regret that, I don’t know why either…The way my Life is it often doesn’t hold any logic, just like the dreams. Sometimes when I go to bed I focus on getting a much needed answer from the dream I’m going to have. And at times I do get the answers. Lately, I’ve been having dreams as if everything was perfect, just the way I wanted, but then I wake up disappointed that it was only a dream…
What are your darkest thoughts?
Every day I think about the same thing: what if my parents won’t live long enough to see me make it big? I would really love to see their faces when the big day comes and my Movie, my Art, my Vision will be expressed on the Big Screen and I would really love them to be there at that moment and see me shine. All my life they wanted me to have a “real job” as a nurse or a doctor and they were always against me becoming an Actress but then one time they saw me performing on the stage in a theater in New York City and I remember my Father said: “Yea, now I see you are for real” and they finally gave me their blessing. Every other day we talk on the phone and I share so much with them about how my production is progressing, what I go through, sometimes I cry on the phone and they support me so much and I am so happy that we’re on the same page now!
My other Dark thoughts come when someone wrongs me really bad and the person I am I never strike first, I don’t ever want any harm to anyone, but there is so much jealousy around and negative energy coming from people and I can feel it. Sometimes I think about the bad things aka Revenge I would do to them, I even plan it in my head but I NEVER go through with the plan…I’ve noticed that those who wish me harm somehow down the road get in trouble on their own and it never comes from me. So I guess I have God, Karma and Faith on my side!
Other Dark thoughts torture me a lot…and they are about…what if…what if….I am an extremely sensitive nature, I’m an Artist and even though I’m clever, people do take advantage of me often. Yes, I say a lot that I’m tough but…the reality is I am …very soft and I cry a lot at night, but nobody knows. Well I guess after this interview is published everyone will know and so be it, I don’t mind. A lot of people jealous of me, they think wow this girl is something else, she grabbed Life by the balls, but reality is that the Life grabbed me by the throat and keeps testing me and testing me on how much bullshit I can take, and…I keep taking it. And every night when I go to bed I think: what is tomorrow going to bring? I try my hardest; I sacrifice everything to make something. And those dark thoughts come to me to remind that it’s not over yet, it’s only just the beginning….I am a Writer, Producer, Director and Actress and I am strong and I don’t have time for failures!
Tell us about your film ‘Sex, Blood and Fairy Tales’. How much of it is a fairy tale?
I’ve always loved reading Asian Mythology. The concepts of the tales are simple but yet very involved and beautiful so they’ve carried their subliminal messages through centuries to our days. I discover them in everyday life in metaphorical ways. One of the Influences is the Fox that represents a Woman. If the Fox is treated nicely she is a loyal friend and a faithful partner for life. If the Fox is treated poorly she becomes a thief and steals from you. If you’re cruel to the Fox she’ll act by impulse and murder you and yea, she’ll regret it later. The Fox is a beautiful animal, so the question is: why treat it with cruelty?
I’ll give a bit of introduction of what the movie is about but there won’t be any spoilers and the payoff in the end will knock your socks off so don’t worry. Vera lives in Russia and her purpose in life is to become a wife to a good man and live happily ever after. But as they say: the timing is everything.
She kills her fiancé on the Engagement Night right after he kneels to propose, puts a ring one her finger and…confesses that he was unfaithful to her “a few times”. Why didn’t he confess before the Engagement Night? Because he was scared she’d never marry him after that. If he had Faith in her forgiving nature it could’ve saved him his life!
(By the way, the Russian name Vera means “Faith” in the Russian language)
Can a coward survive in a jungle? And our life is worse than a jungle…
Did he deserve to die? No. But betrayal feels like death which she has experienced after she found out that the “other woman” was her sister who Vera cannot even confront because she has recently died in a car crash! From the audience I wish to hear equal comments such as “Asshole deserves to die!” and “Crazy bitch overreacted!”
By Faith Vera’s lawyer happens to be a person she grew up with and he helps her avoid prison by introducing her to a 62 year old Russian Businessman who desperately needs to please his 30 year old wife by getting her a Mythical treasure that is located in a certain place where Vera will go not only to escape a homicide trial but also to get a hefty reward. Is the Russian Businessman pathetic for trying to please his gold-digger wife or is he simply in love and trying to do whatever it takes to make her happy? Is the lawyer who helps Vera escape conviction corrupted and evil or does he go against his principals to stand by his friend’s side? And does Vera really escape the punishment? The audience will find out what happens to Vera on her journey, when she, transforming from a housewife-to-be into a free bird in a Free Country, the USA, gets a job in the place where anything goes and that is run by the deadliest in the world Yakuza mafia.
Vera meets Lori who helps run business for his father, a Yakuza Boss. Lori develops feelings for her. But in his world being soft and caring is considered a weakness and a deadly flaw. Therefore, he constantly doubts himself if it’s okay to have feelings. Meanwhile, Vera who has always dreamt of love followed by marriage and children becomes a Man-hater and is haunted by Guilt. Here comes the symbolical Fairy Tale part when Lori tries to help Vera overcome the Guilt by teaching her strong beliefs he lives by: the body is the Dove and the brain is the Serpent, we are just like animals and one of the animal’s instinct is killing but….Animals Experience No Guilt.
Which directors and actors do you like and why?
In 1989 I saw “Santa Sangre” a Mexican-Italian surrealist film directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky that blew my mind. The film was bizarre, twisted and brilliant. When I saw it for the first time I couldn’t understand the meaning of the film but I was so drawn to the visuals, I knew it was changing me forever. I was too young to understand that film in 1989 so I came back to it few years later only to realize that the way the movie was made to understand it was not a mandatory because the purpose of it was to give a freedom of the choice.
Then I discovered Quentin Tarantino. I love him because he’s fearless. He takes the best classic movements and turns them into caricatures! He is brave and daring. Although, the most pathetic critique I heard about him is that “he teaches kids violence”. Please, people get a life! His “bloody” movies are the least of your concerns. If the violence is the only thing you see in his movies, it is because of your own lack of perception.
Next is “Babel” is a drama film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu who has also directed my another favorite movie “Amores Perros”.
And of course, a film that I watched 23 times no less “Slumdog Millionaier” by Danny Boyle.
The film “Chocolat” an adaptation of novel by Joanne Harris in 1999.
I love Woody Allen with passion. I love him for his way of portraying human nature. I love how his characters interact with each other, how they talk and what they talk about, and how it can be both funny and sad at the same time.
In making films, how much is money important to you?
My long-term goal is to keep making films that will take a viewer on a journey of delicious pleasures of intellect. I am an extremely demanding viewer, I get bored and annoyed very easily and I know what I should do to keep a viewer of any age, gender and race excited through teasing their eyes and senses, through manipulating their minds and tickling their souls. This is what I want to do 24/7 every day the rest of my life: I want to go beyond the visible and represent a new style of vision that comes from my vivid self.
I want to have a lot of money. They say “money does not buy happiness” but money gives you the tools to build happiness, and if I’m able to do what makes me happy I’ll be building happiness for people by hiring them to do what they love to do and paying them well for it! I don’t need money to buy $6.000 bags, but I’m full of ideas, my brain never stops producing and I consider that both Blessing and a Curse. I write all my ideas down and they’re just waiting for their turn to become live.
I’ve recently opened a Production company. Royal Blade productions, LLC is taking its baby steps to one day turn into a powerful force. I know many talented amazing actors who struggle, their lives are very difficult but they have so much to offer and I would always include them in my projects and I would really love to see how their lives change from struggles to success and I’d really love to sit in a front row and see them doing it big on a Big Screen in my movies!
I would love to build animal shelters in the Ukraine. The streets there are full of abandoned starving cats and dogs. Every time I visit the Ukraine my heart bleeds when I see those poor animals that look like skin and bones. I’m not going to give a big cliché speech about how I would change the World because I’m not running for President or Miss America, but I want to do what really IS possible!
I have enough ideas to give jobs to an enormous amount of people. But it all takes MONEY.
Thank you Yelena for giving a great and honest interview.
Thank you Richard for taking the interview!
And also thank you for the bottle of Chateau Lafite : )
You can find out more about Yelena and ‘Sex, Blood and Fairy Tales’ at her website here.