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October 17, 1999

Ilia's Journal

          Journal #5

June 2, 2000
Los Angeles, CA


Dear Krew,

I hope you all got a chance to see "Center Stage" by now! I saw the movie at the premiere. Once. I’m gonna get the tape – or the DVD, with the little something extra.

My favorite thing about making the movie was when I was having a big scene – where you can really talk and try to get into connection with actors because I didn’t have that many scenes with the words. It was to experiment with real acting. In the salsa club, it was a lot of moving and dancing but not that much with the words…so the most satisfying moments were when I had a scene and had the connection with the other actor. You’re really getting into the mood and you really feel that this is the right, exactly right moment to say, and exactly the right thing to think about…it was like magic. And I felt it for a couple of seconds.

Unfortunately, there were a couple of pretty big scenes that they cut off. There was even one serious scene which I liked a lot. I didn’t really see it, but it felt really good. And Nick, the director, was really happy about that. Really happy. It was such a waste. It was a scene with Zoë because originally in the script she’s supposed to have a brother. They completely cut the guy out. He was in the movie, he was two months shooting with us there, then he’s coming and they just cut him completely. He was there in the movie maybe for five seconds somewhere in the beginning. Do you remember the guy who was looking in the class? So he was there through whole the movie, they just completely cut him off. He was on the boat but they really couldn’t cut that out. Actually in that script he’s dying. I was kind of in charge getting him into the limo company of my brother because he doesn’t have a job, so I get him a job with my brother and now he’s driving this limo. He’s a little bit crazy guy, he’s reckless – and so he died. And I’m coming to Zoë – "Eva" – just to let her know that he’s dead. And it was serious scene for me and it was actually well played too because Zoë, she was good and I felt really on the money. And there was another scene when I’m getting a phone call from my brother saying that he’s dead – there was a whole different story. They couldn’t probably fit it in the movie because it was already two hours.

Another fun night was the salsa club, it was so good. It felt so right, it felt so free and so… it felt good. It was half me and half "Sergei." It was funny. And there’s supposed to be back flip – but they cut it out. We were shooting it for half-hour, I was jumping like crazy with the whole dance because in that scene you can probably see me for ten seconds. But it was a whole two-minute dancing routine, and we were going through whole routine for the whole two minutes and then on the end I had this back flip. Every time I was going through for two minutes I was so tired – I was just dead. And then I was barely making it and they said "We’re done" like five or six times! They were trying to get the camera and the angle – and then on the end they said, "Okay, you don’t have to do the whole dance, just get some ten seconds before that and do the back flip" – so I’ve done it. Actually there’s supposed be a dip, she’s supposed to try to kiss me then I’m falling on the floor – and I’m doing this hip-hop – and then I’m going for the back flip. It was the coolest thing. They were happy with the shot – and I saw the shot, it was pretty good. Then it didn’t make the movie. Such a waste.

What I learned the most from being there – patience! I cannot say that I learned it completely because I was just amazed at how slow the process was. It was killing me. I was shocked. Nothing was so slow in my entire life. It’s not really a problem about how long it takes, I can understand that it takes a long time, but nobody seems to care about your schedule. If you think it through, if you’ll think really what time you gotta be there, real time, you can make it work. But I know exactly that they don’t need me there at nine. They say nine and they have three scenes before me and you know it’s gonna be five p.m., and you’re doing everything just to be just a little bit late! If you’re running one hour late it’s not a problem, nobody even notices you’re not there because there’s so many things going on and so many people running around – it’s real hard to care about everybody’s schedule. Probably for the leading roles they have special people who are taking care of schedules, but it’s difficult because there’s so many things going on. Especially in New York, those busy streets…

My first day on the movie was when we find out who was cast in the ballets. And it was so funny because I was supposed to fly from New York to L.A. on that very day because I had the Snapple clinic in L.A. We’re supposed to finish the shoot like around five o’clock and I had a plane at 6:30 out of JFK, which is almost impossible to catch. The deal was that we’re shooting the scene – and it was just this little thing and that’s it. They weren’t using me at all, just this little thing – from the elevator to there, turn left – then you go. And there was a lot of troubles trying to make those people let me go for the weekend because it as Saturday and I was supposed to be on Sunday in LA and go back Monday to shoot again.

So, it was the first day when I’m working with Nick Hytner and the crew and everybody. Then we finish this thing, and Nick is improvising a little – he’s the director, he goes improvising, so you go there and you go there…okay, you check your schedule and now you go. And I was stuck somewhere…I don’t know, I just went somewhere and he said, "Oh, okay, you go here and now, you know what? Maureen coming here and you gotta, you gotta talk to her right here…" And I’m saying, like it’s not in the script and he says, "Yeah, yeah, I know, we’re gonna make another scene from here, it looks good here." So then I understand that I’m gonna be stuck here for two hours and I have a plane to catch in like about an hour – I’m so embarrassed because he’s asking me to do some more work and it’s the first day and I’m supposed to say no to the director on the first day? I was so embarrassed but I said, "I gotta fly, you know, I got a plane…" and it was dead silence on the set and everybody looking: "Who he thinks he is?" So they said, "Okay, take off!" And I barely made my plane, but I did. Barely.

The other fun day was the sponge fight – that was so much fun! It was really dangerous. I was pretty safe but the other guys, Sascha and Shakiem, were all over the place because it was so slippery on the ballet floor… they almost killed the shot because they fell so bad and it was so funny! We were dying, but they didn’t put it in. Actually this scene felt pretty good too, when I watched on screen it felt really good, I was really happy.

But the scene where I’m saying, "I am your slave…" You know what? That one felt pretty…pretty stupid. It was funny, though, on the end – because actually it felt a little bit wrong the way it was in the script, but finally, I was pretty happy. That was actually one thing I was worrying about too much when I came to the premiere because it just didn’t feel good. The whole idea of this little scene – in class you gotta scream something out loud – it doesn’t make any real sense, at least not for me. I don’t know how’s the ballet classes in America goes, but in Russia you barely can whisper something, you just gotta fly out of class, it was that strict. So then it just didn’t make too much sense for me but it went well. It went okay.

I certainly liked the whole experience, if you throw out all the downsides like just waiting around…but the whole thing, I liked it a lot. And the idea of the movie and trying to create a character and work on it. It wasn’t that big of a part to really work on it so I was kind of suffering because of that…you really got the role but there’s not that much to work on. And I wish I could put a little more on it, but they didn’t need a little more, they need less. It’s not a lot of pressure but it’s something to try, and there was some room to really improvise a little because, as I noted from this movie, it’s all about improvising. They’re not saying what to do at all, they just got you on the set, they got you on the position and you gotta get with something…before your lines, you gotta get some actions, you gotta get some energy going and it’s all up to you. If you’re not making it, nobody else will make it and everybody was pretty shy, you know? And you’re sitting, four dancers and me and there’s no energy and everybody can feel it and nobody knows what to do. And they’re saying "keep your energy up" but what does it mean? To a dancer it means dance…but that’s why it felt good because it’s something that you’re dealing with and that’s great.

Of course, I would certainly want some more work. I’ve had some auditions recently – nothing major, just some TV stuff. They’re not giving answers right away so we’ll see what’s gonna happen with schedules and stuff too. And I’m taking class now when I’m not that busy.

Some people ask me about theater – I never really thought of it because you’ve got to put a lot of time in it. It’s not like one performance, you really got to work on the part because it’s a live performance. You cannot just go and do it, you gotta really, really get into it. Yes, certainly, it’s fun – I think it’s really challenging because all my life I’m doing live performances and that’s something I know a little bit how to deal with it. But that’s why I like movies too, because there’s so many takes and there is so much room to try to do something and there’s not that much stuff to memorize in one scene. People have a lot more respect for movies than for theater, but the work in theater is 100 times more and it’s like…I don’t know even what to compare it with, but theater is so much more serious, so much more challenging and so much more…two levels higher than the movies. Anybody can shoot the movie, any first timer – like me or any ballet dancers – anybody can and they can make it look good, but in theater – you just cannot go and do it.

But I did go to the "Gladiator" premiere here in L.A. – and I was actually impressed. I liked the movie a lot. I actually love all the historical stuff, it’s great. And you really feel like you’re there, you really feel that you know how was it at that time. It’s an amazing film. It’s very good, although "You have to win the crowd" – that’s a little bit more Americanized. I don’t think they were caring about that, they were caring just to stay alive a little bit longer. And I don’t think anybody cared about who was that good that they can really care about audience stuff – you only care about your opponent. You gotta be a hundred times better than he is so you’ll get so relaxed and care about audience. But it’s entertaining!

Movie trailer prisoner '99~Ilia Kulik,


  Ilia's Journals



...periodic thoughts from Ilia himself
Entry #5:
June 2nd 2000
Entry #4:
October 22, 1999
Entry #3:
May 22, 1999
Entry #2:
October 26, 1998
Entry #1:
July 8, 1998
Untitled Document


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