Slamdance Interview: Sasha Feldman Talks “Savage Youth”

Photo by Charlie Buhler (Source: IMDB)


­At times, it seems awfully unfair that some films get more recognition than others. Let’s say, the majority of viewers would know about a blockbuster with big names or Oscar winners and nominees. Meanwhile, many great films and equally great, talented actors remain obscured. For instance, some of the films I have recently reviewed: how many of you have heard of “My Name is Myeisha” that was screened at Slamdance Film Festival, or the film “Savage Youth”, or “The Rainbow Experiment”.  The latter is one of those films that I still talk about, the same as “Savage Youth” which is a powerful piece. Sadly, it will never get the wide popularity it deserves because of lack of publicity.

Having reviewed “Savage Youth” for, I am extremely pleased to extend my coverage of this film by hereby posting an interview with the lead actor of the film Sasha Feldman. His impressive portrayal of Lucas has managed to terrify me. Lucas is a young man who nobody wants to cross paths with, and Sasha has done a great job to create a believable character in the film.

MOVIEMOVESME:  You have done an amazing job by portraying such a troubled character as Lucas in “Savage Youth”. What did you find appealing about this character? Why did you decide to ‘become’ him on screen?

Sasha Feldman:   Thank you. I think that I am mostly drawn to characters that are different, and that do not operate like “most” people do. I like to investigate people who do or act strangely, and I find it most fascinating when I study human behavior. As an actor, I want to know why a certain character’s behavior is so different, and I find it fascinating by the way they move and they talk. I want to explore those people, because to me they are a lot more interesting than people who follow all of the rules in our society, and can blend in. I love exploring the oddballs, the misfits, the degenerates and fight out what makes them tick. Especially since those people are the most overlooked.

MOVIEMOVESME:  You even had to rap in the film. How much of your personal input did you bring to breathe life into Lucas’ rapping scene?

Sasha Feldman:     It is funny that you ask that. Originally my character Lucas did not rap in the movie. The other two guys did, but Lucas was supposed to be really “bad” at rapping. I was actually a little disappointed, because I have been rapping since I was a kid. It’s something that has been almost as big a passion as my acting. But my director is so collaborative that he and I had the conversations and I asked him if I could incorporate my rapping skills into the movie, and he not only agreed but he was thrilled to add it in so many of the scenes you can see now.
MOVIEMOVESME:  How challenging was it to travel into his mind? Don’t you think it’s scary to be him even for a while?

Sasha Feldman:  You know it was actually challenging and at the same time simple. The difficult part was trying to unlock him and figure out who Lucas was. But as soon as it clicked, and I tapped into him it was very simple to be him. As long as I made my choices specific and figured out key things about who he was, basically his essence; I could set parameters for him and work inside those walls. As far as it being scary, the interesting part about that, was that Lucas was so disconnected from reality, that he rarely had to experience the drama that unfolds in the story. For Lucas, the scary things don’t scare him, because he focuses on other things, while the rest of the characters focus on painful things, Lucas has a very powerful coping mechanism that allows him to detach from things. Instead of seeing death and being afraid of it, he just sees a body that isn’t moving. It’s a different way of looking at things, and from my own personal perspective its quite psychotic, but while playing the character I was alleviated from the burden of trauma if that makes sense.

MOVIEMOVESME:  You and Will Brittain were great together. Can you please share your experience about the process of working on your characters and recreating those crazy scenes together?

Sasha Feldman: Will Britain is an amazing actor, and I feel like from the very beginning, him and I bonded right away. We are best friends now, and I feel like that’s why you can see the chemistry when you watch us together in the film. When we met we realized that we had a similar way of looking at acting. We wanted to fully immerse ourselves in the role, and even when the camera wasn’t rolling, we would work together and live as those characters. I think the main reason those scenes came together so well, is because Will and I trusted each other so much, and wanted to take risks. We wanted to listen to each other and respond to the moment. We were fully invested in the lives of our characters, and we were on the same page about almost everything.

MOVIEMOVESME:  Why did you decide to become an actor?

Sasha Feldman: I have always been someone who loved to entertain, and someone who loves to express himself artistically. As a child I would sing, dance, rap, act, do anything I could in front of my family, school, and friends. I loved the thrill of expressing something that felt like a fire deep inside. I also feel like I see life through an emotional lens. I am a very visceral person, and acting has always been a way to tap into my primal side, the part that society most represses. Any time I was on stage, I felt bigger and more alive. All my fears, sickness, pain, it all went away. Sometimes I feel like I’m tapping into a life force, something more powerful than I am. Its a wonderful and beautiful way to connect humanity.

Another thing that inspired me about becoming an actor, is that my Uncle Aleksandr Sharovsky is the brilliant theater director of the Russian drama theater, and was also a wonderful actor in Baku. My mother always told me stories about him when I was growing up. She told me how he played the iconic role of d’Artagnan, and everyone was blown away by his performances. I loved all of her stories about him, and when I visited Baku eight years ago, he watched me perform for him and he recommended to my parents that I go to Hollywood and try it. I think that was the tipping point for me to go. I had done quite a bit of theater, but I had never tried it professionally. It was quite a symbolic moment, that I found my career decision here in Baku.

MOVIEMOVESME:  Is it difficult to get a role in a film or TV?

Sasha Feldman:  It really all depends. But in general, it is very difficult. Even with a lot of talent and hard work, a lot of people struggle. It’s just a lot of people trying to fill very few spots, and on a logistic level it’s quite difficult and almost impossible. That being said, if you spend enough time here, and you work hard, and you take the opportunities that are given, and you make your own projects while you are not working, your chances get a lot easier.

MOVIEMOVESME:  You were born in Baku, Azerbaijan. Did you ever think about collaborating and starring in some good projects in Azerbaijan? Or did you get any offers?

Sasha Feldman: I would love to do something in Baku. I love the city, and I love the culture, the food, and I especially love the people. I wanted to one day work on something with my uncle in the theater, but I also would love to do a movie there as well. I think Baku has so many stories that the world needs to hear, and It would be an honor to be a part of that.

MOVIEMOVESME:  Getting back to the “Savage Youth”, what do you think the younger generation must learn from Jason and specifically from Lucas?

Sasha Feldman:  I think more than the young generation, I think the parents of that generation and the leaders of that generation should learn from this film. They should learn that children are not born evil and that they are a product of their environment. If you do not teach them and give them the tools to deal with their emotions and their trauma, they will act out and they will inevitably hurt themselves and those around them. We have to start working on the problem and spending time and money to prevent violence instead of just punishing it. I think if the kids could learn anything, it’s that if they have problems they should seek out guidance from trusted adults and find people who support them and motivate them to do better for themselves. But until we give them those resources- I am afraid that things will stay the same. Racism, poverty, lack of education, and other large social problems, are what devastate our kids in America, and we need to find a way to reduce that and help our next generation.

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