We had the good fortune of connecting with Irina Hall and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Irina, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
When I think of the time when I was a child, I feel like I was born with an abundance of creative energy which I didn’t always know what to do with. I wanted to do it all: paint, dance, sing, act, and play piano. When I was between the ages of one and six, I would learn the lyrics to my favorite songs, choreograph dances to them and insist on performing them in front of my relatives any chance I could find. I remember begging my mom to put me in all sorts of creative activities which she didn’t seem to be too thrilled about based on her personal experience when she was a young girl. When I was six, she brought me into a local dance studio for kids just to “try it”. She didn’t think I’d take it seriously. Little did she know, by the age of ten I was professionally training with the top ballet teachers in town and was recommended to move to Moscow or St. Petersburg to ensure even better success as a rising ballet star. Ballet was hard. It was sweaty, bloody, exhausting. It was perfect. It was the best outlet to my endless creative energy that I knew then. The future seemed very bright and exciting to me, but not to my mom who was afraid to lose me. When our local opera and ballet theatre school shut down due to lack of funding and all my best ballet friends moved to different cities to continue their training, my mom refused to let me go. I was too young to just leave and do it all by myself even though I wanted to. My bright ballet dream was crushed. It was the biggest most painful trauma of my teenage years. My whole life’s purpose was lost in a heartbeat. Ballet to me wasn’t just a glamorous dream; it was my way of communicating with the world, connecting with myself, others, and with the higher intelligence of the Creator; it was my way of making an impact on others and creating my own legacy. I had never believed in anything as deeply as I did in ballet. It had become my air I had been breathing in every day, but then all of a sudden my oxygen was cut off. In Russia, ballet training is taken very seriously. If you stop being professionally trained at an accredited school as a child, you won’t be accepted back into the pro circles later. And when your mom manages to convince all your best and supportive ballet teachers and everyone else around you that you shouldn’t continue pursuing ballet because you got straight A’s in all your general education classes, it becomes very hard to find a single person cheering on your creativity. Long story short, after months of crying into the pillow and years of searching and trying different things, I found myself on the opposite side of the world, living in a different country, fluently speaking a foreign language and discovering the art of filmmaking. In it, I found something I can do as passionately as I did ballet when I was a teenager. I found a new language of communicating with the world and a new very powerful outlet to my creative energy. To be good as a filmmaker, you need to have a good sense of both visual and audible harmony and be able to tell engaging and emotional stories with a strong, distinctive, and unique voice. This is a big enough challenge for me to take on and try to master. It keeps my heart, soul, and brain occupied and gives me a platform to be the messenger to keep making an impact and creating legacy. I don’t think I can ever imagine myself not creating in one way or another. Creativity gives me my life energy which I enjoy sharing with others. You can never stop learning and getting better as a creative which gives you a lifetime of opportunities to explore.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m a filmmaker. I write screenplays and direct my films. I have an amazing team of people who I love working with and who play very important roles in the projects that I work on. Because of these amazing people surrounding me, I can call myself an award-winning filmmaker today as my most recent film Hidden is making its festival rounds. It wasn’t by any means easy getting where I am today, and it’s definitely not a final destination. There will always be obstacles ahead, and it’s our purpose as creators to keep improving our craft with every opportunity and keep creating no matter what. I’m working on my next project and excited for the journey ahead.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Depending on which part of town you’re at, there are several dining places that are definitely worth checking out. If you’re in downtown Atlanta, stop by Atlanta Breakfast Club for a great breakfast experience. It’s located across the street from Georgia Aquarium and near the Coca-Cola headquarters. Their chicken and waffles are simply the best, and they have a variety of other very creative breakfast dishes you’ll want to try. If you’re near Colony Square in Midtown, try 5Church. The experience there is very unique as well with a variety of amazing dishes and some food for thought if you’re up for reading passages written all over their interior walls. If you’re looking for a fine-dining spot in Johns Creek, Sugo should be a must on your to-do list. They offer a great selection of amazing mediterranean dishes and excellent service. If you make it to downtown Woodstock, definitely make a stop at Freight Kitchen & Tap. They offer a unique southern fare with a fresh farm-to-table approach. If you find yourself in the old Roswell historic district, take a walk along Canton Street. You will find unique family owned stores, restaurants and multiple art galleries that are worth paying a visit to.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are many people who made an impact on my life in one way or another, but this time I want to give a big shoutout to my three favorite teachers, mentors and supporters during my college years: my acting and voice teacher Diana Ifft Cecotti, my modern dance teacher Kevin Maloney, and my acting and improve teacher and mentor George Jaber. When I moved to the U.S. after my creative dream was crashed in Russia, it was a challenging time for me trying to adopt to a different culture, mastering a foreign language, trying to reduce my native dialect to make sure others can understand me as clearly as possible, finding my creative voice again and just starting to believing again in my own worthiness and that I can be creative. These three people were cheering me on every single step of the way through that time of adopting and being a student at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, PA. Kevin was the first one who told me that my ballet past wasn’t in vain. Diana taught me to embrace my own voice and not be afraid of being different. George showed me that it wasn’t too late to be creative and being able to make an impact on others doing what I loved. All of them gave me the support I’d never had before and helped me start believing in my creative self again. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Kevin, Diana, and George, their incredible guidance and wisdom they shared with me and all the amazing and endless inspiration I got from them.
Molly Lowery, Nicholas Taylor, Greg Patten, Neriah Kharece, Shan Thomas, Kurt Esman