Interview with Serge Martinenko – Actor, Writer, Producer and Drummer!
Interview with Serge Martinenko, actor, writer, producer, and drummer… it seems like he does it all! On top of making himself known in short movies like “Staged”, Serge also does modeling and played in many commercials, TV Shows and music videos.
Your latest short film, “Staged”, is about people who wake up in a locked theater with no memory of how they got there and no clue on how to escape. How much of a challenge is it to be able to write and play in a film that could be at least 90 minutes long, but where you only have a couple of minutes to capture the audience’s interest?
- If “Staged” was a full-length feature then I would see it being constructed of a plot on the surface and layered with relationships between the characters and their backstories, allowing for character development throughout.
Writing a short film like this is a process of creating characters worthy of a feature-length film and then trimming down everything that sits “below the surface” afterwards, to the point where only indications of the characters’ backstories are given, and the rest is left to the viewers’ imagination. Of course, at the same time we have to make sure we keep up the pace of events.
In terms of writing, it can be hard, or it can be very hard. In the case of “Staged,” the script went through a lot of editing and rewriting.
In terms of acting, I co-created the story with Kelly Love under ToeNail Productions and at the time of filming we already knew exactly what the characters would be like. So, at that point it was clearly down to portraying this through the performance.
When you write a script for a film that you will also be acting in, do you write about your character with that notion in mind or do you write how you want the character to be and adapt your acting to the achieve this result?
- I had worked with the other actors behind “Staged” in the past. We knew we wanted to get back together to make another film ourselves and also act in it, but we didn’t base the script on ourselves or our acting styles at all. We threw some ideas out, developed the one that took off, and then chose the roles that would suit each of us best based on the final draft.
“Staged” is the second short film that you have written. Is writing scripts something that you would like to do full time in the future or do you still want to act and write?
- I’d like to keep doing both. I am also seizing opportunities to work as an editor, producer, director, and whatever other opportunities to work as a crew member that will help me to understand the crafts of acting and filmmaking.
Many think that it can actually be easy to land an audition. How hard can it really be and how do you prepare yourself once you receive a call that you have an audition?
- It’s neither hard nor easy. It’s all part of acting and it’s best to see it that way. Once I have an audition, I prepare my reading by tracking way back in the character’s life to understand how to portray the scene in as realistic a way as possible. Apart, from that, I research the director and casting director if I don’t know them already.
Is there something that when you think about it now, you would have done it differently in order to help your career?
- I see life as a process of learning to become a better individual, and failure is the best way to learn. Not that I am seeking it, obviously, but when I take risks it’s inevitable that I will fail sometimes. Acting involves constant risk taking and once I have learned something new or gained new ground I try to push the bar higher. So, my answer would be no, there’s nothing I would do differently.
On top of being an actor, writer and producer, you are also a drummer and have played in various bands and music videos. What made you change your mind about going into the film industry instead of continuing to do music?
- I never stopped doing music, but with everything I have going on I do prioritize acting. I keep practicing drums and whenever there’s a chance to play I take that opportunity. I have even been cast to play a drummer several times—in music videos, TV shows, etc., so it’s come in handy.
After I moved to Los Angeles I chose acting as a career because I saw more potential in it for myself and my family, and I love this job. Music has always been part of my life, and it always will be.
Did you ever thought about mixing your two passions together and direct your own music videos?
- Yes, of course. But I think this is something to pursue in future. I hope later on I will be at the point where I can choose to work with the kinds of artists I love.
Your academic background consists of a professional diploma in classical guitar performance and composing, and a degree in IT software, hardware, programming, web pages and digital/multimedia. Do you think it would have helped your career having an academic foundation in arts, film or theater, or is experience enough to launch a career in the film industry?
- I have been in the film industry for just over a year now, and I have also worked for three years in fine arts; adding my music path, I have been in the creative world for something like 26 years. That has been enough time to understand that creative skills can be developed through experience and self-education. This is why I didn’t hesitate and was confident in choosing the path of filmmaking. There are a lot of talented people out there who have reached legendary heights without any formal training in the industry. But the business side of it is a different story, and I am learning this from my mentor, AJ Riley, and other professionals.
Is living in Los Angeles a must when you want your career to reach a higher level faster, or is the competition so fierce there that it can be better to try acting in other cities?
- I think overall that it’s a must to live in Los Angeles in order to reach heights within mainstream film or TV. Every great talent in these fields seems to end up here anyway, sooner or later! LA is the biggest city in the world for film and TV in terms of revenue, with five major world-renowned studios and hundreds of productions and auditions taking place here every day. All the best and most competitive talent is concentrated in Hollywood, and that really pushes you and gives you a standard to work towards. I have been able to launch my acting career here and I don’t see any better starting ground for it.
What do you think is the best thing to focus on when you want to make a name for yourself at the beginning of a career: modeling, acting in commercials or finding small roles in plays and/or films?
- The first two things to take care of are self-development and establishing a personal brand, along with working on the acting craft.
Second, learning about the business side of the entertainment industry is a must. It doesn’t matter how talented an actor is; if there’s no business knowledge, there can’t be any true growth in their career.
Location is also important. The amount and type of work varies in this regard. In Los Angeles, the logical transition is to start off with modeling, then move to commercials and then acting for films and TV. Also, creating your own content is very important, as an actor who writes, directs and produces is likely to go much further than one who doesn’t.
As for theatre, I would do plays to get rid of stage fright in the beginning or as a hobby, but Los Angeles isn’t really the best place for theatre.
War of the Movies would like to thank Serge Martinenko for his time and cooperation. You can follow him on his official website and social media accounts: