Entertainment, Interviews

Interview with Natalie Burn on the movie Awaken

At the time of our telephone interview Natalie Burn was in Turkey making a film. I caught Natalie on her day off sightseeing like an ordinary tourist.

In the fictional action movie “Awaken” Natalie Burn stars as Billie Kope. She’s a woman hell bent on finding her sister, but ends up on an island where a black market organ dealer is harvesting body parts for the rich. The film demonstrates Natalie’s fine acting talent as an up and coming action actor.

Natalie from screenshot Awaken 2
Natalie in a scene from the film “Awaken”

In addition to her film “Awaken” being released on DVD July 7, 2015 she appeared in “Expendables 3” alongside a huge action cast starring Sylvester Stallone. She has appeared in over 20 titles since 2006 and has completed 6 films that are in post-production waiting for release dates.

Born in Kiev, Ukraine to a businessman and ballerina, performing is in Natalie’s blood. At age six, Burn was admitted to the Ukrainian Dance Academy. There she studied classical ballet, folk and tap dance. At the age of eight, she began touring extensively performing with the youth dance group. As a result of all that hard work and training, at age 11, Burn was accepted to one of the top ballet schools in the world, the Bolshoi Ballet School in Moscow. There she studied and toured as a ballerina for the next several years.

Wanting to expand her dance resume, she moved to London to complete her classical ballet education at The Royal Ballet School. There Natalie also learned choreography. She also trained in a more contemporary style of ballet at Rambert Ballet and Contemporary Dance Company and mastered numerous styles of dancing including Spanish flamenco, hip hop, salsa and break dancing.

THE INTERVIEW:

From dainty ballerina to actor as an “action fighter” that’s a huge jump in the entertainment world. What was your journey like and why did you decide to alter your career to acting?

Natalie Burn: I’ve always liked to be physical and the body language has been easy for me since I was a girl. That’s why I started dancing. Because it was in my blood. My mom saw that I had so much energy that I needed to put that into something. After I established myself as a ballerina unfortunately I got injured. I had to put my energy into something else so I sidetracked it into acting. At first I went into theatre. I did a lot of theatre. My father started mentioning that with theatre I was missing the workouts that I used to get with ballet. I thought what can I do that I can use this energy? So I chose film acting.

I started training with Benny “The Jet” Urquidez* who plays my dad in “Awaken”. I wanted to be able to do something that I can showcase my talent in movies and I felt I can use this to my advantage. So he started training me in kickboxing and other martial arts including sword fighting and wirework. So now I’m happy as once you’re an athlete you’re an athlete for life. You have to do something with your energy and it has been a great transition for me because I am so physical. Especially for movies where fighting and choreography wise I get to still use my brain. I use it in the same way as I use dance. I memorize the choreography that I’m given and then I put it to use almost like a dance movement. Because knowing both dance and mixed martial arts it becomes easier to incorporate it into a fight scene and make it real. That’s where the transition comes in between ballet and physical movie making.

And I’m grateful that I get to do this, because now I have an opportunity to show my talent and energy as an actor, a female action fighter. And that is how I am trying to put myself out there and I don’t think there are many female action stars now days. I think it’s a great opportunity to showcase myself that way.

Natalie in a cringing fight scene from "Awaken"
Natalie in a cringing fight scene from “Awaken”

You can see in the movie that it’s you in every combative scene throwing punches, kicks and elbows. In one particular scene you are picked up by from the floor by an antagonist and thrown against a wall. It’s probably the most realistic scene in the film. It really shows how you can take punishment. Where does the rage come from within you to be able to make it look so real?

Natalie: I think it’s the passion. I have always been very passionate. Even when I was a dancer. As a ballerina I never ever danced “Swan Lake”, like the dying swan, nor “Cinderella”, or “Sleeping beauty”. I have too much drive in me for those roles. I have this undying power to do something way more. Something more artistic, something stronger. So I’ve always chose more demanding dance like Flamenco or Black Swan with a lot more drive and anger. I don’t know where it comes from. I think it’s just a passion for art. I was almost like born with that. There’s a drive in me that I can’t stop. And I like the fight. I wanted to take that fight somewhere so people can see the real me. And the anger that I showcased in the fight scenes in “Awaken”, that’s my way of expressing myself through my art. As before I was doing it through dance, now I’m doing it through fighting and acting.

For “Awaken” you are one of the producers and also listed as writer. How did you come up with the unusual story for the script?

Natalie: My idea was to open a company and start producing my own films and make movies that have something different. Some kind of a different passion involving some interesting topics. I had read some things about black market organ harvesting. Another time I saw this really crazy TV show where this woman was talking about her son going to the hospital to have an operation on his nose and the next thing you know he died on the operating table. When they did an autopsy and opened him up they realized that all of his organs were bought. It shocked me so much that to think this happened that I wanted to incorporate that into my script for “Awaken”. And that’s where my idea came from. I started developing it, I wrote a synopsis first, a treatment, then wrote the scene by scene. I then hired a writer and we worked very closely on finishing the script and making it work.

Many of our readers may be interested in following a path in the film field. Do you have any suggestions for them?

Natalie: I’m a person of goals. Once I want something where I think this is the right way to go about my life, I don’t give up. Acting is such a grueling world especially being in Hollywood. You think it is so pretty and so luxurious and perfect, but there’s so many bad energies that sometime happen. And it happens on purpose. It’s almost like it challenges you. Hollywood makes you think whether you are meant for a career in film or not. But if a person is really meant for it and they really want to do it, I would say just go for it. Don’t let anybody put you down. Even when you think you did something wrong. Go to as many acting and film classes as possible, as I feel education is the number one key. I still take classes even now. But there is so many things that I’m learning every day. And there’s so many different pools out there that you can learn from with great teachers. So just go, learn, meet people try to make your own movies. Get them out to festivals. Especially now with “Awaken” that was the hottest at so many festivals and people have been so supportive. And there I meet other people that have come up to me with the same drive and I say hey let’s make more movies. This is how you do it. You just create your own little circle of people and you make movies. In the end that is what my goal is to make films and just continue doing what I love.

In your everyday life what are your favorite things to do?

Natalie: I have a dog and I usually jog with her a lot in the park. Another passion that I have is usually in the winter, it’s snowboarding. I’m an avid snowboarder. I go everywhere around the world snowboarding. That’s one of my things.

 
* Benny Urquidez is an American kickboxer, martial arts choreographer and actor. Nicknamed “The Jet”, Urquidez was a non-contact karate competitor who later pioneered full-contact fighting in the U.S.

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Film Editor John Delia has been on all sides of the movie business from publications to film making. He has worked as a film critic with ACED Magazine for more than 12 years and earned a Bachelors degree in communications from the University of Florida. John is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association. Follow John on Twitter @staragent1 or send John a message at jdelia@acedmagazine.com