Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge caught up with Sara Luna Zoric to talk about her recent roles in Ena Sendijarevic’s Take Me Somewhere Nice and Zara Dwinger’s Yulia & Juliet.
Q: You play Alma, a teen who goes on a coming-of-age journey from her home in the Netherlands to her hometown in Bosnia, in Ena Sendijarevic’s debut feature ‘Take Me Somewhere Nice’. Can you tell us more about Alma and how you connected with her?
A: Alma is a quiet girl, she likes to observe a situation before she acts. Especially when she gets to the new and strange Bosnia. She is quietly trying to figure out where she is, who she is and what her intentions are. In this confusing state of mind, she makes some very rash decisions.
I was struggling as well when I first arrived in Bosnia, but shooting the film chronologically meant I could grow with the character. I also learned so much about myself in these weeks spent embracing Alma.
Q: What did you learn about yourself from playing Alma?
A: I learned that being yourself will get you where you need to be. I was really struggling to figure out what kind of person I wanted to be for the people around me. Until I realized that that was crazy. It was okay for me to just be myself. I also learned I can withstand crazy weather conditions, haha!
Q: This was a first feature for director Ena Sendijarevic and yourself. Ena has spoken about helping you feel comfortable with the use of your body and ‘unconventional sex scenes’ in the film. Can you talk about your relationship with Ena and how she supported you through the film?
A: Ena and I are on very good terms. To this day, I can still call her whenever I need advice. We had so many one-on-one meetings before we actually started shooting. We went on walks, dinners and lunches. When it was time to talk about the sex scenes, she wanted to talk to my parents about it (I was seventeen at the time).
We also discussed – during the rehearsals in Bosnia – how we were going to work efficiently on set. She came up with five words she could say to me and I would automatically know what I had to change about the scene. We could really have a deep conversation too. Ena once said she sees her younger self in me, that is one of the biggest compliments I have ever received.
Q: What was your connection like with co-stars Ernad Prnjavorac and Lazar Dragojevic?
A: I’m not gonna lie, it was hard at first. I speak Bosnian, but not on a level that I can understand the fast jokes that were flying around. The boys were very nice though. We had to spend a lot of time together and when we still see each other now, it’s very fun. We were dancing and laughing a lot on set. They beatbox a lot which kept the energy high.
Q: ‘Take Me Somewhere Nice’ takes you on a journey and even deals in magic realism. What was your favourite scene to shoot in the film?
A: One of my favourites is where I got to drive a car for the first time ever. I still don’t have my driving licence and the scene in the movie where I drive off the hill is actually the first time I sat behind a steering wheel. It was so scary, and you can really see it in my face. But that is what makes it so great.
Q: I read a wonderful review of ‘Take Me Somewhere Nice’ from the Hollywood Reporter which praised your performance. How are you finding the experience of film festivals and responses to your first feature?
A: It’s been quite overwhelming. I went to a film festival one weekend and that same Monday I was back in school doing regular teenage stuff. It is weird because all these people I don’t know are writing about me while I’m just studying history and math.
The film festivals were really cool, I felt so much love from the audience. Rotterdam and Berlin flew by, but I will never forget them.
Q: You were cast for the film through Facebook and went through a similar process for Zara Dwinger’s short film ‘Yulia & Juliet’. Can you talk about digital casting and what attracted you to acting?
A: I have been going to acting classes since I was eleven years old. When I saw the part of Alma, I thought: ‘That’s me!” – so I went to the audition.
Yulia & Juliet was a little bit different as I was originally asked to come to a casting for a series. I didn’t get to the next round but I was selected for the auditions for Yulia & Juliet.
I had the privilege of being a little bit early so I had time to talk to Zara before. We clicked instantly. After Take Me Somewhere Nice, I realised acting on camera really was something I wanted to pursue. Yulia & Juliet only stimulated this and now I know for sure, I want to act.
Q: How was the collaboration with Dylan Jongejans and Zara on this project?
A: Zara and Dylan are really cool. We had some rehearsals with just the three of us – it was really fun. Dylan had never acted before in her life, so she had to come loose a bit. Zara was really stimulating in this process. We had a good connection on set and I believe you can see it in the movie. We had to trust each other.
Q: What have been your takeaways from working with two talented female filmmakers?
A: Wow, the women I have worked with were so amazing and powerful. Zara and Ena are both so smart and creative.
Ena always had people tell her that her ideas were crazy or ‘wrong’ – but she had a vision. She would rather fail in trying to reach this vision than settle for something average. I really admire this mindset, she really believed in herself and this project.
Zara is also so determined and strong. One thing I will never forget is how she helped hype me up for a scene in Yulia & Juliet. We were running up the stairs together screaming and jumping, just to get the good energy flowing.
They are both amazing directors, but even more important: great and powerful women.
Q: You must have had a busy and exciting few months. Have you thought about what’s next for you?
A: For now, I’m focusing on school and finally getting my diploma.
I’m then going to take a year off, travel around maybe. Then focus on auditioning for the theatre schools in the Netherlands. More exciting film festivals are coming up. Stay tuned!