Friday, January 3, 2020

Emilia Klayn (GSAS ’08), the Voice of the Bulgarian Award-winning Short Film “Tasks of the Day”

Emilia Klayn
Credit: Tuk-Tam
Emilia Klayn has leveraged her passion for cinema, literature, the arts, culture, and media into a career in voiceover work, acting, interpreting and translating. She voiced the Bulgarian submission for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film this year, “Задачи за деня/Tasks of the Day” which won the IN THE PALACE International Short Film Festival in 2019.

Emilia also works in the communications industry in Bulgaria, in corporate communications, public relations, public affairs, media relations, employer branding, event management, sponsorship and CSR. She is currently working as a Communications and Communities Manager for Tuk-Tam, the biggest community for Bulgarians who have studied and worked abroad. 

What did you study at NYU?

I graduated with an M.A. in French Studies and French from the Department of French Literature, Thought and Culture and the Institute of French Studies at the Graduate School of Art and Sciences, which is the most comprehensive American academic complex devoted to the culture of France. The program takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of modern and contemporary France and francophone countries through the lenses of culture, language, literature, history, art and society.

Emilia Klayn: her story continues

Do you have a favorite memory from your time at NYU?

I have so many wonderful memories! It's hard to choose between the amazing events and lectures at La Maison Française, the parties in Stuytown, studying (or just chatting) upstairs in the Salle de lecture, sitting in Washington Square Park at any time, watching movies at the IFC and the Angelika, eating frozen yogurt/sushi/Thai/pizza/croissants, etc. at the countless places around Washington Square, drinking hot chocolate at Max Brenner, listening to live jazz, shopping on Broadway, going out for drinks. There's nothing you can't do around NYU! It always felt like the heart of the city to me. I would say that my entire time at NYU as such is one of my favorite memories.

Emilia Klayn with Clementine Gallot (GSAS ’08), Charlotte Legg (GSAS ’13) and Sarah Thomas (STEINHARDT ’05, ’08)
Emilia Klayn with Clementine Gallot (GSAS ’08), Charlotte Legg (GSAS ’13)
and Sarah Thomas (STEINHARDT ’05, ’08)

How did your education at NYU shape what you do now? 

My education at NYU, together with my B.A. from Macalester College, have shaped not only my way of thinking and working, but more importantly, they have shaped who I am. My education has taught me to think critically and to always question and analyze, to consider facts in connection to their social, cultural, and political contexts, and to have an open mind and exercise empathy in order to come closer to understanding that which is different and unknown.

My passion for cinema, literature, the arts, culture, and media led me to NYU and it has continued to lead me where I have gone since then. This was the only graduate school I wanted to go to, for its leading scholars, academic rigor and excellence, and global understanding of the world. NYU is inscribed within the fabric of the city and it teaches you how to find your place in a dynamic, eclectic, always changing and challenging environment.

You voiced the Bulgarian submission for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film this year, "Задачи за деня/Tasks of the Day/.” Can you tell us about working on the film that won the IN THE PALACE International Short Film Festival?

"Tasks of the Day" is a short animated film based on a poem by Stefan Ivanov, directed by Petya Zlateva and produced by Vessela Dantcheva and Compote Collective, a platform specialized in the production of high-quality animated films. The film is a part of a series called "Mark and Verse," a project for visual poetry that animates contemporary Bulgarian poems. I find the interaction between words and images, and how the language of literature is translated into the language of cinema, fascinating, so I was thrilled when Vessy called me to record a demo. My first contact with the project was through the words, and my first step was to allow them to fully sink into me.

"Tasks of the Day"
Credit: Compote Collective

At first glance, the poem seems to talk about your daily tasks as something very straightforward. We all have our endless to-do lists and it was easy for me to identify with the voice of the poem, but it became even easier when we entered the studio and started recording alongside the images. Even more universal than daily chores is our need to be surrounded by our dear ones, to find connection and love.

In this film, the result of the encounter of words and images is a beautiful, sad and poetic tale of loss and solitude hidden behind a seemingly ordinary day of mundane tasks. The protagonist is a female character (a fox) whose inner dialogue reveals her fragmented thoughts, longings, memories, and fears. It felt very personal and very close to me and I really empathized with what it was like to be her.

Was this your first time doing voiceover work?

No, it wasn't the first time—I have been doing voiceover work for close to ten years now. Back then, a friend of mine told me that a recording studio was looking for a female voice with an American accent and before I knew it, I was being called in to record for various kinds of video and audio projects.

Initially, I thought it was something that anyone could do and it took me a while to realize that not only was I having fun, but the result was great as well. Acting with only your voice, without being able to resort to your body in order to convey a mood or sentiment, can be very satisfying.

You have been acting in films and TV movies as well. What are your favorite projects you have worked on?

Over the course of more than ten years, I have had some minor roles in American movies. I had interned and worked on a few film sets when one day a director decided to put me in front of the camera. After that, several casting directors started calling me. I have to admit that for a long time, being the opening kill for the horror movie “Wrong Turn 5” was something that I regretted doing. Now, when I look back on it, I am proud that I did it.

I think that my favorite part of all the projects I have done is the opportunity to inhabit someone else's identity. Becoming someone you are not inevitably teaches you about who you are. I am not a professional actress and my only experience was acting in theater plays in high school, so I went into acting for film with a sense of curiosity and openness, which have allowed me more freedom to explore my abilities and my limits. Also, not pursuing acting as a career allows me to fully enjoy being on set when I occasionally am.

You have another connection to cinema as well - you do simultaneous and consecutive interpretation and written translation.

Yes, I am an interpreter and translator, and I have worked for some of the biggest film festivals, in addition to various other projects in the arts and culture. In 2009, I started working for the Sofia International Film Festival in event organization and I have joined them for the duration of the festival almost every year since then. Soon after I started there, in addition to my events duties, I began interpreting for the directors and producers at the movie screenings. In recent years, I joined the CineLibri International Book&Movie Festival as an interpreter and I couldn't be more delighted to be a part of a festival dedicated to the relationship between cinema and literature!

Emilia Klayn with Ian McEwan
Emilia Klayn with Ian McEwan. Credit: CineLibri Festival
What I love about translation is the opportunity it provides to play with words, to explore the nuances, and to search for the perfect match to the original text. I experience it as a very introspective moment of craftsmanship. On the other hand, interpreting is an experience of deep immersion—your entire being must enter someone else’s stream of thought while being with them in the same space and time. I am fascinated by the flow into which you have to enter in order to become the perfect conduit so that the words come in through you and come out transformed while remaining the same in their essence. I have had the immense pleasure and honor to interpret for many talented artists, from the young and unknown to the established and awarded.

What challenges do you face in combining your work in the arts and culture with your chosen career path in Communications?

When I graduated high school I wanted to study PR and Advertising. At Macalester College, I studied literature and cinema as well as media and communications. I was drawn to an academic career in visual and cultural studies, while the internships I did were in the field of communications. For the longest time, it felt like I had to choose one over the other, that combining them would be impossible.

After I distanced myself from the idea of pursuing academics and I moved back to Bulgaria, I started working in the communications industry. Since then, I have gained extensive experience in corporate communications, public relations, public affairs, media relations, employer branding, event management, sponsorship and CSR. I love this career path and I am enriched, challenged, scared, thrilled and motivated by it every day. At the same time, I have these amazing opportunities to record, act and translate.

Only in the last several years do I feel like I have overcome the feeling of being torn between the things I love and feel passionate about. Now, I feel like I am metaphorically learning how to ski (which I still haven't literally learned how to do!)—by putting in the effort to keep the two skis parallel to one another while being in the moment and enjoying the sensation.

Emilia Klayn Headshot
Credit: Linda Alexandriyska

What is next for you?

In 2019, I started working as a Communications and Communities Manager at an NGO called Tuk-Tam, which is the biggest community for Bulgarians who studied and worked abroad. We have projects targeting Bulgarians who are planning to or have recently relocated back home, Bulgarians who are planning to go abroad for their Master's degree with the intention to come back and apply their knowledge locally, and Bulgarians who live abroad but want to be informed of developments in the country and are looking for ways to get involved. It is an exciting time to be a part of the organization because of the changes that are taking place and the new projects on the horizon. We believe that together we can make Bulgaria a better place for all of us and I am looking forward to growing our community of active, engaged, capable and inspiring people dedicated to that mission.

See the trailer for the animated short film "Tasks of the Day":

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