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Meet Xenia Balashov

Today we’d like to introduce you to Xenia Balashov.

Xenia, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Once upon a time, a child was born in the wee hours of morning, pale tendrils of dawn just starting to sneak over the distant horizon…

There’s something magical about that image, isn’t there? Something that draws you in? It’s a story–perhaps even a fairytale. It also is not the story this interview question is asking for. I mean, yes, that is how my story started. But, more importantly, I think it helps illustrate why the drive to create and to tell stories is what’s gotten me to where I am today.

I am an artist and filmmaker originally from Portland, Oregon, and I recently moved to LA to study animation at the California Institute of the Arts. I’ve always been a voracious reader, often sweeping through a book a day. As I got older, I fell in love with tv shows, then comics, then podcasts–any sort of storytelling medium I could get my hands on. I attended an arts-focused high school, where I dabbled in creative writing, film, visual art, and once, very briefly, even theatre. I was fascinated by animation, and the California Institute of the Arts was always my dream college. I applied as a high school senior and was lucky enough to be accepted! I recently finished my first year of college in spring 2020, and am currently taking a gap year while I intern at Open the Portal–an LA-based stop motion animation studio.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
A large struggle I’ve faced, as I’m sure many artists can relate to, has been imposter syndrome: the feeling that you are not nearly as talented as your peers, and that you don’t deserve to be where you are.

College can be a very competitive environment, and I’ve definitely had to learn what I like about my own art and what I think makes it special.

Please tell us more about your art.
My artwork is ethereal, philosophical, atmospheric, and generally a little bit macabre. I think of myself as a storyteller and director first and foremost, although I am interested in all aspects of animation.

I recently directed two films. “Visage” is a live-action short about haunted mirrors and the nature of self-perception. “Pinned” is a 90-second animated film about a butterfly collector and the inevitability of change, which I made as part of my first year at the California Institute of the Arts.

I am currently directing a third film: a short animated piece for my school’s Halloween event this year.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
When my high school art teacher was introducing my senior year capstone project to the audience, he spent most of his speech waving around a dictionary page with a photo of my face taped over the entry for “Tenacious.” I think that about sums it up.

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