Actress deals in fairytales and time for special kids

A young actress named Mira Koteva is doing readings of fairytales about princesses, dragons and heroes at https://bit.ly/PrikazkiSMira every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday until New Year. Her readings are part of The Scholarship campaign of the Give a Book Foundation, which is raising money for efforts to promote the development of children in institutional care.

The uploaded videos can be viewed for free. Internet users who like them and have the desire and the means to donate can do so at https://bit.ly/PodareteKniga. The platform will accept donations for the campaign until 30 December. “We are all on tighter budgets in this environment, which makes sparing money for charity both harder and more impactful than ever. These special kids are in much more disadvantaged circumstances than us,” Mira says. The target sum for funding The Scholarship project is BGN 10,000.

Mira has been involved in charitable events before, but strictly as a participant, never as a co-organiser. She recently recorded a monologue in English for an online campaign to fight Lyme disease, launched by her UK teacher, actress Rachel Preece. The Scholarship, however, is the first project where Mira has a lager measure of control over the overall concept. She contacted the Give a Book Foundation with an offer for collaboration.

“I researched various organisations and what drew me to this one was that it provides mentors who work directly with children, talk to them, read to them and tutor them. They started out with book donations, but quickly discovered it was not enough. The little ones needed to be motivated. I was struck by the fact that they give more than books, they give of their time, which is most valuable,” Mira shares.

She is more than willing to give of her time as well. Because of social-distancing rules, mentors are currently not allowed to visit residential care facilities, which leaves the children even more isolated than normal. The Scholarship project plans to provide these institutions with digital devices and train children and teachers alike to work with them so they can stay in touch with the foundation's mentors online. This is the big-picture goal. For Mira, practicing her acting skills by reading fairytales aloud is an added bonus. 

Twenty years ago, she was a shy child who adored those thick books with collections of fairytales and beautiful illustrations. “I was one of those kids who would shrink in one corner of the classroom and watch the rest of the world with trepidation,” she admits. Despite her shyness, she was convinced she would become a lawyer. At the age of 16, however, after trying ballet and all sorts of other girly pursuits, she started attending acting classes taught by Ilia Lasin, where her plans for the future changed. Within one year, Mira prepared to apply to university to study acting. Thanks to her high grade-point average and a video casting in which she participated from Bulgaria, Mira was admitted to the prestigious University of Hull, in eastern England.  

“Everything was so different there. I started filming from the beginning - I found this group on the internet called Let's Film a Scene. It is not some kind of organisation, but a community of professionals who come together to create and experiment. I felt a real sense of belonging with these people. We did one short film each week, several minutes of various storylines and roles - I gained extremely valuable experience that way,” Mira explains.

She got her international film debut thanks to a director she met through this group. She had already returned to Bulgaria when she got a call from him. He was about to film in Portugal and wanted to give her the only part. The initial idea for a 20-minute short film ended up becoming a 42-minute opus, which can be classified as a short or a feature film depending on different festival standards. The story is about a young woman who wakes up on Halloween and performs a ritual to summon her dead lover from the hereafter. When he shows up, something truly unexpected happens… The crew shot for two weeks in the picturesque region of Madeira, creating a quality indie film full of suspense.  

“I was the only actress and holding the audience's attention for 40 minutes is a great challenge,” Mira says. The psychological thriller Once Upon a Time on All Hallows' Eve earned her an award for best actress at the Virgin Spring short film festival in Kolkata, India, in 2018 and a nomination for rising star at the Seoul Webfest short film festival in Seoul, South Korea, in 2020.

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