Actor Ella Balinska is our Young Achiever of the Year
GSA graduate and Charlie’s Angels star Ella Balinska will face a new challenge in the Netflix action series, Resident Evil. She’s also our Young Achiever of the Year in the Vice-Chancellor’s Alumni Awards 2021…
“Acting was always an extracurricular school activity for me,” reveals Ella, who studied at Guildford School of Acting (GSA) and graduated in 2020. “Then I watched Zoe Saldana in Avatar when it came out. That was the first time I thought, ‘I’d love to be on a film set doing all the things to help make this happen!’”
Fast-forward to 2022, Ella’s taken a lead role in the big-screen reboot of Charlie’s Angels and she’s about to star in the new Netflix series, Resident Evil.
“I’m a huge fan of these major action franchises and acting in them massively appeals to the eight-year-old me,” continues Ella. “Whenever I walk on set at these projects, that child who watched Avatar is utterly delighted to be there.”
From Pandora to Guildford
Ella admits she was similarly smitten arriving in Guildford for the first time.
“I came for an open day to visit GSA,” she explains. “I was impressed by the family environment that existed in this conservatoire setting in the middle of a multi-cultural and diverse university campus. I immediately went home and changed my personal statement to reflect my new preference.
“Once I began studying, I loved the balance between the practical work and the theory. Amassing a toolbox of skills I’ve taken forward into my career has been invaluable.
“Having a safe space to fail was also important. As an actor, you usually get one shot to land a role at an audition. That’s terrifying. Training somewhere you can make all your mistakes and get them out of the way early was freeing.”
Ella flourished at GSA thanks to a work ethic she still retains.
“I’d study from Monday to Friday and, on Saturdays and Sundays, I’d work in Selfridges selling shoes,” reveals Ella. “I’d also go to auditions in London on my lunch breaks.
“I landed roles in Casualty and Midsomer Murders during that time. During my summer holidays between my second and third years, I shot a pilot, The Athena, that got picked up by Sky.”
Ella took a leave of absence from her course before the last semester of her third year to fulfil this and another work commitment.
She continues: “I shot The Athena for six months. Filming finished on 24 August. On 26 August, I flew out to Germany to start shooting Charlie’s Angels. Since then, I’ve also shot a Blumhouse movie called Run Sweetheart Run and Resident Evil, which is coming out on 14 July. There’s more stuff in the pipeline. I just can’t tell you about it yet!”
The Ella Balinska Scholarship
Something Ella can talk about is the scholarships she set up.
“As the world slowed down during the pandemic, my productivity levels increased because I had to finish my degree remotely,” she adds. “During that time, the Black Lives Matter movement was at its peak. That provided the focus for my dissertation.
“Lots of different people had their own journeys for how they would contribute to that issue. I wanted to explore how the University of Surrey and GSA could be made more of an ally within the entire movement. I worked closely with Acting BA programme leader Dominic Rouse to create a scholarship that gives opportunities not just to students from a black background but also from what we term ‘the global majority'.
“The scholarship celebrates talent from diverse backgrounds. It’s about giving opportunities for cultural expansion within the industry.”
Balinska is clearly not slowing down any time soon.
She continues: “I’m in production on a video game called Forspoken. This is a performance-capture medium, which is new to me. It’s a tremendous amount of work, but the geeky side of me is incredibly happy to be going into work every day.
“Alongside my acting, I’m also moving into the producing space. I love the logistics of storytelling and, slowly and steadily, I’m working on projects I’ll be producing and acting in. I hope I’ll eventually be able to cast my equally skilled acting friends in these ventures.”
Speaking of her award, Ella reveals: “I was genuinely touched to be selected as the Young Achiever of the Year. There are so many incredibly talented people from the University who do extraordinary things and contribute to the world.
“To be selected was utterly heart-warming. I hope the attention it brings me also brings attention to those other people from Surrey who have done amazing things.”