Andrea Popova | Follow Your Own Inner Compass

Have you ever wanted to say so much about someone and not being able to find the exact words at the same time, because nothing is enough to describe him or her, because the person in front of you is one of a kind…

Picture Konstantin Bozhanov

Andrea is a person who is not from our Planet, she is not even from this Galaxy. And I do not exaggerate when I tell you this because there is really no other person with more sincere, positive and pure attitude towards the world. Her faith in people, good, love and life make her truly extraordinary. Andy is definitely one of these people who shake the world with their beliefs of peace, harmony and love, valuing the little things around.

No wonder you can call Andy a young woman with the innocent sensitivity of a child. Her whole path is somehow marked by her sincere naivety and desire to follow her dreams without giving much strength to the obstacles that inevitably appear in her way. It is no coincidence that if she had to choose a character from a book to identify with, that would be Peter Pan. The boy who can fly and does not want to grow up. As a child, she spent the summer vacation in Targovishte with her grandmother and grandfather, where she has her own apple tree which she climbs to knit cornel baskets. Her grandma thought her how to do it. And no, she is not Astrid Lindgren’s heroine, she is a real person whom you can meet on the streets of Sofia.

Picture Damian Dimitrov

Her parents’ life has always involved music, literature and art.

“Both my mom and my dad were around for me – for my passion, for my art, for my love life, for my friendships, for my desires and beliefs. They were there for me but they made me independent, they gave me an example of how to love and cherish the moment through your heart.”

Her father is the one who provoked her to start painting, and her 5th-grade art teacher Katya Foteva was the first person to tell her exactly what to study when she grows up. Through school classes, girls’ football team, endless teen parties and drawing lessons, Andy goes to her entering exam for the National Academy of Arts, specializing in Scenography. Competition is brutal. There are kids from art high schools from all over Bulgaria who, as she says, are doing much better than her. But that could not bother her because she knows her end goal. Everyone warned her not to have big hopes, because the chances of getting in are pretty small. She passed the first of three rounds, being last in the ranking/rating. It disappointed her, but only for a while. She quickly got back on her path, collected all her works of art in a portfolio just for a day and printed them all in an album. After that she went to a second round, then to a third, which is like an interview. Then the jury shared with her that all her answers and interpretations are like coming from a child – pure, free, naïve, missing limits. So they asked her: why did she want to study this?…

“When I was asked this question, I remembered how during my preliminary courses they told me to wait in one of the classrooms. I went in and it was full of tripods, canvases, a model and students painting her… They all laughed, muttered. It smelled of paint, there was a soft light. I had the most beautiful feeling I had ever felt so far. Then I answered their question without a doubt – because that’s what makes me happy!”

When the results came out, it rained. She searched for her name on the list but did not find it. Just because she didn’t look at the top five in the ranking. It turns out she was first. She was in. That is how Andy’s art adventure began.

I will skip the next four years and will go straight to her graduation where one of her professors made the following comment on her work (on the play “The Blue Bird”): “Whatever she does, Andrea is always having fun”.

After that it’s a matter of luck, as she says. Andy is cherishing the people who she is meeting and who trust her as if they already know her and what she is capable of. That’s why I chose to tell you about some of the most important encounters since her career started…

Picture Damian Dimitrov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sabina Hristova (Production Designer). That’s the person who throws her in the depths of cinema. She is giving her the feeling of this magical chaos behind the stage. She helps her by giving her so much valuable contacts in the cinema community and gives her the benefit of doubt as an assistant in a pretty big film project. (Light Thereafter)

Nikola Toromanov – Ficho (Production Designer). He chooses her for an assistant (in the play “The Blue Bird”| Ivan Vazov National Theater) and this choice defines a big part of her growing up in the profession. He contacts her and gives her a task to make a model of the gate in the play on AutoCAD. He gives her a deadline. After hanging up, Andy confesses to herself that she has no idea how to work on AutoCAD. But she finds her way, going to a friend who quickly tutors her and she manages to complete the assignment on time. That’s what Andrea is – unstoppable. She is one of the people who is seeing a problem and is heading directly to the search for its solution! She describes her work with Ficho as a friendship in which he teaches her the most important things in the profession. He is simply giving her the foundation.

Picture  3 i n S p i r i t | The Blue Bird | Ivan Vazov National Theater

 

Marius Kurkinski (Director). Marius was the director of “The Blue Bird”. She is grateful for the opportunity to work with him and can’t call just one or two things she learned from him. She believes this encounter was a spiritual and purifying one, opening your eyes inward.  And I believe that it was not an accidental one. Because Andrea and her values remind me of the messages of Maeterlinck and “The Blue Bird“- the search for salvation in the purity of the childhood memory.

Picture  3 i n S p i r i t | The Blue Bird | Ivan Vazov National Theater

Encounter with her dream-team. That was during the shooting of the short film “Irene”. That’s where she gathers with her favorite people to work with now – Damian Dimitrov, Dimitris Geogiev, Mirela Ivanova, Tomislav Mihaylov – Chocho. I can assure you because I saw them in action – they create the perfect symbiosis, filled with genuine artistic spirit.

Picture Zlatina Tochkova

 

And this particular project is bringing to life not only her first real set but also a friendship which later turned almost into a family to her. Adventure continues in this project too. Chocho (the director of “Irene”) gives her an easy mission – to decorate an already furnished two-floor house. Three days before the shooting she goes to see the location and it turns out that the house is absolutely empty. Then there is another first encounter in her career – with the warehouses and ateliers of Nu Boyana Studios, where she comes out with 2 full and loaded trucks with props to be able to set the house properly. Because she’s a woman of detail, she often spends more time on set than usual. She goes earlier and leaves later than everyone.

“Irene” | director – Tomislav Mihaylov – Chocho
“Irene” | director – Tomislav Mihaylov – Chocho

Faithful Encounter With Love.  Even this happened on set – as her partner in crime says, “I remembered her as the girl with the big bouquet of yellow flowers” (it was during the filming of “Irene”). Later, during one of the first commercials that Andy works on, she meets him again and so to this day. Love like in the movies? No! Love like in real life!

During our conversation, we paid attention to inspiration, values and dreams ….

Inspiration.

The biggest difficulty for her is when there is no idea, inspiration or energy to start. Typically, she gets these components from painters. There is different painter at every different stage in her life (at present, for example, Schiele) whose influence she integrates in her projects, for example through colors, shapes and feelings.

Andrea’s inspiration has almost always come from a particular object. Like, for example, when she gets her first musical video as a production designer (Orlin Pavlov – S edno krilo). Everything around this video is built from a pillow. This pillow is the foundation of the whole set and everything after having this pillow comes to its right spot. This is how the magic happens around every project in which Andy is involved.

“S edno krilo” | director – Lyubomir Pechev
“S edno krilo” | director – Lyubomir Pechev

In order to be surrounded by the necessary creative aids, she buys all kinds of albums and books about different époques, photography, trends in culture, art, architecture and more. It’s so much easier for her, because when she’s looking for a fresh start, she looks first at her personal library.

The three golden Andy rules/her main professional and personal values:

  1. to be a woman of her word
  2. to believe in what she is doing and to love it
  3. to not disappoint people around her and to give them her best

Dreams.

Andrea is a free blue bird. There are no limits for her. Especially when it comes to dreaming. The ultimate dream right now is to become part of at least two feature films with her dream team, to leave a mark in history, telling stories that can make you feel, that can make you happy.

Dream on!

Nikolay Kirkov | The One Whose Eyes Light Up Talking About His Work

Talking about the magic of creating new worlds.

As a child his dream was to work for PIXAR. He imagined it as a hub of friends and associates who have the advantage to create worlds together. But after growing up and getting to understand what it actually is like to work for PIXAR, he started to picture it a little differently, more like some kind of factory. That’s when a new dream occurred to him – to have his own “PIXAR”, with friends and associates, all looking in the same direction, united by a common dream – to give life. Because that’s the thing he adores the most about his work. Opening a new project and starting from scratch – creating the environment, the colors, the characters and giving life to all of it…

But if you’re anything like me, you might be wondering exactly how everything started in this story. Well, with a high school project. He had to invent a fictitious bank logo. He opened Paint and did it there – first step, “easy AF”. Then came the order to make flyers for the same fictitious bank and he decided to do it in Photoshop this time, so he started exploring it. The school went to a fair and an advertising company noticed his projects for the logo and the flayers. They invited him for an internship. That’s how everything began.

Nikolay describe himself as a realist and professional. He is a person who motivates himself by the desire to study and explore. When he was a student in NATFA, he felt like every other student was better than him. He did not know their “language”, their behavior, he had not seen the films they all talked about. He just was not slave to stereotypes or standards. He does not like just one director, movie, singer, actor, music…NO. He does not restrict himself and does not set boundaries. He is always trying to push the envelope just a little further.  That’s why now he is graduating from ANIMSCHOOL, which is the premier online school for learning 3D animation, modeling and rigging.

Daily ritual?

Before I go to sleep I start the renders and first thing in the morning I check if everything is okay there.

In a moment of crisis:

Тo be honest with you, I actually feel like crying. And to be honest, I have actually cried at the beginning of my career with one of my first projects. But in the end, I looked at the fear of the unknown in the eyes and listened to Eminem – Till I collapse. That’s what always gives me strength and I overcome every difficulty.

Catalyst of the idea that has become a reality:

It was at the moment that I saw The Matrix for the first time, I was shocked and completely obsessed with the thought how all this is happening, I wanted to know, I wanted to be able to do it myself. The second moment of “insight” but this time about 3D animation was the moment when I watched Monsters Inc. I was inspired by every movement and gesture of the monster Sully. And I just knew that I want to be able to do the same or even better.

First kind of a crazy project that you shed a tear for?

There was a time when I didn’t work for anyone when I started to set my own tasks. And that’s how I made a portfolio of projects I had invented myself. I decided to send them to a post-production studio. Then they called me to assign me a task. I had to design a coconut wafer project. Then it seemed as if all the complex things I had ever done for exercise were united in one – fluid, animation, 3D, hairing, lightning, rendering etc. I did it. After a lot of difficulties and sleepless nights, but I managed to handle it in time.

 

Favorite project:

Ketto400.

Why?

The whole story about this project is one of my favorites, from the beginning till the end. I showed the client complete confidence when he asked if i am capable to handle this assignment. I actually wasn‘t that sure but I believed that there is nothing that can stop me from completing it. I started and I was blocked, staring at my computer for hours. I had to create „sculpture “of raspberries. But they looked as they were made from plastic or rubber. I bought some raspberries even though it wasn’t the season for raspberries. I sat and I observed them with hours – their shapes, their hairs.  I counted that there are around 200-300 thousand hairs on each raspberry and had to create 200 raspberries. I swear, I tried everything … Finally, I simply mimicked the texture of hair, because if I had to do it hair by hair I would have shoot myself or not meet the deadline … or both.

 

In the post-production process, whose work do you admire?

Grant Warwick, Mastering CGI and from the animators – Jorge Vigara – everything in the logic of movement of his characters is so cool that I can’t stop watching and learning from him.

How do you stay up to date with the latest tools and trends?

It may sound a little crazy or stupid but I actually read every manual of a software or a program as a book; maybe there is no one out there like me, I realize it’s odd, but it fascinates me. Other than that I follow the articles from Siggraph – an annual conference on computer graphics. It’s pretty impressive actually, it gives me perspective on the latest discoveries, trends or technologies and I learn a lot from these articles. Of course, I can not do what I am reading about and apply it into the next project because I do not have the necessary software or all the tools, but I’ve taken the first step – know the researches, the technology, the process, so half the job is done.

Talking about software, which are your favorites?

For color correction – DaVinci; For 3D animation (creating characters) – Maya; For fluids – RealFlow; For compositing – AfterEffects and for everything else – Cinema 4D.

Do you work well under pressure?

It’s nice to have someone who gives you deadlines, who keeps track of your work. I am a perfectionist to the gut and sometimes deadlines prevent me from reaching the perfect point for each project. That annoys me very often but as long as the client is happy, I am happy too.

What do you do before you show your project to the client?

I watch it over and over on repeat and that’s how I decide if there is some kind of mistake or it’s ready to be shown. I try to meet my highest criteria before showing it to the client.

Which would be your ideal client to work for?

Some chocolate manufacturer maybe. Lindt, for example. It would be extremely delicious, interesting journey. I could learn a lot of new tricks and to acquire knowledge.

So what’s more important for you – to be able to learn something by yourself or to learn it directly from someone else?  

Both are effective. The learning process is mixed. Someone can show you something, to teach you, but there are some battles that you better fight by yourself. But then it comes more valuable than knowledge in many cases, and it is problem solving.

What are you most proud of?

That I managed to turn a one-room apartment into my own studio – Enter Studio.

So it really takes a single person to create a new exiting world..and with the clear vision, the right skills and motivation, Nikolay is the example of a Creator in the process of creating. And that’s really wonderful! The imagination is based mostly on fiction, but being able to collide it with real life forms, affecting the audience and inviting them to your own “Matrix” ... your own point of view – is the key to success in an honest art (project). We wish him that success!

Is Making a Spec Commercial Worth It?

“Is Making a Spec Commercial Worth It?” won one of the competitions in Tongal Community-written blog posts series that were originally sourced in the Tell Us About It Tongal Blog Project. Happy to share it with you on our official blog page as well.

“Congratulations and happy graduation, young director! Now that you’ve been studying for so long, you finally have the opportunity to realize and achieve your dreams instantly.”

Is this really how it works? Is it that easy to become a director? I am not quite sure. Welcome to the real world! Of course, luck may be on your side:

FIRST SCENARIO (THE BEST)

You find yourself in the right place at the right time and are invited to take part in a super cool paid project. Then, it is easy – do your best, finish your first project, put it up in your portfolio and present yourself to new clients.

SECOND SCENARIO

You start working hard on whatever role comes up on set – PA, set organizer, AD, and you wait… no one knows exactly how long it will take to start your own project… if ever. It could take a lot of time and there is a risk you might get comfortable in one of the above‐mentioned roles;

THIRD SCENARIO

You create a portfolio without being commissioned, i.e. create а spec commercial. It sounds logical but is it worth it? Well, the answer is: “it depends.” Creating a spec commercial can provide you with valuable experience, especially compared to other projects at the start of your career. Mainly because you are on your own – being a producer, director, coordinator. The real process on set – try, make a mistake, try again and again, over and over – that’s the way to gain experience and eventually create a very strong and inspiring audio‐visual product, which you can include in your portfolio. But these are the good aspects of specs. You may encounter quite a few difficulties along the way.

So, is it worth it? Here are two possible answers:

YES, IT IS! 

If you are gifted and ambitious, there is not a single thing that could stop you from seeking the best start of your career. Spec ads are the best possible way to showcase your potential if you manage to achieve a real commercial look and feel. You have creative control over the project. The lack of financial support tends to make you more creative, as you have to find smart solutions to your problems.

But first – you need an idea – simple, clear and powerful. You need to find “soulmates” that share your passion and to concentrate all your skills in the final result. You and your team must be dedicated to the process. We have examples of some of today’s top movie directors and producers that started out as commercial directors, and many of them used specs to start their careers – people like David Fincher, Ridley Scott, Spike Jonze, among others. I chose to show you two of the best spec commercials that we have in the digital world today:

The gold goes to Daniel Titz and Dorian Lebherz for their Johnnie Walker spec ad Dear Brother. They were both students at the Film Academy of Baden-Württemberg when they went into production.

The silver goes to Eugen Merher for his Adidas spec ad Break Free. He, too, was a student at the Film Academy of Baden-Württemberg when he produced and directed this spec commercial.

Both specs are based on a simple idea, a strong message, and an unexpected ending. These are some of the key ingredients for creating a commercial that makes you proud and could, as is in the case of these filmmakers, become a viral sensation. To be as precise and honest as possible, I asked for the opinion of a young Bulgarian director, Ivan Botev, who started his career creating spec ads. One of his specs was for Nike. According to Ivan, he had a lot of time, but no money, so he shot the commercial over a period of three months, using the rare moments when the whole crew was available. They had an unbelievable adventure, including a police chase and a car rental which they nearly crashed. They were thrown out of locations and each of the crew members took several roles on set.

Choose the kind of spec ad you want to shoot carefully. It is highly possible that the shooting will take you longer than planned, so you should pick something you are really passionate about. An idea or a concept that you believe in so much, you will work hard to see it on screen.

NO, IT’S NOT COMPLETELY WORTH IT

Let’s flip the coin and look at the other side of is it worth it. There’s no doubt you will face a lot of difficulties. When you have zero budget, each individual in the project works for free, simply because they believe in the idea as much as you do.

There may even be some unintended repercussions to shooting on spec. According to Blogger Nick Kemble, potential clients may not look favorably on spec content, especially if you’re further along in your career. A spec commercial should look like it was commissioned by a real brand and it should be able to compete alongside mainstream commercials.

HOW CAN TONGAL HELP MAKE YOUR SPEC WORTH IT? 

Platforms such as Tongal introduce another option. They give you the unique opportunity to work for real money and real brands. However, for your Tongal application to be considered seriously, you will need some relevant work in your portfolio. So, we asked ourselves ‐ are spec ads helping in this case? Are they effective? And the answer is “Yes!” Why are we convinced? A young Bulgarian director named Viktor Ivanov recently won a Pitch for National Geographic Explorers Video Series on Tongal and is currently shooting the project in California. When I asked him if there were any speculative ads in his portfolio, it turned out that a speculative commercial had actually pushed his Pitch across the finish line. Viktor received a proposal from a friend, who works for an advertising agency, to shoot a super low‐budget video for Volvo Bulgaria. The only condition was to unleash his potential and to create art that excites him. And the result is obvious ‐ the “Short stories of long distances” video. Having something relevant in his portfolio strengthened his Pitch.

So… is it worth it? My final thought is: Strive to develop your potential in as many ways as possible even after you have been recognized or become an established director. Call it what you want ‐ specs, side projects, experiments… everything that brings you additional experience as a commercial filmmaker is definitely worth it!

re-cap of this year’s FARA2018

Creative without strategy is called ‘art.’ Creative with strategy is called ‘advertising.’ (Jef I. Richards)

FARA is the World Cup of Bulgarian advertising. Every year it brings together the brightest agencies and clients and honors their best work in different advertising categories. We have produced some of the videos that were awarded this year and the purpose of this post is to show them to you, in case you missed them. Or to add their corresponding award to your viewing perspective. Or to justify the use of “award-winning” in our company presentation. Without further ado, here are the videos that the jury recognized this year:

1 GOLD award in Film Craft for nulla.tv’s Dare to Click commercial, executively produced by HandPlayed

7 BRONZE awards for commercials and campaigns we produced

Dare to click | agency: Ogilvy Group | client: Global Brands | Producer: Demetry @ nulla.tv |Executive producer: Angel Ivanov, HandPlayed Productions

GOLD in category FILM CRAFT
BRONZE
in category FILM | TV and Cinema Advertising– services

The award certainly goes to:

  1. Ilian Iliev @ Ogilvy Group for the simple, clear and wonderful idea.
  2. Demetry for his infinite mad imagination…if we can work every day with him to give life to such visions, that would be a dream come true.
  3. Eva Ventova & Neva Balnikova for the bold decision and implementation of this idea – an installation for millions.
  4. Nenad for his sense of light and movement, for the right look at the right moment. We want to see through his eyes, please!

Lutenitsa Phillicon 97 – series of 3 | agency: Reforma | client: Philicon 97 | Producer: Vlady Gerasimov, HandPlayed Productions

BRONZE in category FILM | TV and Cinema Advertising– goods

 

It’s always a good idea to work with persisted and determined people and we can definitely say that the director of these three TVCs – Ivan Botev, the DOP and color grader – Alexander Kartsov and the production designer – Andrea Popova, meet the definition of young, talented and ambitious, full of energy and new ideas people. Keep up the spirit!

Trading Revolution Prerolls | agency: guts&brainsDDB | client: Trading 212 | Producer: Angel Ivanov, HandPlayed Productions

BRONZE in category OTHER FILM FORMS

Cheers for the brilliant actor Stoyan Iliev, who didn’t stop entertaining and making everyone on the set laugh. Thumbs up to the driven director – Demetry @ Nulla.tv and to Dimitar Nedelchev – Susela for the look & feel of these prerolls.

Telenor safe net | agency: guts&brainsDDB |client: Telenor Bulgaria & SafeNetBG | Virginia Venkova, HandPlayed Productions

BRONZE in category DIGITAL CAMPAIGN

10 influencers stronger than the cold got together for the idea behind the campaign “It’s up to you”. It’s cool to execute projects with a cause and we always stand bravely behind them.

For More Humane Juvenile Justice | agency: reforma | client: National Network for Children | Producer: Vlady Gerasimov, HandPlayed Productions

BRONZE in category OTHER FILM FORMS

In November 2017th our friends from Reforma Advertising asked us for support in a cause that they truly believed in. They launched a campaign “For More Humane Juvenile Justice” . The campaign urges the institutions to reform the child justice system, appeals for revocation of the 1958 Law on Fighting Antisocial Acts of Minors and Underage Children. We found parents who volunteered to participate in this video experiment led by the director  Ivan Botev and the DOP Teodor Fichev who made the environment of sharing your personal thoughts a comfortable and easy experience for the parents.

 

EVN Proposal | agency: guts&brainsDDB | client: EVN Bulgaria | Producer: Angel Ivanov, HandPlayed Productions

BRONZE in category FILM | TV and Cinema Advertising– services

BRONZE in category AMBIENT

EVN made us an accomplice in Alex and Katya’s magical love story. Magic – like the quiet night sky, full of luminous stars, in which a large residential building lit on and off to send coordinated messages of love on its façade. We had the opportunity to produce this flash mob video that marked the beginning of Alex and Katya’s married life.

After 8 years together Alex had decided to propose to Katya. He was sure of her answer but she didn’t even realize what was about to happen. We chose a large residential building in Plovdiv. We told the residents that they would be part of a choreographed light show on their façade. Everyone had their secret role in this big, real fairytale. And even though not everything went as planned – like a circus appearing all of a sudden in front of the residential building, a neighbor deciding they will boycott the whole operation, street lamps catching on fire in the midst of shooting, etc. – we managed to complete our mission.

This TVC was a complex plan which took us two months of pre-production, finding the right man who was ready to make such a proposal, a fake commercial production to keep his future fiancée oblivious to our real intent, a large crew handling the coordination and shooting of an actual marriage proposal in real time, and a coordinated flash mob of more than 50 residents of a block in Plovdiv, who turned the lights in their rooms on and off to write the words “Would you marry me?” on the building’s façade. More than a hundred people in beautiful harmony in the name of love. A seemingly impossible mission, turned into reality, thanks to the best trio for a project like this: the creative and romantic director – Martin Iliev, the detail-oriented storytellers – Alexander Stanishev and Dimitar Nedelchev-Susela.

And that’s how the rest of Katya and Alex’s life began. And they live happily ever after.

Check the video from behind the scenes. Welcome to the place where everything can happen, as long as you imagine it.

Philippe Morozov | There Are As Many Stories To Tell As There Are In Real Life

Philippe is a child of the world. He traveled a lot to learn, to experience, to get as much as possible from himself and the world around him. And because of this little “obstacle”, we had to have our “conversation” remotely. I have never had this kind of conversation with a stranger before – remote but close. That’s because I had a conversation with eyes, soul, mind and heart open to “listen” to my questions and to answer sincerely. Philippe and I, we still don’t know each other personally, but I think that when I see him, I would feel like I’m in a company of a friend or at least of another child of the reality intertwined with dreams.

Picture Yana Lozeva

Who are you? How old are you? Where are you from? What do you do for a living? Don’t feel obligated to answer my exact questions, just tell me about yourself and what should I know about you to begin this “conversation”?

I’m Philippe; I’m 22. I was born and raised in Sofia, though I spent quite a bit of my childhood at my grandma’s in Paris. That’s where I live now – she’s not around anymore. I actually decided not to come to Paris when I graduated from high school. I studied film at King’s College London for three years, then I realized it would be a good idea to move here – it’s a good opportunity to try out different things. I’m currently doing my Master’s degree in Film and Media Production at the National Audiovisual Institute. I’m not sure if I want to become a producer per se, but that aspect of filmmaking is essential to consider even as a director. When I tell people I actually want to direct, some of them ask me why I’m wasting my time with this. *Well*, it’s also a fantastic feeling to be capable of producing other people’s work when they have amazing ideas very different from our own. We’ll see how it turns out.

How do you describe yourself in five words, using only cinematographic concepts?

This is actually ridiculously hard. Please don’t cringe when I say ‘experimental’ – what I mean by that is simply that I haven’t found my particular style or approach yet, so I try to push in a different direction each time. You’ll notice that my projects are all extremely different. That’s what I love about my own work, but it’s also what scares me the most. I’m only starting out and, technically, everything I do is something I’ve never done before. It’s fascinating, risky and rewarding. There’s plenty of time for me to find my ‘thing’, to develop the things that work, but also to correct the things that don’t. Regardless, five elements I always bear in mind are: contemplation, concision, ambiguity, fantasy, and ‘incompleteness’, if you will.

Picture Radina Gancheva

If you weren’t a director and you didn’t have the chance to work in cinema, what would your profession be?

A pastry chef! When I was 13-14, I would’ve given everything to do that for a living. I must say, I used to be pretty great at it, too. Lemon meringue pies, dark chocolate tarts, raspberry and vanilla profiteroles… I’m not sure how I would perform now. I eat instead. Ugh, cinema is better anyway.

Describe your typical morning. And a typical day of Philippe.

A useless amount of coffee and quite a bit of wasted time. Sometimes, that actually extends to my day as a whole, which is scary. I should stop. I’m trying. Other than that, films and music, always. Saturated fats, too.

What is your forte?

I am diligent, attentive, and appreciative.

What do you consider the weakest part of your character?

I am very impatient and I have trouble letting go of my strong opinions.

What films are in your personal top 5/10 list?

It always has to be “among others…”, but anyway:

Beau Travail (Claire Denis); Walkabout/Don’t Look Now (Nicolas Roeg); Cries and Whispers (Ingmar Bergman); The Last Laugh (F.W. Murnau); Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett); Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky); All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk); Daisies (Věra Chytilová); Babette’s Feast (Gabriel Axel); Fat Girl (Catherine Breillat)

If your life was a movie, which one would you choose?

Erm…let’s say Good Morning by Yasujirô Ozu. It’s so touching, funny, and brimming with wondrous childishness (and ramen).

If your life was a book, or you could have been a book character, which one would you be?

Emil of Lönneberga. Actually, this was the first book I read on my own and, to this day, I regret not having been such a wonderfully mischievous kid as Emil.  

Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking was not just a hobby, but that it would be your life?

I don’t know if it was a particular event, but I guess my first ‘professional’ realization came at some point in late 2015, a few months after I completed my first short film. I was in London when I stumbled upon a 16mm film clearance. (Teodor) Fichev – my good friend and cinematographer – and I had dreamt of shooting on film, so I bought a 400ft roll (which roughly amounts to 10 minutes of footage), and wrote a loose script, a sort of collage of self-sufficient, static long takes. The basic premise was: “As a young couple moves in together, a downward spiral of jealousy and bitter memories gives way to a poisonous and destructive relationship”. I know. Anyway… we had to shoot without sound, as we used a ridiculously loud 1965 Arri 16BL (courtesy of cinematographer Kaloyan Bozhilov). I thought “yeah, whatever, I’ll write the actual story and the dialogue/voiceover when we’re done. We’ll build the whole soundtrack from scratch etc.” That never happened. I don’t think it ever will. At this point, more people would be disappointed if they saw it than those who were disappointed when I left it behind. It was a mistake, but also a very important lesson: I started thinking of filmmaking as responsible work – a responsible body of work, actuallya kind of legacy. If you start thinking about this, then it isn’t a hobby anymore. Maybe it’s too early for me to say that kind of thing, but it’s true. It answers your question, at the very least.

What/who were some of your major influences when you first started out?

When I was still in high school, my French literature teacher – who had also been a film studies lecturer in France – knew I was interested in filmmaking. He gave me a few DVDs: La règle du jeu (Jean Renoir, 1939), Ugetsu Monogatari (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953), Tystnaden (Ingmar Bergman, 1963), and Au hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson, 1966). These were the essentials. What a collection. I never gave the DVDs back. In London, Yasujirō Ozu and Chantal Akerman came into the equation. So did Fassbinder’s Die bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant (1972). Then I made my first short. I think that’s enough for when I first started out. I will love these films forever.

I can’t ignore your last project which I came across and watched over and over again – “phase 001”. How did you get into this team? This is a very personal and anticipated project for Tsveta Doycheva, as far as I know. When did you get involved and how can you describe the process?

I met the incredible human being that is Tsveta at last year’s Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona – one of the best weekends of my life. We started spending a lot of time together. We have such similar tastes and goals that it all happened very naturally. She knew the girls she wanted for the project, and she asked me to direct, which I’m obviously very grateful for. The people I work with are all incredible, and a fantastic team shaped up quite quickly. We started with a very loose concept and worked our way to what you’ve seen.

 

For me, as a director, it was all really exciting because for the first time, I managed to relax completely and just “go with the flow”. Many things went wrong in the process, which is usually hard to handle, but when you manage to do so, really interesting and rewarding things can happen. Tsveta went through heaven and hell for this project (well, mostly heaven, hopefully), and I think it was all worth it.

You say that cinema for you is a reflection, both physical and mental. It is thought, meaning, motion and emotion, it’s a point of view but mostly it is a chance to be alone with your own thoughts, even in the company of hundreds of people. What kind of process is filmmaking for you – a lonesome one or a collaborative one?

I see you’ve done some research…This actually has to do with my participation in the 2017 Giornate degli Autori jury in Venice. It concerns film viewing. Obviously, the collective and private experiences of film viewing are very different, but I think they’re always intimate – in relation to your own mind and emotions, that is. Filmmaking, on the other hand…one has to be very foolish not to see filmmaking as a collaborative process. The quality of the filmmaking relies almost exclusively on the quality of the relationships within the cast and crew, who all have very different – and difficult – tasks to accomplish. Collaboration – respectful, attentive collaboration – is the way to go.

Grigovor/Gena – Konspiracia

What’s harder – in your own opinion – getting started or being able to keep going?

Being able to keep going, definitely. Starting out as a filmmaker is always a very ambitious, sincere and diligent process. Regardless of the first results, it is always rewarding and stimulating. As expectations and experiences pile up, though, it gets harder and harder to find the right ideas and assuredly develop them in order to make something better than the last time (that’s what I imagine all filmmakers try to achieve).

How much do you think commerce affects your art? Or, if I should  rephrase – how much do you have to compromise as a filmmaker because of financial restrictions or business?

A lot, of course, but I’d rather move on to the second question. Luckily, I don’t think I’ve ever had to compromise a lot creatively because of financial restrictions. I do have an enormous issue with this, though: thus far, the people I have worked with have always been underpaid (if paid at all). Obviously, independent filmmaking – and especially music videos – in Bulgaria are a sort of non-economy, and the funds are never sufficient. I find it difficult to imagine how this would/could change in the foreseeable future, but “here’s hoping”…I try to work hard enough to get to a point where the productions I’m involved in are financially safer for my colleagues. Until then, I guess we’ll just have to try hard, over and over again.

People say that there are only six stories. It’s all been done before. And we have seen it all. How do you stay fresh in the face of an idea like that?

This statement isn’t an ‘idea’. It’s a sad, philistine concept, and it makes me angry. There are as many stories to tell as there are in real life – and many, many more which go beyond it. Enough said. What a frustrating, anticlimactic finale.