Case studies

handplayed x hug or handshake: meet the DOPs

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Dec 29, 2021
June 23, 2023

There are two days left to support “Once Upon A Pink Sedan” on indiegogo before the official premiere of both the album and Episode One, and in the meantime our directors of photography Nicola Atanasov, Aleksander Kartsov, and Dimitar Tenev are recalling their experiences with the project.

Photograph: Mihail Mishev

Nicola came to handplayed in summer 2020, after already having filmed hug or handshake’s first two music videos, “Molten Dreams” and “Blaze of Sorry”. He had been present during the long brainstorming meetings of the scriptwriters and at first he was just an active listener and BTS maker for the project. “I was there to listen and to learn,” he explains, “but when Angel and Vlady jumped in as directors, we decided I’d join as a DP for their episodes.” 

With his previous documentary filmmaking focus, the interactive music videos were a completely different field to explore - he ended up working with three different directors (for the first time with all three of them) and had to get into each of their individual headspaces. “I had to learn not to be my own director and to work closely with their vision instead.”

Photograph: Nicola Atanasov

For Dimitar, who had mostly worked on short films and TV commercials, the innovative way of narrative creation was the main reason to join the project. “The interactivity in storytelling enables the audience’s active participation in a much more elaborate way. The visual work for such a project needs to be tightly connected to this approach and needs to highlight the importance of the viewer’s part.” 

Photograph: Maria Koleff

Aleksander, whose projects include commercials, documentaries, narrative films, and music videos, also found inspiration in the dynamics of the story. “These are not just music videos - they could be seen as a short film, with layered narrative and exciting characters. The songs also provoked my imagination - images and ideas were coming to me each time hug or handshake’s music was playing.”

Nicola, Aleksander and Dimitar all agree that having one story be told with the vision of different directors and DOPs required some great teamwork and communication. “We needed to be aware of where the narrative was heading and how we were going to connect each piece of the story. They needed to be a fitting continuation of what was already filmed, but also had to have their own specific vibe and style,” explains Dimitar. “We tried to construct a visual language for each of the characters, highlighting their differences without losing the homogeneity of the story,” adds Aleksander.

As it usually happens, the DPs biggest challenges turned out to be also some of their favourite memories from the set. For Aleksander and Dimitar, it was shooting the different perspectives of the characters. The same actions needed to be shot in three different ways, but the physical time for that was very limited. The crew had to move very fast from location to location in order to keep the right continuity of the scenes. As Dimitar says, “the sun doesn’t wait for anyone.” 

Photograph: Vlady Gerasimov

The lake scenes shot in October were also a test for him, because of the cold and the lack of light. However, looking back he believes he gained valuable skills in water/underwater filming, as some of the key scenes were shot on location there. As Dimitar recalls,the sinking of the first assistant director’s boat was just the cherry on top.”

Photograph: Ivan Botev

For Nicola, the challenge was to work with three different directors with completely different goals for their episodes. Vlady’s dreamy nature sequences, opposed to Ivan’s detailed character actions and Angel’s abstract visuals were a great practical lesson in effective director - cinematographer communication and creative flexibility. “There were insane ideas that seemed impossible to shoot but we somehow managed, because of the crew’s precision and good spirits even during the most tense moments on set,” says Nicola gratefully.

Photograph: Maria Koleff

So, at the end of the day, no boat was sunk entirely, no camera equipment was harmed, and no sunlight was lost. And the boys and the whole crew can’t wait to share the results with you. Two more days.

Jumping with excitement reporter out.

The project is realized with the financial support of National Culture Fund, Bulgaria.