I love the elderly (and the bold)
Kaval Park stories
I love the elderly! “Kaval Park” (tickets and destinations at the end of this text) is my third documentary where the main subject of the movie is 60 years or older. Though I don't consider 60 old... Anywho, in the first photo you see Penka Encheva - she is my lucky charm and adopted grandma.
Being an immigrant comes with its set of hurdles. In my case, one of the hurdles was as spiritual as it was physical - the separation from my ancestors, their wisdom and stories. My last two living grandparents died while I was already in the US without a green card which made it nearly impossible to return for the burials, let alone visit them in their old age. I never had a chance to talk to grandma and grandpa as an adult, to imagine their lives from the life experience of a thirty and forty year old man. I invite you to cherish those moments, dear friends!
I filmed Penka in my documentary film debut "This Baba" in 2013. I say she's my lucky charm because filming her and making the movie opened up a possibility for self-expression and community service in cinema I didn't think possible.
I also include here the picture of Ivan Tashev, above, who is the vice president of the Bulgarian Cultural and Heritage Center of Seattle. Firstly, because it was Ivan and everyone else at BCHCS who championed the making of my first documentary. They didn't know what this Bulgarian would make, yet they put their trust in me. Now, here we are nearly a decade later on a world tour that started in our vibrant Seattle community!
Finally, there is the picture with Chrisi! She's a very special lady who I respect deeply for she was a theater actress during communism, married to a persecuted playwright at one time. She once told me a harrowing story about giving a performance for Fidel Castro how was visiting a Bulgarian concentration camp set up by the Communist Party. Waiting to get on stage, she had peeked thought the curtains to find in the audience the faces and shaved heads of her imprisoned formal colleagues and fellow intellectuals.
I don't think more commentary is needed, but on a brighter note, it also happens, by one of those happy life coincidences, that my grandma, who was a groundbreaking theatre director in Bulgaria in the sixties and seventies, gave Chrisi one of her fist stage roles. Chrisi told me, "You grandma was the kind of director who looked at you and knew you were the part. That's how she cast me. With one look!"
A few years ago Chrisi read to me from her diaries and in particular an entry made after the Chernobyl nuclear calamity. I only remember the feeling... I really wished to make a documentary movie about Chrisi, but sadly it has never penned out. I loved sharing "Kaval Park" with Chrisi and even included a shot of her in the movie dancing and clapping enthusiastically!
Here is to honoring and telling the stories of our ancestors!
In addition to Penka, Ivan and Christs, I’m truly blessed to have a community of filmmaker friends around me.
Life is strange like that... I never imagined our communities cross pollinating like that. It’s truly special! In 2008 I met indie producer Jacob Leander, on the left in the group photo above. I was gung ho about making feature films. In one email exchange a girlfriend of his at the time called me possessive, an ego-maniac. It's true. I was possessed by my dream and had no boundaries. Indeed, to know what you want to do since a kid is both a curse and a blessing. One feels like he's walking on a razor blade... until one learns to dance on the razor blade. One is still learning!
Then, there is cinematographer and steadicam operator Daniel Mimura who I've known and worked with since 2012. He filmed the scenes in "Kaval Park" where Alexander and friends drink Turkish coffee and moonshine. I first realized Daniel and I would get along great when we filmed a scene in a very rich man's house, a castle, really. Imagine the setting - an entire film crew, three actors seated around a dining room table. On the table a roasted chicken and a huge car engine that took four people to carry and lift. No coverage (for none film folks this means the scene is shot in one master take).
We choreographed one long steadicam shot which Daniel operated. The owner of the house started fuming around take five. It is time to leave, he told us. I had no intention of leaving. I looked over at Daniel - he also had no intention of leaving! We had to get the shot! And we did. On the tenth take!
(Reader, please note, I'm listing my friends and colleagues in the photo in no particular order of importance.)
Alex Sylvester and I met in 2012 on the short film "Connection". Alex was fresh out of film school. Some shots in that movie were out of focus, but the focus with which Alex pursued making films for the next decade was razor-sharp! His films have inspired me deeply! These days, Alex has said he doesn't see himself making films, he may never make another. I'm secretly hoping Alex will take a 20 year break like Terrance Malick did and make a hell of a come back!
Director Micah Knapp, bellow, and I met in 2015 in an asylum! Though the life of a filmmaker feels like one at times, we actually met on the set of a very special short film called “Asylum." I remember thinking, "How come I've never met this guy before! You can see it in his eyes - he's in love with cinema!" Recently, I had the honor to co-write the narration for Micah's feature film debut "11:11". Coming Soon to a Festival near you!
Please note that Micah is born on March 8th and shares a birthday with my mom and my grandpa. I think that's super cool!
And there is Clayton Vermulm, above. After the premiere we grabbed drinks and he said in his Montana accent, "Hell, if a 14 year old American can sneak into communist Bulgaria to study music, then nothing should stop me from pursuing my own dream!" Since I've known Clayton he has never stopped living his dreams. Today he's a full time published writer while delivering beer for a day job! Can you imagine what it takes!? After the second beer, Clay told me he found it hard to connect to the abstract and esoteric nature of my short art films. I responded that since I wish to find a balance between the abstract and the familiar, I will bring him into the screenplay writing process for my future projects.
As you can see, dear reader, my life is that much richer because of Clayton, Micah, Alex, Daniel and Jake! I'm truly blessed to be a part of their lives and deeply touched that they all came to the premiere!
Each one of them has great courage and boldness to keep doing art and making movies!
Stay tuned for a second showing of Kaval Park in Seattle! Until then, join us and the melody on our West Coast Tour at www.kavalpark.com which we announce officially this Friday.
See you at the movies!