Discover more from Follow the pen (and the camera)
#3 Nonlinear Film School - learn to pivot
I stand atop a continent. I am at a loss which continent it is. I recognize Earth; a city sprawled as far as the bottomless horizon. I turn around and watch helpless as the ocean claims rock and soil, claims life, beginnings and endings too.
The water gobbles up huge chunks of the city. Gone in the looking. A mega city, a celebration of progress. This is New York, this is Tokyo, Paris, Dubai, Rio and Rome merged into one monument. One terrifying moment of reckoning. The ocean, the supposed birthplace of our species hisses: The world is a puzzle!
The water undoes the Big Picture, deconstructing the puzzle. One piece at a time, one neighborhood at a time, a million people at a time. Where are the citizens running amok in the streets? Screaming… Where are the sirens, the mobilized military with its heroes? Just quiet, methodical gobbling up of our times. Water as a living entity; and it rises, and it listlessly returns order to chaos and then, soon, chaos to order. Only the smooth sea surface remembers.
I stand atop the deconstructing city and imagine water flooding my lungs. There is no hope. No way out of this moral chokehold. We have built up great cities only to fall down too far. Soon the water will reach me. Perched atop the tallest building there is, I will kneel down. I will kneel down to the inevitable apocalypse. I will drown. Submerged into a “once upon a time.”
I remember waking up from the dream overcome with hopelessness. I had just witnessed our world without hope. It is a feeling too heavy for me, to heavy to lift it up to the light and examine.
There is more to the dream: Looking down at the advancing, all consuming water, I chose to walk through the rupturing city. Looking for hope. I took my wife Mariya by the hand and we set off.
September 17th. This dream visited me on the eve of the traditional Bulgarian celebration of the Day of Faith, Hope and Love (whose mother is Sofia - wisdom). The dream comes on the heels of my return to the US after wrapping up part one of filming our movie “Don’t Close Your Eyes” in Bulgaria. (We will most likely change the English name since the literal translation sounds too much like a horror movie which our film is far from.)
The feeling of hopelessness haunted me the following day. Yet, I marveled how uncanny the dream was in showing me the way forward. A way defined by faith, hope and love.
Making a film is no different. We filmed part one on a small budget, calling in favors and striking goodwill deals. We’re currently looking for financing for the second part. We took a calculated risk by inviting some of the top Bulgarian actors of all time to be in the film. Luckily for us, they fell in love with the script just as I did months earlier. We plan to show scenes from the film with them to raise additional funds. I’ll be sharing more here in the weeks to come should you wish to get behind our movie. But right now, it is enough for me, the producer whose job is half way done, it is enough to choose to walk in faith.
The dream also reminded me how close our crew and cast came to calamity. Weeks earlier, we scouted and picked a beach and a nearby village on the Southern Black Sea Coast to film in. They turned out to be the exact locations destroyed by unexpected floods. We were supposed to get there three days after the flooding. If our shooting schedule was even a little bit different, we could have very well been there at the same time as the disaster unfolded. (A shooting schedule takes into account many factors such as the main cast availability, night or day of filming, availability of locations and so much more.)
The tragedy struck on a Monday and claimed several lives. Bridges collapsed, cars and houses were washed into the sea and entire areas were closed off. Our team had to pivot in a single day. This included moving and finding lodging for forty crew and cast members up North the Black Sea Coast. Most notably, Sasho, one of our amazing production assistants, left early on Wednesday to scout locations to film on Friday. Luckily for us, and not so much for the virgin remote beach area we used, Disney had picked the same inaccessible beach last year for one of their movies. I imagine they spotted it from a boat out in the sea. They widened and paved parts of the existing dirt road to make it accessible for grip trucks and all kinds of other vehicles.
Thanks to Disney we managed to get our scenes shot at the new location.
All photos from the film set are by Christopher Balabanov.
Three days after the floods, even after moving 5 hours up north, the sea was still in its element.
Filming involved a challenging scene involving two child actors.
Part of our 35 people crew. The rest wait in trailers and minivans. Earlier in the day we were drenched by a serious downpour. I went swimming in the sea under the rain.
Author Martin Ralchevski adapted the screenplay from his book. He visited set from England where he lives.
With Martin and his son who is studying film. Nothing like the hands-on school of being on a film set!
One of the top actresses of her generation Maria Kavardjikova is in the film.
Miss Kavardjikova wandered off in between set-ups and leaned against this tree trunk. The director (he wishes to remain anonymous until we film the entire film) saw her and we filmed an incredible new and entirely improvised scene.
Till next time with your correspondent Bogdan, from the frontlines of a film set!
P.S. If your read my newsletter regularly, I recommend the Substack App for a clean text and photo look!