Director, writer, producer, cinematographer this week’s guest has done it all. Dimi Nakov is a filmmaker’s filmmaker. This New Zealander is making a big splash in the indie film community. Dimi is a multi award winning filmmaker with a diverse body of work.
Talking to Dimi couldn’t have been a better way to kick off our next season of interviews. He runs a popular Facebook group called the FilmMakers Generation Next. He’s filled with tons of inspiration. We talked about mental health and film making and his body of work that started in music videos. We hope you enjoy the interview with Dimi as much as we did and learn more about seizing your opportunities for yourself. Listen for free or read the show notes below.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
I didn’t realize it until later but I got involved with photographer when I was young. My grandfather was a mathematics teacher but also conducted photography workshops for his older students. I studied with him for 1 or 2 years sneaking into his workshops during the early 1990’s. Photography was still manual and gave me a Zenit camera that belonged to my dad.
I used to take photos of my sister and brother and process them in the dark room. What was amazing that you don’t see with digital, just like animation the photo paper starts changing color and becomes this picture I took months ago. It’s unreal. Those experiences stuck with me.
Photograhy didn’t stick and I went on to appreciate movies with Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris and when I moved to New Zealand I studied film and television at the University of Auckland. 2 years I didn’t even finish the undergrad degree. I was a B student and to graduate with a degree you have to have better marks. I have trouble reading big passages and was much more prone to read things like comics.
After that I decided to go to South Seas Film & Television School where I had to choose between documentaries and drama. I chose documentary because it fit with my personality and I’m able to get my subjects to relax and open up with conversation.
How did you transition to music videos?
Before I moved to Czech Republic I was a DJ in Bulgaria for years. I love music. I’m not a musician but I love rhythm and music. When I was in New Zealand and finished school doing odd jobs as a production assistant or cable operator I decided to do music videos because they are fun and quick to produce. If the rhythm of the music grabs me most times I’ll be willing to do it for free. Plus it helped build my portfolio with diverse work.
Where did the idea for FilmMakers Generartion Next (FGN Inc.) Come From?
I finished film school in late 2008 and I didn’t know anybody except my classmates so I created a group to keep in touch. My idea was that there was always going to be a next generation of filmmakers. Almost a decade later it’s probably one of the top 5 independent film making groups on Facebook with almost 40k members.
FGN Inc Mission Statement: We Support EQUALITY, DIVERSITY & MENTAL HEALTH in Film/TV Industry & Beyond. ?#SupportIndieFilm FOR A POSITIVE FUTURE. Changing The World One Message At a Time.
How did you develop your mission statement for FGN Inc?
That wasn’t the idea from the start. It only happened only in the last year and a half. I was going through a rough patch personally, some projects were just stuck and I know that I’m capable of more and nothing was happening. Some people may think this message is overstated but it’s very important, especially for mental health.
Mental health is the first thing that will determine your level of creativity and productivity. If your mental health declines, creativity and productivity declines. It’s equation doesn’t break or lie. It’s something that determines our quality of life personally and professionally. Originally I started collecting quotes to motivate myself, to not get into the dangerous wheel of self-doubt and fear which is suffocating and difficult to get out of.
The quotes started piling up after a year and a half I decided to create an Instagram account to only post quotes. That was the kickstart to creating the blog that’s for a positive future. Only quotes was good but it’s not enough.
Why did you start the Phoenix Writing Group?
I wasn’t a prolific writer and reader so I always had that fear that my writing wasn’t good enough. In my early stages I only directed and produced. Even if the story was by me, somebody else wrote because I thought it just wouldn’t be good enough, or laughable. I decided to find somebody and get together to start writing because there are so many ideas I have especially in the topic of SciFi where I want to explore the human condition , the technology that surrounds us. The good and the bad side of the interactions with that technology and artificial intelligence.
I’m a director and want to pursue directing first and foremost. I teamed up with another passionate storyteller and actress Jean M. Who also felt she wanted to develop her screenwriting skills while pursuing acting. So together we started pushing each other forward. Like anything in life there is no straight path. We want to master the writing in a genre that we feel passionate about which will ensure our longevity in producing when we are not getting paid for it.
What is the system of writing you developed?
As an exercise we take existing intellectual property, Spiderman for example, where you take the main characters and what they do, the genre and a brief synopsis. Then you take it all and flip it upside down. If it’s a male character you make them female. If the character is younger you make them older. If it’s SciFi you make it a horror or a comedy. When we are turning projects upside down like we try to choose project we can turn into a SciFi. We generate ideas this way and determine which ones we want to make and work on it for a few months without even chasing a page count.
To make it even more interesting, I go on my cell phone on IMDB and pick a list of movies. I scroll down and just push my finger and choose where it stops just like Wheel of Fortune. We have over 20 ideas at the moment. Ideas are everywhere around us and you just have to seize the opportunity.
That’s another reason I created FGN, because I was asking for opportunities from others and I wasn’t creating them myself. I decided to create opportunities for myself and stop asking for permission or waiting for somebody else to see the potential in me. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask or be shy about. There’s so many talented people out there willing to help but you shouldn’t be waiting for it.
What was your experience at the Cannes Film Festival like?
Blind Side was a short film that depicts mental and physical abuse that happens behind closed doors in middle class environments. A young girl and her mom who is divorced finds a new man in her life that is sinister and bad. That’s where things start to go wrong and there’s nothing anyone can do unless the victim finds a way to speak out. Mental and physical abuse victims think they will be able to fix the problem before they may speak because they fear embarrassment or worse.
We created the film that was accepted to Cannes Film Festival. I was lucky enough to have friends and family that helped me get there for the duration of the festival. I know there wouldn’t be many options at that stage of my career. It was surreal seeing all the filmmakers and
I came home with many business cards and pamphlets and attended all the workshops. A few months before, you need to start communicating with people setting up meetings and workshops. I was busy every day from morning until night. I didn’t have time to party at all.
What is your movie ARA about ?
ARA is a very interesting project. Actually I started writing in 2012 and shooting some footage in 2013 with no budget. I tried to finish it in post-production but there are a lot of VFX. We are now looking for ways to get it finished. I encourage film makers not to listen to the little fears in the back of their mind.
I really believe in the story. A smart film maker would not make a feature with so many VFX as their first feature. Obviously I’m not one of those smart film makers so that’s why I’m stuck with it?
How do you feel about AR in film making?
You can imagine how I feel what I was thinking to be in the movie is actually happening 4 years later. We can feel these things and are very lucky. Imagination is one of the perks we have as a species. All of us have the talent of creativity and storytelling. It’s just nurturing it.