by Betty Dravis

Betty Dravis

Betty Dravis: Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Dimi. It’s a pleasure to have such a talented man from the film industry with us today. In case any of our readers haven’t heard of you yet, I want to tell them you’re the producer/director of an award-winning New Zealand Filmmaking company, Zodiac Entertainment.

I met you through your friend and colleague author Barbara Watkins, who, as you know, is my co-author on Six-Pack of Blood.  Barbara is known as the “Queen of Terror,” but my short stories in Six-Pack are my first venture into the dark and macabre. That’s why it blew my mind when you read all six stories and awarded us your coveted Best Paranormal/Horror award. Please know how grateful Barbara and I are by your faith in us and your encouragement.

Dimi, I usually start off by asking questions about how my interviewees first got started, but I’ll get to that later this time. I’m too excited about your recent humongous achievement to keep it in for long. So tell us all about your short film BlindSide being accepted into the Cannes Film Festival! I’m sure our readers will cling to every word about your first trip to Cannes and what happened there when BlindSide premiered. I especially want to know about your Cannes personal highlights…your favorite moments! Feel free to tell a little about the submission process filmmakers go through, also.

Producer/Director Dimi Nakov of Zodiac Entertainment

Dimi Nakov: Thank you so much for having me here, Betty, and giving me the chance to share some insights about BlindSide and what Cannes means to everyone involved with the film. Also, if I may I’d like to mention some of my outstanding co-workers on this amazing screenplay written by Chantal Rayner-Burt and Sean O’Connor: co-producer Graeme Cash and actors Tonci Pivac, Paul Thomas Lewis and Sarah James, to name a few. I could not have done it without them or any of the crew.

And it was my pleasure to award Six-Pack of Blood the award; those stories are all so original and blood-curdling, like the title implies.

BlindSide is a short dramatic thriller which highlights the issues that often flame within broken and troubled families. Issues like family violence and sexual and mental abuse. BlindSide has a gentle yet deep way of presenting those issues which will leave the audience free to think and watch the entire film without closing their eyes because of graphic scenes or moments. What I wanted to achieve with BlindSide is to keep the audience engaged by pulling them into the characters’ heads and not shocking them with the violence of each issue. I hope it will make at least one person think about any signs of abuse they might have seen and I hope they can do something about it to stop the suffering of the victims who are trapped in that vicious circle of pain.

About Cannes, I personally didn’t expect to be accepted into the Cannes Short Film Corner 2012 and even less to attend this huge and prestigious Festival event. It’s a dream come true and was not possible without the help of family and friends: my parents, brother and sister and friends such as Kay Rayner, Phil Greeves, Jonathon Rayner Burt, Chantal Rayner Burt, Barbara Watkins, Christy Bradshaw, you, Betty, and many more. Thanks to the strong and constant effort of everyone we managed to raise half of the funds I needed to get to Cannes and attend the Festival.

This was a perfect opportunity for me to promote BlindSide and a few other projects we have in the works, including some of Barbara Watkins’s stories which I plan to make into motion pictures. I hope to show what an amazing writer she is and share her words with the world on the big screen.

I am very pleased with the result I achieved going to Cannes. I have interest from distributors for all my short films and now I am talking to a few about more projects I have in development. Meeting these helpful contacts is one of the highlights I can mention; the result of hard work while I was there.

Other highlights were the educational workshops, industry meetings and events. Networking with so many filmmakers, producers, directors, distributors, festival organizers etc. was unforgettable. I got interviewed by Festival’s TV about BlindSide and also experienced the Festival in its full glory as much as I could. There is so much to do and it depends on what purpose an attendee has that determines what they experience. I was overwhelmed how many people attended Cannes. The place is amazing and the food and people are awesome. You can find out about each day of my experience on the links at bottom of this interview.

Betty Dravis: Cannes! That and winning an Oscar are every filmmaker’s dream! Wow, that’s so awesome, Dimi. I’m elated for you and your entire crew. I bet they think you walk on water about now… (laughs) I know you are no stranger to awards, since your short film Lockie and Love was the coveted Documentary Award Winner at the Filmaka Competition and another short documentary For Alan was a finalist at the 2010 Wanaka Mountain Film Festival, was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2011 British Independent Film Festival and screened at the 2011 Heart of Gold International Film Festival in Gympie, Australia. But BlindSide at Cannes must have been the frosting on the cake!

I read the daily reports and viewed the remarkable photos you sent back. I think those would make an interesting e-book, if you ever find time to do that. That’s the writer in me talking; knowing you, you’ll probably turn it into an award-winning documentary. (laughs) For now, I’m dying to hear the other good news you received while you were at Cannes. Tell us about that, Dimi.

Dimi Nakov:   I don’t know about “walking on water,” Betty, but the cast and crew are as happy as I am. (laughs) The other good news is that in addition to BlindSide premiering at Cannes, all three shorts we’ve filmed in the allotted Festival times–Playmates, shot in February 2011; BlindSide, shot in March 2011; and The Psychologist, shot in April 2011–have been officially selected by four International Festivals, including Cannes!

Given the facts: 1) All three shorts were shot during the allotted Festival times; 2) all are within the $600 – $700 NZ budget; 3) and all three were shot a month and a half apart, we are amazed to be selected in so many festivals and that it happened so fast. Since I edited all three at the same time with three different editors, running from editing suite to editing suite every week and making a living and paying the bills and planning the next projects, it was crazy times. I am very, very happy I managed to complete the three shorts by the festival deadlines in order to submit them properly.

The breakdown: By June 28, 2012 BlindSide was in Cannes Short Film Corner as part of 65th Cannes Film Festival and is officially selected for Denver Underground Film Festival 2012. Our biggest surprise is that both BlindSide and Playmates are official selections for the 7th Cyprus International Short Film Festival 2012. And our third short The Psychologist is official selection in competition for BuSho – Budapest Short Film Festival 2012.

The cast, crew and I are absolutely thrilled that our hard work and effort and time can be seen by others and appreciated by professionals who are selecting them for the festival programs. We just might be doing something right. (laughs)

In addition, I have submitted the three shorts to more film festivals worldwide and I have all my fingers crossed that we can keep receiving the good news of official selection which goes hand in hand with the rejection emails as well. At the end of the day I look at both rejection and selection as just a way of life, realizing that a selection would not be as sweet and more celebrated and appreciated without a number of rejections. Rejections always make me work harder to improve myself as a person and filmmaker. I know it sounds cliché, but hard work really pays off and I would not be able to do anything without the hard years and sacrifices. We all must work hard and sacrifice to achieve what we dream of and get where we imagine ourselves in the future.

Betty Dravis: Four film festivals! That’s huge, Dimi! Really huge! I’m astonished and delighted for you and the crew. You certainly have some great actors to work with…and outstanding cooperation from all involved. 2012 seems to be a magical year for Zodiac Entertainment. You’re certainly climbing the ladder of success and it couldn’t happen to a nicer man. Do you mind telling us how old you were when you knew you wanted to make movies? We would also like to know where you studied and some of your internship credits.

One of Dimi’s favorite places in Cannes: Cinema Cannes

Dimi Nakov: Betty, I was eight years old when my grandfather gave me an old Russian still camera. I can’t recall the camera name, but I knew that I absolutely was fascinated by the fact of taking stills and seeing them develop in the dark room. My granddad was a teacher of chemistry, physics and mathematics, but he also took older students to camps in the mountains and taught them photography in his photography workshops. That is where I got into the magic of making the black-and-white photos come alive in front of my eyes. I was mesmerized by the whole process and how the photo paper reacted with the chemicals after it was exposed by light coming through the frame of each shot I took.

Then I became a teenager and started to watch lots of movies and the camera was forgotten for a while. But my love for movies was growing stronger and stronger until the moment my family immigrated to New Zealand in 2002. Three years later I enrolled in Auckland University where I studied Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Film, Television and Media Studies. I finished two years and then decided to go to South Seas Film and TV School in Auckland. I graduated with a Diploma of Documentary Direction in 2008.

During my studies at South Seas, I did work experience on Wheel of Fortune, New Zealand’s Got Talent and other shows. One challenging project where I learned a lot was when I scripted, directed, shot and produced a series of corporate training videos for Coca Cola, Amatil, NZ.

After graduating I was out in the world doing what I love and making shorts, music videos, working on TV shows and feature films. I have done extra work on multi-million dollar productions and learned how big budgets function from a close look; I got the feel for it. In the meantime, I was building my production company, Zodiac Entertainment, with the help of friends and family. All of this is just a step forward into my future… I’m learning how to function better and more efficiently while building a network of people around me who love film and TV and I am also sharing my love for film with others far away.

Betty Dravis: What a stellar background you have, Dimi. I’ve always been fascinated with movies, so it sounds wonderful to me. It must have been great fun to work on Wheel of Fortune and all those other popular shows when first starting out. Your pre-credits are outstanding.

This might seem like a dumb question, but what’s the description of a short film and why did you decide to do shorts? Will you progress to long films in the near future?

Dimi Nakov: Yes, Betty, working on real shows was a lot of fun. As for making shorts, it is really a good learning experience, a starting point (a future calling card) and a step towards making feature-length films. All full-length films are built upon short, small chunks of stories within the big story of the film, so learning and crafting those little chunks is very helpful for a filmmaker in order to gain experience and confidence towards the big one.

Also, not everyone has the necessities–access to money, equipment, cast and crew–to pull off a feature film when they start in this industry. So starting with shorts and using them as business-cards to gain interest and potential investors for the feature-film projects is a good way to start. It doesn’t always work, but it’s the smartest, most successful path for a filmmaker to take towards his/her filmmaking future.

As for long films, Betty, I am definitely looking forward to making my first feature film in late 2012 or early 2013.The first feature, given the fact that we can’t afford big-budget will be a low-budget, full-length film. After that, I intend to make one of Barbara Watkins’s stories into a motion picture. The one we are looking to make is Hollowing Screams and I would be looking into the two-million-dollar budget. Filming the low-budget film before Hollowing Screams will be very much to my advantage when we have the talks with distributors and investors. After that I will be making all Barbara’s stories into motion pictures. Her writing is just amazing and I have been blown away since the first page of Hollowing Screams and all other short stories.

Betty Dravis: That’s all so interesting to me, Dimi, and I’m doing the “Happy Dance” with Barbara about Hollowing Screams. (laughs) To have one of our books (or more) made into a movie is every author’s dream. I’m delighted to pair up with someone of her talent on Six-Pack of Blood and thrilled about your filming her stories. She’s a wonderful person to work with; we have a lot of fun.

How many short films and documentaries have you done; how many in 2012 alone?

Dimi Nakov: Well, Betty, so far I have produced and directed three short documentaries, three fiction short films, five music videos, and four corporate videos for Coca-Cola since 2009. I have a number of feature films in development and also registered a non-profit film organization to help amateur and beginning filmmakers here in New Zealand (hoping to go worldwide later). Also I was a DOP for a feature film, Journey of a Story, which premiered in April 2012 in New Zealand and will be circulating festivals in 2012 and 2013 worldwide.

In 2012 I have done one music video, for a Girls Trio TNT; the song is called Casa Del Tango. The music video will be coming out in July 2012 online on YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook. Like you said above, Betty, 2012 has been a magical year, starting with going to Cannes and the selection of three shorts into international film festivals worldwide and now preparing for my first feature film in late 2012 or early 2013.

Betty Dravis: Wow, I’m still stunned by all those festivals…and excited for you. Amazing, but then you’re an amazing man…

Now I’m curious about Zodiac Entertainment. I’d like to know how long it’s been in business, if you are the founder, do you have partners, why you chose the name, etc.… Just little things like that… (laughs)

Dimi Nakov: I founded Zodiac Entertainment in 2009. I wanted to have a name which symbolizes more then just a motion production company when reading the company title. Zodiac is more than just a film-making production house because we combine innovative thinking, filmmaking experience, new technology and production skills to make the best motion picture products for our clients. Zodiac represents the bigger picture behind the art of film-making: the universe and the diversity of people, talent and, overall, the life around us and what makes us like what we like and how we make art based on our origins. It’s our belief that what we have been exposed to throughout our lives gives us the tools we use to create art. So Zodiac is a combination of all signs we read and use to make art and achieve the best results we can. Entertainment (in our name) is self-explanatory, meaning that we will keep our clients happy by entertaining the audience seeing the product.

Betty Dravis: Thanks for explaining, Dimi. I understand that one of the hardest things in show business is to get financial backing to produce a movie. I realize that the larger studios call in the money backers with millions of dollars to spare, but how does a smaller studio go about it? I see some using the Internet… What’s your procedure for procuring funding?

Dimi Nakov: You are absolutely right, Betty. It’s really hard to break through the no/small budget and get into the mid- and high-range, but not impossible. Innovative thinking and adaptation of today’s filmmaker is absolutely essential to get noticed and gain a fan base and attract investors or distributors. Overall is the talent and quality of work, which is marketable within a targeted audience. What that means is that each studio and filmmaker has to know who his target market is, how to target that audience and then make a product geared for them, which will make them the returns they need. There are stat-funding schemes, private-funding options and online fundraising sites which, with a good strategy and lots of hard work and time, will meet its target if done very well. So there are options, and even then it’s very hard to get through that big obstacle: funding. It is possible, and I am currently pursuing all options available.

Betty Dravis: I love the way you express your “feel” for your industry, Dimi. I feel the same way about writing… When you dream, you dream BIG! You know what you want and you go for it! And you’ve proven that the road to success is hard work, but also fun and rewarding. Tell us what’s your ultimate dream for your chosen career?

Another shot from Cannes where one of Dimi’s Big Dreams came true

Dimi Nakov: Thank you so much, Betty, for the warm and absolute lovely words of encouragement and support. My ultimate dream is to direct and produce all movies I can–until my last breath–and make each story a justice (with the budget and capacity each screenplay deserves) and get its potential on the big screen for the world to see and enjoy.

There are so many stories I want to tell and I plan to make as many films as I can. I wish the money wasn’t the only way to achieve the best quality. That’s not the only reason for a great movie, but in this world having the financial backing will help a film to be seen worldwide on as many platforms as possible, which includes online, theaters and DVDs. My dream is to be able to achieve the quality I imagine–every time I undertake a project–and give it a proper farewell before it takes on the world and becomes part of the world and it’s out of my hands.

Betty Dravis: I wish you best of luck with the financing, Dimi, but I have faith you’ll get it. Getting off the subject for a while, I know that filmmaking takes a lot of stamina, so how do you stay in shape to withstand the long hours and travel schedules? Do you eat so-called “health foods” and what are some of your favorite foods?

Dimi Nakov: Yes, Betty, like any other activity filmmaking takes a lot of energy and it requires healthy foods and nutrients. I couldn’t say that I am the healthiest person, but I do like healthy food and I manage to eat three times a day when I can. Most times I get so submerged into work that I have to be reminded to eat and stop for a while. (laughs) Everyone on my set when we are filming has to eat. That is one of my requirements because I believe that hungry stomachs will not do well and creativity drops down to half (or none) when there is no food, water and soft drinks on the set.

My favorite food at the moment is salmon teriyaki sushi and miso soup. Love it and it’s very healthy. I also love chocolate, as well, when I can.

Betty Dravis: Many people I’ve interviewed told me that their own families didn’t support or encourage their dreams, which made it much more difficult for them to succeed. Has your family been supportive? Tell us a little about them, if you don’t mind, and we would also enjoy hearing about your mentors, those who encouraged you most.

A shot of Dimi with supportive friends at Cannes

Dimi Nakov: I have been so lucky and blessed to have the best family and friends one can dream of. My parents are just so strong behind me, even when they are trying to secure their retirement and working hard to do so. My brother and sister are the best siblings I can imagine. I am just speechless by how much they have been there for me and how much they have helped me and keep supporting and encouraging me with what I do. I can see they really enjoy doing it. My sister is also working in the industry; she worked for four years for the TV Drama Shortland Street made by South Pacific Picture who made also Outrageous Fortune and Almighty Johnsons here in New Zealand. My brother is an IT administrator and he is a huge fan of film and we all enjoy going to the movies. My dad and mom are huge fans of films as well and they watch movies all the times when they can.

Support from family and friends gives me strength in moments I feel I am down or not sure what to do. It is a huge help and can be the difference between keeping going or giving up, in some cases. The people who succeeded despite the family support, they have used the negative energy and discouragement and turned it into positive energy and a reason to focus and prove them wrong and make it happen and that has been a drive which can be as powerful as anything else we can find within ourselves and turn it into productive and positive outcome.

It’s all up to us and we have only ourselves to thank for making the decisions which lead us to the final chapter of our lives. At the end of the day, we make decisions and others can influence them, but we make our own choices.

Betty Dravis: I’m happy to know your family supports you so well, Dimi, and I agree that in the end, it’s all a matter of our choices and how we handle things.

I have a lighter question this time: Who is your favorite director (living or dead) and if it were possible to spend the day with him or her, how would you spend it? And do you have a favorite movie?

Every wall at 65th Cannes Film Festival was lavishly adorned with participating feature-film posters, while the short corner was dedicated to Dimi and his peers.

Dimi Nakov: My heroes in film are Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin, Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Robert Rodriguez, Ridley Scott and James Cameron.

I would love to spend a day with Orson Welles. He is just someone I want to learn from. He achieved so much without the technology we have at our disposal today. I would just spend a day and talk about life and where his passion comes from. My second choice would be Christopher Nolan and I’d talk to him about the things I would talk to Orson about. I wouldn’t waste a day talking about making movies, but just have a normal, every-day conversation and enjoy each other’s company, given the fact we share the same passion for films. I am sure we would drift towards talking about movies anyway. (laughs)

Betty Dravis: That’s a great answer, Dimi. I’m sure most people would choose Welles or Nolan, too, but I’d love to spend a day with Quentin Tarantino. He really has his finger on the pulse of what people his age like.

And now, Dimi, here’s another “fun” question. Most people have had embarrassing moments at some time in their lives. Have you? If so, please share one of them with us. As we all like movies, we also like a good laugh from time to time.

Dimi Nakov: Well I am kind of embarrassed to say this, Betty, but one night I was dancing in a club and did the splits and my pants ripped in the back. When I noticed, after a few minutes, I had to rush home. I thought I would have to run to the depths of the earth. I didn’t know if anyone noticed my ripped pants, but who knows? I was sure someone saw the ripped pants and my boxers, so I was very embarrassed. (laughs)

Betty Dravis: Aw-ww, that’s not so bad, Dimi. You should hear some of the embarrassing things others have endured. (laughs) But moving on, tell us a little about what you enjoy when not working. Do you have favorite hobbies or sports?

Dimi Nakov: At the moment for me it’s 24/7 work and I am completely absorbed. I do enjoy going to the movies, playing table tennis and swimming. I would love to do skydiving and bungee jumping and, also, I would love to travel. One of my dreams is to travel and work at the same time. I hope to one day make movies in different countries, on location. I love mountain climbing. I used to go with my grandfather when I was small; seeing the mountains and nature is just an overwhelming feeling of freedom.

To prove that Dimi does, indeed, take time for fun on occasion, here’s a pic of him being attacked by some of the actors on location…all in fun, of course.

Betty Dravis: I know what you mean by 24/7. I often get that way with my book promotion, and have to remind myself to take time for other things. I’m glad to hear you do other things from time to time.

Well, all good things must come to an end, and we’re nearing the end of this interview. Before closing, I hope you don’t mind sharing what you’re working on at this very moment. Since we’ve discussed your long-range movie plans, is there any more news you’d like to share with our readers? Is there anything I’ve missed that you would like to share?

Dimi Nakov: At the moment I am in pre-production for a very low-budget, feature-length film with working title Human Stag. The film is an action/thriller and it will be my first feature film to direct and produce before I get into bigger-budget production based on Barbara Watkins’s story Hollowing Screams that we discussed above. Also, I have created a non-profit organization called FilmMakers Generation Next to help amateur and beginning filmmakers. The organization has a Facebook page and soon will have a web-site.

Betty Dravis: That’s exciting, Dimi, I look forward to seeing your short films and your feature-length ones too. Of course, I’m dying to see Barbara’s… Be sure to keep us updated. Now, one final question: What advice do you have for newcomers just starting in the filmmaking business?

Dimi Nakov: I hope advice from someone like me who is still learning would be appropriate. Since you ask, I would advise them not to give up their dreams. Follow them… Take a longer path if obstruction comes along, but don’t give up. I know it’s a cliché, but hard work really pays off. And don’t just work hard, work smart as well.

Follow Your Dreams. Never Give up. Be happy with what you have and give yourself credit for the smallest thing you have achieved every day.

Betty Dravis: Well, that may be short, but it’s good, solid advice, Dimi. It’s been a real treat to chat with you. You’re inspiring! I certainly learned more about you and the movie business; I’m sure our readers will enjoy you as much as I do. We will be watching for your new movies.

I like this line from your website: I am a filmmaker based in New Zealand at the moment. I enjoy making movies, directing and producing them. I also believe that everyone has a story to tell and my dream is to be able to take as many stories to the big screen as possible.

That’s a beautiful thought about filmmaking, Dimi, a thought that all authors like to hear, as it’s our biggest dream to have one or more of our books going to film. Thanks for inspiring us.

Concluding on that happy note, this is the perfect place to share more links where fans and friends can reach you:…

Thanks again, Dimi, for this open, honest interview. Best of luck at those other film festivals… You deserve all the breaks. We look forward to seeing your movies hit the big screen in our cities. Please keep us informed.

Dimi Nakov: Thank you so much for everything Betty. For being a friend and for supporting  and encouraging me in all I do. This is why I keep going, because people like you give me all the energy I would ever need. I think to love what you do and who you are and what you have is the biggest gift besides good health and we all are responsible for if because we have the power to make it happen and take it away at the same time. Farewell for now. See you at the movies.

End note: If you are interested in reading Dimi’s fascinating diary and seeing more photos of his time in Cannes, here are the links:

Cannes Film Festival Pre-Opening Day 15th May 2012:

Cannes Film Festival Day 1 – 16th May 2012:

Cannes Film Festival Day 2 – 17th May 2012:

Cannes Film Festival Day 3 – 18th May 2012:

Cannes Film Festival Day 4 – 19th May 2012:

Cannes Film Festival Day 5 – 20th May 2012:

Cannes Film Festival Day 6 – 21st May 2012:

Cannes Film Festival Day 7 – 22nd May 2012:

Cannes Film Festival Day 8 – 23rd May 2012:

Cannes Film Festival Day 9 – 24th May 2012:

Cannes Film Festival Day 10 & 11 – 25th & 26th May 2012:

Rotating Back Home from Cannes – 27th May 2012: