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Author Betty Dravis

Betty Dravis: Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Sally Rowland. We are mostly about writers, but we love the other arts too. It’s a great pleasure to have you here and to share your artworks with our readers.

You’ve been a Facebook friend of mine for a while, but oddly, I got to know you better when you challenged me to the Words Game. I don’t like to brag, but I beat you nine times out of ten. (laughs) Anyway, you took it in stride and when we joked about it is when we bonded even more. Needless to say, I enjoy roaming through your Facebook albums, viewing all your art and photos.

This brings me to your first question: Sally, what were you like as a child and when did you first start sketching and realize you had artistic flair?

Sally Rowland: Hi, Betty, and thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of your Dames of Dialogue family. I must say I was surprised, but pleasantly so, to be asked to share my artwork with you all.

I’m enjoying being beaten by you in the Words game–but it’s early days! Maybe we should be playing a drawing game, too, to even things up a bit? (laughs)

Artist Sally Rowland

Anyway, to your first question: I was born and spent the first ten years of my life in Bristol, England. I come from what is known as a “working class” family, which really means you didn’t have a lot of money. I think for many children back then, you didn’t have many “things” and had to rely on your imagination to have fun. I have fond memories of making mud pies in old cans, while we girls pretended we were cooking.

I remember loving to paint and draw as a little girl and I think I might have been about five or six when I won a prize at school for painting a clear plastic container with daffodils. Well, they were meant to be daffodils, but more likely just green and yellow blobs. (laughs) My biggest passion back then, though, was music. We were taught to read music and I played the recorder, finally moving up to the bass recorder, as I was the only one who had the finger span to play it.

My Christmas gifts were nearly always craft themed: Paint by Numbers, knitting kits, books and my favorite “Fuzzy Felt,” which was a box of cut-out felt pieces that you could attach to a board and make all your own scenes, pull off and do again and again.

My family immigrated to New Zealand not long after I turned ten and that was a huge change for us. The school system is quite different and I loved English and anything artistic. I did woodworking, metal craft, art, photography and so on. I think it was during that time I discovered my real love of drawing, so my essays and school projects were always full of pictures I’d drawn to go along with the required words. My favorite part of the art classes was actually doing a wood-block print and an etching on a slab of rubber that was then turned into a print. I still have a scar where the knife left the slab and went right over my thumb…

Sally Rowland – High atop the world in her native UK; an area known as Carn Brea that overlooks Redruth and other parts of Cornwall.

Betty Dravis: I have to laugh at you mentioning the Facebook game of Draw Something, Sally. I enjoy that one with my kids and a few friends. I’m such a terrible artist that I have no doubt you’d outdo me in technique, but I’m still pretty good at guessing the pictures. My drawings look like a kindergartner’s, but I’m getting pretty adept with stick figures. (laughs)

But back to your art, did you or your parents keep any of your younger works?

Sally Rowland: I’m sure my daffodils ended up in the garbage because I wasn’t really a prolific painter when younger, but I did do a wooden bird sculpture at school in New Zealand that my parents still actually have today. It’s complete with a burned beak, as I got a bit carried away when we had to use a flame to give it some color.

Sally’s favorite portrait of her “Mum” Margaret

Betty Dravis: I bet your parents really hated to part with the daffodil art. We tend to love everything our children do…good or bad, but it seems like they made a good choice, keeping the sculpture.

What’s your favorite medium?

Sally Rowland: I would have to say oil is my favorite medium. I’m entirely self-taught in regards to painting, Betty. I never had any formal training, so using oils was a way to be able to correct mistakes before the paint dried. (laughs) I also find that oils match the way I like to paint, which is a lot of blending to get my desired color and effect. I do the same when doing pencil portraits; lots of smudging and blending going on there too.

In recent years I’ve started to dabble with digital painting and I find that I do that the same way I paint with oils–lots of layers and blending. The good thing about digital is that, of course, there’s no mess–I’m a very messy painter–no time limit on drying and if I don’t like what I just did on a layer, I simply delete it and start over. Another thing I love about digital is that you can work on one thing at a time and when you’re happy with it, you can simply merge it into the main piece of work.

Betty Dravis: Digital painting fascinates me, Sally, so thanks for sharing some of the intricacies. I’ve seen samples of all your mediums and they’re fabulous. I think my favorite oil is the one that looks like a scene from a Greek isle. The colors are so vibrant… I like to think of that painting as a “feel-good” work. It really cheers me up.

Since you didn’t mention watercolors above, we would appreciate hearing a little about that. I saw some samples of your “exercises” and if I recall correctly you said on Facebook that you were beginning to try your hand at that. How’s that project coming along?

Sally Rowland: Oh the “Greek Village” painting… You have a good eye, Betty! I love that one myself, and you’re right, it’s definitely a feel-good painting. The joy in creating it is that I got to use whatever colors I wanted for the buildings, while still trying to keep it looking somewhat “Greek.” (laughs) I’m glad it cheers you up; it certainly does it for me too. I even got that one professionally photographed and sold some prints, as well.

But on to the watercolors: I’m definitely all at sea with that particular medium. My late mother-in-law, who was one of my biggest fans, used them. Although she was pretty modest about her talent, she painted some lovely works which we have here, along with lots of paints, brushes and papers she had amassed. She inspired me to give it a try and, as you mentioned, the exercises I tried were fun, but hard. I’d still like to get into it more at some point, but I’ll definitely need to take some courses. I can remember her telling me that her teacher kept saying, “More water, Patsy… More water…” (laughs) Nevertheless, it’s a whole new way of painting that I’m looking forward to trying one day in the not-too-distant future.

At the moment, though, I’m just enjoying having a room for my art supplies…one I can make a mess in and nobody cares. (laughs) We recently–well almost a year ago now–moved to a new city and home, so we’ve been busy redecorating. The first room to be finished is, of course, my art room, so I’m just settling into that and looking forward to finally having a dedicated space in which to pursue my passion properly.

Betty Dravis: If your exercises are any indication, you’ll be great at that too, Sally. I have two favorites: the red one with the chair and table and the purple viola. It will be interesting to see how you progress in the future, but never give up your oils…

So you have been traveling around quite a bit. I bet it’s exciting to be back in Canada again. I have some dear friends there; it’s a lovely country, eh? (laughs) From the few photos I’ve seen, your new home looks very comfortable and you’re making headway in setting up your work areas. I bet you look forward to getting back in the swing with the Belleville Art Association. Tell us about your plans for the future.

Sally Rowland: Yes, I guess I’m a bit of a gypsy! (laughs) I’ve always loved to travel and experience new things, and immigrating to Canada was certainly a big move. While things don’t always work out the way you expect, it’s fun to just take what life throws at you and do the best you can. Eventually, it all works out just the way it should, although it can take a bit longer than you thought to get where you want to be.

As I mentioned, we’ve been here in Belleville for almost a year now. I had intended to join the local Arts Association straight away, but thought it would be better to get settled first and get a few things sorted out so that I could make the most of what they have to offer. With that in mind, I’m looking at joining them later this year. I’m really looking forward to meeting other local artists and learning some new things along the way.

Betty Dravis: I’m really curious about digital painting, so one more question about that, Sally. Is that accepted in the art communities as “real” art? Also, I notice that most of your digital art is of movie stars. Your portrait of Sandra Bullock is certainly lifelike. Beautiful… I admire her greatly, but my favorite digital photo is of the unforgettable and gorgeous Marilyn Monroe. Are you, like most everyone these days, fascinated with movies and the entertainment world?

Sally Rowland: Ah, the good old question: “Is digital art real art?” Personally, I say yes, it is, although I know a lot of artists who disagree. To me, it’s simply another medium. You still have to have the talent to design, draw, paint, etc. On top of that, you also have to be able to use the software to bring it all together, so I view it as just another tool to create with.

I need to purchase a proper painting software package at some stage. Currently I use a photo/paint program; it’s not the best thing, so it really challenges me. To me, the process is almost the same as painting with oils, etc.: You sketch the idea, then use that as a base to add layer upon layer of color and shape until you get the final product. I mentioned the things I like most about digital painting above, but I’d like to stress the point: the flexibility is a definite bonus.

Yes I must admit most of my digital work has been of movie stars, but to be honest, I’m not really into movies/celebrities/entertainment. Photos of stars are so abundant on-line that I found them useful for learning how to use my software. (laughs) I do love trying portraits, though, so I guess that is why there are so many. Many years ago, I recall having a book of portraits of movie stars–the black and white studio shots. I didn’t really care who they were, I just loved the actual photographs. I have to admit that I do have a few books about Marilyn Monroe, though. I found her life intriguing and very sad, rather than glamorous, despite that she was quite the beauty at the time.

Betty Dravis: Sally,I think all generations adore Marilyn; she’s a real, unforgettable legend. But, OMG, I almost forgot that you also did a digital of my very favorite: Clint Eastwood. Although that’s not one of my favorites of your works, I love all things “Clint,” as everyone knows. Since I was lucky enough to interview and get to know him a little–back in the day—I’ve never forgotten him. At the time of the interview, I didn’t realize how much larger-than-life he is, but he put me so at ease that I immediately bonded with him. I made him my mentor (from afar) and tried to shape my career after his. Fat chance! (laughs)

But getting off the subject for a minute, since art is a rather passive activity, how do you keep in shape? Do you have a favorite exercise regime or do you simply rely on healthy eating? Or could it be that your husband Pete and your three cats keep you hopping? (laughs)

Sally Rowland: Oh my, Betty! Keeping in shape! I have to admit to being a passive exerciser also… (laughs) I think the biggest thing I ever did was a 10k marathon which I loved. I also used to play on an indoor cricket team (both all-girl and mixed teams). However, over the years I’ve noticed that I can’t do a lot. I have scoliosis (curvature of the spine). It’s not too bad, but one false move and I’m in pain for days. Keeping in shape now is probably limited to gardening and healthy eating. Now that we’re out of the city and living in a less populated area, I think I’d like to get back to biking, a great way to stay in shape and also see more of the area.

Oh yes, Pete and the cats definitely keep me on my toes, as well, but that could be an entire book if I told you everything. (laughs)

Sally with Tyson as a kitty.

Betty Dravis: Well, Sally, you certainly look fit and trim, and I’m very sorry to hear that you have scoliosis. With that in mind, you seem to have come up with the right solution for yourself: gardening and healthy eating. Sounds very sensible to me…

Perhaps you will write that book one day, with illustrations, of course, but the world will have to wait. (laughs) Now speaking of cats, I heard that there’s an interesting story about one of them that traveled back from New Zealand to Canada with you. Do you mind sharing that with our readers? The Dames love animals…

Sally Rowland: My oldest cat, Tyson, now almost thirteen, has probably racked up more air miles than some people. I got him as a kitten back in New Zealand and within months we were headed off to Canada. (I swear there are more paperwork and conditions for moving pets than people–at least there was back then…)

Then after a while we decided to go back to New Zealand, so off he went again… Loads of paper work and then quarantine back in New Zealand (more strict animal import regime). After some time there, and with my in-laws getting older and needing help, we decided to go back to Canada. By that time, we had adopted another cat from the local SPCA. Tyson took it in his stride, though, and was a real trouper.

The day we picked them up from the airport was so funny. We got a bit of a runaround, but finally got sent to the right ‘hangar.’ All we could hear was loud meowing as they were delivered to us, howling inside their cages–on a forklift! The silly thing about it all was that when we went back to New Zealand, Tyson had to be micro-chipped (NZ law). It was apparently so that he could be tracked. However, even with the government-approved micro-chip the cattery/pet shipping company that we used when we finally came back here said that they couldn’t read the chip. So much for that! (laughs)

Tyson has been through a lot for a cat; we all know how cats need routine and familiar surroundings. He’s now getting old and has had some health scares, but he is still my baby and we’ll do whatever we can to make sure he has a great “retirement.” (laughs)

Betty Dravis: Aw-www, poor Tyson, but he’s well loved, Sally… Truthfully, he has many more air miles than I do. I enjoyed your interesting stories about pets and airlines. I never realized pet transportation policies were that strict. With Tyson and the other two cats in mind, I hope you decide to stay in Canada for the duration. (laughs)

From little cats to big cats; Sally with her tiger print.

Now, if you don’t mind my asking, Sally, where do you get your inspiration for a particular painting or work? Art, like book publishing, is a tough, competitive field. Is your family supportive of your career choice?

Sally Rowland: In the last few years, Betty, I have to admit to not feeling terribly inspired. As with everyone, I suppose, life situations get in the way. I find I’m still trying to find my own niche. I often say, “I’m a jack-of-all-trades, master of none,” so in a way, I’m still on my own journey of self discovery. I’m definitely leaning more towards portraits, but as you say, like book publishing, art is also very tough and competitive, so I’m happy to take on anything…well, apart from landscapes. (laughs)

I’m very lucky to have an extremely supportive family. Painting had not been my choice of career at all, despite loving it. My career background is actually in finance, banking and tourism, of all things. Art had always been just a hobby, so I feel really blessed to be able to get involved in something I’ve always loved.

With my own family back in New Zealand and in the UK, it’s always lovely to send them photos of my art–what I’ve done or am working on–and get feedback. I remember when my parents had to have their dog put to sleep: He’d been so unwell and, although it was the right decision, it was heartbreaking. I decided to paint Mac as a puppy–when he was all healthy and vibrant–but it took my Mum quite some time before she could even open the parcel and finally get it framed.

Betty Dravis: It’s heartening to know that your family has been supportive of you, whether in tourism or art, Sally.That means a lot to anyone and often makes the difference between success and failure.

Speaking of support, Sally, do you have a favorite artist? If so, tell us about him or her…

One of Sally’s favorite artists is Tamara De Lempicka. Above is her version of one of her paintings; hanging on wall of Sally’s rec room.

Sally Rowland: Gosh, Betty, it’s hard to say I have one favorite artist. I love so many styles. It’s like I love ice-cream but all the flavors are delicious… (laughs) But when I think about it, my top artist would have to be Modigliani. We went to an exhibition of his art back in 2005 in Toronto. I was just totally blown away seeing them in the flesh, after only ever seeing them on-line or in a book. They were huge…vibrant…and up close you could see his brush work and the lines from his original sketch on the canvas. Awesome…

Needless to say I could never afford his work, so I decided to paint my own. I’m also a huge fan of Rosina Wachtmeister; her cat paintings are wonderful, as are her other works. I admire Vermeer for his use of light… Georgia O’Keefe, Frida Kahlo, Klimt, Beryl Cook …ad infinitum I’m afraid. (laughs)

Betty Dravis: I anticipated such an answer, Sally. When I ask authors about their favorite author, they almost always have a long list. (laughs)

With those choices in mind, it will be interesting to see how you answer this question: If you could spend a day with just one person (living or dead), who would you choose and why?

Sally Rowland: Well, Betty, I’ve been doing a lot of family research over the years and hit a huge road block with my own great-grandfather on my father’s side. He’s not famous, but he’s elusive and I can’t find anything much about who he really was, or his family, so I’d have to say it would be him.

I’d like to sit down with him for one day, notebook in hand, and ask him thousands of questions about his life and our family history. The most we know about him is that he was a musician in the Army back in the 1800s and spent over a decade in India and perhaps other countries; beyond that there is nothing. He’s a mystery and I love mystery…

Sally at an art show in New Zealand in 2005.

Sally poses with some of her art in Port Credit, Ontario in 2005.

Betty Dravis: That’s a very human choice, Sally. It’s too bad that so much of our personal family history gets lost because we’re too busy to ask our parents when we’re young, not becoming interested until it’s too late.

Sally, when you’re actively working, what’s a typical day like for you? Do you have any habits or established routines that work best for fulfilling your daily commitments?

Sally Rowland: I mentioned earlier that I’m a messy painter. For me, I just get absorbed in what I’m doing. I prefer to listen to music, which depends on what exactly it is I’m working on. I throw on my old clothes because I just know I’m going to get paint everywhere. (laughs) There is never a set routine; I just like to go with the flow.

Betty Dravis: Sally, I hear you loud and clear! That’s so typical of artistic types. I get so absorbed in my writing, I often forget to eat or even get out of my jammies. (laughs)

Which painting turned out to be your biggest challenge? Do you have a personal favorite?

Sally Rowland: Well, Betty, my biggest challenge–and it was actually a challenge on an art forum–was painting The Girl with the Pearl Earring. I had never attempted to reproduce or paint from a master, so I thought I should give it a go. Even to this day, I really don’t know how I did it. I just got lost in the process and loved it. It’s still my personal favorite. I gave it to my mother-in-law as a gift, and now, since she passed away, it’s back with me. That gives it a personal touch and some lovely memories too.

Sally’s version of Vermeer’s Girl With Pearl Earring.

Betty Dravis: Oh, I love that one, too. I had forgotten about it, but when selecting the Greek painting over The Girl with the Pearl Earring, I did so mainly for the cheerfulness of the painting, not for quality. I must say, the latter is absolutely phenomenal work, even if you did copy a master. Your rendition is brilliant, Sally.

Now for your next question, what advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Sally Rowland: From where I am now–at this later time in life—I would tell them to embrace their passion. Take as many classes as you can to help you, but don’t ever let that interfere with what you love to do. I hate that phrase “think outside the box”; I’d prefer to hear, “There is no box.” While I sometimes wish I had taken notice of what I loved to do, I realize there is a reason your journey takes you where you need to go first. Just keep that passion going…

Betty Dravis: That’s great advice, Sally. I never thought of it exactly like that; it’s thought provoking. I do agree about the passion; that makes the difference between winning and losing.

What is your most cherished memory of a viewer reaction to your work?

Sally’s work for Flintstone Lounge at end-of-season ball in mid 90s.

Sally Rowland: For me, every reaction is important, be it good or bad. One painting I sold started out as a really silly thing. I looked at it and went “arrghh,” so I turned it into a seascape. All in blue: clouds, sky, boat… All of it! When I posted the changed painting, someone wanted to buy it. They loved it–and that made me very happy.

Betty Dravis: Since blue is my favorite color, that sounds like “eye candy” to me. I’d like to see that one sometime. I think it may be on your lovely videotape (link below).

But now for a fun question! I waited till near the end to put you on the spot, but do you mind sharing the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you in connection with your artistic works?

Sally Rowland: Oh, this question took me all of two seconds to answer, Betty. (laughs) It has to be when I took part in another on-line art challenge. One of the pieces you could do was a Frans Hals. I loved it, so thought, “Yes, why not?” I thought not only could I paint, I could also have a go at using a palette knife. So off I went… But I couldn’t figure out why the paint was soaking into the canvas I was using. I was almost halfway through before I felt like running from the room screaming because I’d actually painted on the wrong side of the canvas! I did finish it, still have it, and it’s a reminder that sometimes mistakes are worth keeping.

Betty Dravis: Oh-hahaha, Sally. That is funny. I’m glad you treasure the work now, though…mistake or not! You certainly have a fun, exciting life…

Now before leaving, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that you also design CD covers. Please share about the ones you’ve created.

Two of Sally’s CD covers for Guitarra Azul are hanging in her new art room.

Sally Rowland: Oh yes, the CD covers… I’ve really loved this aspect of my art. I found Guitarra Azul, a Chicago-based band, through MySpace about four or five years ago and loved their music. I was lucky enough to be asked by Steve Edwards to paint something for their second CD. I love their music, so was really happy to do it. My first one was for Oasis; an 18×18 oil painting on which I had to actually change the title on the canvas itself. (McGuyver skills coming into play here.) Then in late 2011, I started work on a digital painting for their latest release Lotus Flower. I’m very happy for my art work to be a part of such wonderful music.

More recently I have designed and digitally painted a cover for Simon Allan in the UK for his upcoming EP release Demons and Dreams. We’re working together for another release later this year, also. It’s very exciting for me, and I hope, for them as well.

Sally’s digital painting cover created for Simon Allan’s upcoming CD Demons and Dreams.

Betty Dravis: Since you love music, it’s very appropriate that your work be on CD covers, Sally. I’ve seen all three covers and while I love them all, I’m captivated by the Demons and Dreams cover. Probably because my latest book, Six-Pack of Blood, is a horror anthology (co-authored with the very gifted writer Barbara Watkins) and I spent some time with the cover artist. I can picture that particular painting on the cover of a horror book. (laughs)

I also understand that one of your works is scheduled to be in a book. Please share that with us.

Sally Rowland: I guess this is where fun meets something wonderful, Betty. My friend Brian Bohnett, who is an author and also a graphic artist, has been working on a biography for many years now. Brian has done an amazing job on his biography The Remarkable Enid Markey: First Lady of the Tarzan Films. This will be an eye-opener because most people would recognize the men who played “Tarzan,” but not many would know the “Janes.”

While Brian was sharing his journey, he sent me some lovely photos; one caught my eye, so I decided to try painting it digitally. It was all in fun, but I am happy to say he has included it as a frontispiece to his biography, and it’s also part of a set of cards to go along with the book. The book is being released at a convention in California this coming August. I am so excited for him and proud to be involved, even if in only a small way.

Enid Markey

Betty Dravis: That sounds like a fascinating book, Sally. This is a coincidence, but I have a Tarzan tie-in: In my 1106 Grand Boulevard novel, I tell the story of my aunt’s first husband being Franky Johnston, the swimming coach who taught Johnny Weissmuller to swim for his role as Tarzan. Small world…and the Internet has made it even smaller. (laughs)

It sounds like you have some great projects coming your way. Since we’re almost finished, now’s the time to mention any other plans you might have.

Sally Rowland: Well, Betty, after I settle into the art community, as mentioned above, I’ve also got plans to get my own website up and running so that I can start selling my work, be it paintings, prints or digital. I like to think of myself as a bit of a late bloomer in the art world. I know how competitive it is, so I know that to be successful I’ll have to have a good business plan. That all takes time and is something I’ll be working on this year also.

Betty Dravis: I’m so happy for you, Sally. You sound so vibrant and full of life. The move seems to have agreed with you.

Before closing, I’d like to tell our readers that they can find more of your artwork in the photos on Facebook, and the YouTube video has a vast array of your works. I love the way it’s presented in sections. All your works are great, but the pencil sketches amaze me too. We didn’t get around to discussing the sketches, but an example is to the right. It all starts with an artist’s ability to sketch, so the fine examples on the video are important. The links follow and readers should keep in mind that the contact info at end of the YouTube is outdated. Sally will share that with us when she gets completely relocated.

https://www.facebook.com/sally.rowland.3

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cCTXxLBMo8&feature=player_embedded#!

Black-and-white photograph of Sally, enhanced by infusion of light.

Thanks for being with us today, Sally, It’s been a pleasure getting to know more about you and to view your stunning art. We look forward to your website so we can check into buying some of your art. Until next time, please keep in touch and send your website link so I can put it out on the social media.

Sally Rowland: Thank you, Betty, for allowing me to be a part of your world. It’s always a pleasure to join with other artistic people. I know you showcase many successful people, so as a still-emerging artist, I truly appreciate that you took an interest in me. And you’ll be the first I inform when my website is up and running. Thanks again, for having me on Dames of Dialogue.

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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:

http://zodiacentertainment.co.nz/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/BlindSide/…

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3961109/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1677535/

http://www.vimeo.com/user1828245

http://www.youtube.com/user/Dimisim1979#uploads/0/5c7Gjd_4XPo

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:
http://diminakov.blogspot.co.nz/2012/05/cannes-pre-opening-day.html

Cannes Film Festival Day 1 – 16th May 2012:
http://diminakov.blogspot.co.nz/2012/05/cannes-2012-day-one.html

Cannes Film Festival Day 2 – 17th May 2012:
http://diminakov.blogspot.co.nz/2012/05/cannes-day-two.html

Cannes Film Festival Day 3 – 18th May 2012:
http://diminakov.blogspot.co.nz/2012/05/cannes-day-three.html

Cannes Film Festival Day 4 – 19th May 2012:
http://diminakov.blogspot.co.nz/2012/05/day-four-cannes-2012.html

Cannes Film Festival Day 5 – 20th May 2012:
http://diminakov.blogspot.co.nz/2012/05/cannes-day-five-2012.html

Cannes Film Festival Day 6 – 21st May 2012:
http://diminakov.blogspot.co.nz/2012/05/cannes-day-six-2012.html

Cannes Film Festival Day 7 – 22nd May 2012:
http://diminakov.blogspot.co.nz/2012/05/cannes-day-seven.html

Cannes Film Festival Day 8 – 23rd May 2012:
http://diminakov.blogspot.co.nz/2012/05/cannes-day-eight-2012.html

Cannes Film Festival Day 9 – 24th May 2012:
http://diminakov.blogspot.co.nz/2012/05/cannes-day-nine-2012.html

Cannes Film Festival Day 10 & 11 – 25th & 26th May 2012:
http://diminakov.blogspot.co.nz/2012/05/cannes-day-ten-eleven-2012.html

Rotating Back Home from Cannes – 27th May 2012:
http://diminakov.blogspot.co.nz/2012/05/rotating-back-home.html

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