Yavor Petkov • Director of Danny. Legend. God.
“Aren’t we pretending to be someone else, at least sometimes?”
- We chatted with the Bulgarian director, whose feature debut gets released domestically on Friday
Danny. Legend. God. [+see also:
interview: Yavor Petkov
film profile] is one of the most unconventional Bulgarian features in recent years and, after a few screenings in local festivals, it will be released (geoblocked for Bulgaria) on the new streaming platform gledam.bg. Here is what the London-based director Yavor Petkov has to say about making independent cinema and about Danny being only the second Bulgarian production or co-production to be released exclusively online.
Cineuropa: You say that you are a bit of an outsider in the Bulgarian film industry. How is it for an outsider to make a film there?
Yavor Petkov: It was easier than I had anticipated. The team in Bulgaria arranged great locations, costumes, props and so on and it didn’t seem to bother them that I was coordinating everything remotely. The actual production was very smooth, which allowed us to play around and many of those unscripted bits made it to the final cut. However, being an outsider also meant I was locked out of opportunities like development workshops, labs, co-production forums (I did apply to literally everything in Europe) and of course government grants, subsidies and sponsorship of any kind…
Is there a real Danny who inspired you to write the screenplay?
The vast catalogue of outrageous examples of corruption in Bulgaria and beyond helped greatly with the script. It provided markers for me to know what would be too far fetched. For example, if it happened in real life, then I knew I should tone it down from 11 to 3 or 4, so it looks just about plausible on screen.
But the original inspiration came from Ben, the suave serial killer in the cult classic Man Bites Dog. However, Danny. Legend. God. is not the Bulgarian Man Bites Dog or a 2021 remake. The tone, visual language, score, story and themes we explore are quite different. One thing that I did borrow is Danny’s relationship with the camera, and almost by necessity, with the crew. I am generally not against voiceover, but in this case I didn’t want the audience to be inside Danny’s head. I wanted them to be right next to him and go on a journey where they can stay with him until the end or distance themselves when he crosses too many lines. Those that don’t hate him from the outset may get a reward. Is he really like this or is he putting on an act? Aren’t we pretending to be someone else, at least sometimes? Also, if we were put next to this wild, charismatic and transgressive sociopath in real life, what would we do?
The film's release is as atypical as its production, as Danny will be available in Bulgaria on gledam.bg starting this Friday. What are your expectations regarding the release? What aspects of the film would you say would engage the Bulgarian audience?
We're hoping to get many eyeballs. We have a target, but I wouldn't be shocked if we achieve a lot less or a lot more. TVOD is not very common in Bulgaria and this is only the second film [after minority co-production Pelican Blood [+see also:
interview: Katrin Gebbe
film profile]] to do it directly, skipping a theatrical release altogether. I don’t live there so maybe I’m wrong, but judging by their box office numbers, I feel like many good Bulgarian films are not adequately promoted at home. And here I’m not referring to the heavy nihilistic festival dramas - I know that in general few people go to the cinema to learn how everything is rotten, everybody is dead inside and society is beyond repair.
That’s a real shame and we intend to do better, with the limited budget we have. Gledam.bg and I have been working with an advertising agency on some really cool ideas spanning all channels, apart from classic posters, billboards and TV/radio spots. Considering the film is online, the focus is on digital marketing, however the campaign also includes physical artefacts like 3D printed busts of Danny - smaller versions of the bust that appears in the film.
Based on the reception at Sofia International Film Festival and Golden Rose Film Festival, where our DoP Rumen Vasilev won the Best Cinematography Award, a large section of the Bulgarian audience will probably enjoy the dark humour most of all.
Many young directors in the region choose to make a first film independently as they usually are at a disadvantage in the national financing system, but then realise this kind of cinema comes with a high personal cost. What is your opinion on the issue?
I don't think there can be two opinions on this. Making a film independently is incredibly challenging and then it's a miracle if it actually finds an audience, because usually no budget is left for promoting it. So unless these young directors are slightly masochistic or never have to worry about time and money, then they probably don't fancy the same uphill battle again.
What is next for you as a director?
Whatever I end up doing next, I am hoping I can team up with an experienced producer and sales agents from the early stages.
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